By the time you read this, the election will (hopefully) be settled and those of us who suffered from election traumatic stress disorder will be on the road to recovery. This moment of peace made me think long and hard about what is real and what is not …
It’s 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, the polls are closing, and I’ve just done myself a huge favor. For most of us, the election has been running in the background today. I had an unusual, almost spiritual peace all day. As the sun started to descend toward the Santa Monica Mountains, I decided to go on a hike. On the five-minute car trip to my desired trailhead, I turned on the radio. Bad idea. By the time I reached the parking lot, I could feel my gut starting to tie itself in a knot. My breath became short, and I had not even put my mask on yet.
Getting out of the car, I noticed the sun was half hidden by the jagged mountains. Cool mist brushed my arms as the beginnings of fog started to build up. Heading out into the park, I desperately searched for my cocoon of peace. It was elusive, so I started to throw a few half-hearted prayers into the sunset. Anxiety fragmented my thoughts.
I went about ten yards, and my favorite part of the evening came. The setting sun was painting everything a rusty red. For me, it was like the gift of peace was bestowed in the fading light. Looking off into a nearby gorge, I saw the kite flying low, but this time it was so close I could see the wide black bars on its pale wings. I smiled and breathed deeply. The dry brush was being gently covered with moisture from the incoming fog, and a pleasant earthy smell rose up.
Turning a corner, I looked down into down into Sycamore Canyon formed by misty purple mountains that end where the Pacific Ocean begins. I was surrounded by beauty and accompanied by many, many cottontails and small birds. One bird scratched under a bush, and as it turned I thought it may be a robin. I thought, This is real, and I am right where I should be at this moment in time.
And then I saw them: a family of deer crossing the trail ahead, cautious and wary. I have not seen deer in the park for at least six years. They had been driven away by two fires in three years. I felt like I had received a gift as they started to graze on the dry vegetation. I was able to walk on the trail alongside them. At one point I stopped and just watched them feed.
By now the sunset was just a peach streak in a blue sky. But there was one more surprise. Another kite and an owl flew up from the meadow where the deer were feeding and headed into the fading sunlight. I sighed deeply as I walked the last hundred feet to my car and back to what we think of as reality.