By Brandon Alter:
My husband and I recently moved to a small town on the outskirts of Los Angeles County. We're only twenty minutes from the North Hollywood Home Depot, but it feels like a world away. The temperature is always about ten degrees cooler than the city proper. Wild peacocks roam the streets of the neighborhood. Ground squirrels and spry green-gray lizards pretty much own the land we live on.
As of writing this, I've seen two owls up close, hundreds of giant crows and ravens, hawks a plenty, and these cute little blue birds that lap up the puddles our sprinklers leave behind in the morning. But the real stars of the show are the graceful bobcats and sly coyotes that have graced us with their presence, both in person and late at night lurking on our doorbell camera. I have jokingly said to my husband, "We bought a Zoo."
Two Sundays ago, I found myself in the ravine below our house. I'd been putting off coming down here since we moved in because there was just so much trash. Both the sheer volume of garbage plus the steep incline daunted me. Water-damaged boxes, plastic bottles, and styrofoam food containers littered the hillside. It was clear no one was planning to pick it all up; it was up to me. I mean, I do live here now, after all. So in full-on Sunday-Afternoon-Dad mode, gloved, masked, and tank-topped, I made my way into the ravine. For a couple hours, I gathered up the debris, including a tragically haggard magenta fleece zip up, leftover roofing tiles, and one very sad volleyball. I filled bag after bag with these remnants of construction, meals, and neglect. Later, as I made my way out of the ravine with that first full bag of trash, I spotted the most pristine owl feather I have ever seen. It was just lying there, glinting in the sunlight; I was surprised it hadn't flown away on the breeze. But also, I knew it was a message from the ravine: "Thank You." You see, I saw the ravine not as a just a place but as a being, an abandoned and suffering being, and I wanted to do right by her. I think she wanted me to know that she saw me too.
This is a small but powerful example of what can happen when we open ourselves up to communication with the unknown. These sorts of encounters are what Pisces Season is made for. It's a time to remember that there's so much more than what you can see.
Another story, if you'll allow me: Last Friday, I found myself on a new hike near home. It was nearing sunset, and I had to make it back home to teach a 6:30 class, but I'd just stumbled upon a hidden trail and was desperate to see where it led. As I scrambled up the rocky path, I knew I was cutting it close on time. All the sudden, truly out of nowhere, I thought, Ok, Brandon, 300 more steps, but then you turn around. So I counted each footfall until I hit three-hundred. And there she was, a deer, still as starlight, high on the hillside, framed in the spotlight of the magic-hour glow. If I had only walked two hundred and ninety-nine steps, I wouldn't have cleared the bend and been able to see her. That last step revealed her. She, too, like the owl feather, was waiting for me.
I could tell you about the hike I went on yesterday where two crows kept following me for about an hour. They were on the other side of the canyon when I thought to yell out to them, "Hey, friends, how's it going?" Immediately one made a beeline for me. Its little crow legs dangling as it danced aggressively all around me—a little too close for comfort to be completely honest. I could tell you how they were both waiting for me a little while later on a white wooden cross that marks the top of the peak. I could tell you about the owl that landed on the electrical pole in my backyard at dusk. The same night, I was planning to hang the owl-shaped mezuzah we purchased for our new home. When you open yourself to these inter-species communications, it can easily become overwhelming.
Pisces Season can be a lot. Like a lot, a lot. That's why I'm telling you all these little tales in the first place. It's like a doorway you crave to walk through and simultaneously fear. And this sense of the vast unknown, so close by, can make us want to reach for things to stable ourselves, to control the uncontrollable. As a recovering Marijuana addict, I know about reaching for things all too well. I use