Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver
I love when it rains in L.A.
It washes away the smog, and the air smells fresh and clean again.
Everyone stays inside, so there’s a calm that settles over the city, like time has stopped for a moment and you can finally breathe.
I went on a hike just as the rain had dissipated. Bundling up in a hoodie, jacket, scarf, and hat, I bravely ventured outside into the less than 70 degree weather (can you imagine?!). As I approached my trail, I was greeted by a friendly squirrel, busy eating an acorn. “Hello,” I said.
As I headed up the hill, I passed a cheerful couple who said, “Good morning.” “Good morning,” I said back.
I passed an older man dressed in all black,
“Good morning!” he said. “Good morning.”
I passed a father and his son,
“Good morning,” the little boy said.
Am I in a Beauty and the Beast remake?? I wanted to ask. (This was getting too bizarre.)
Keep in mind, I have done this hike dozens of times and never once has anyone said, “Good morning.” I really didn’t know what was going on.
As I made my way further up the hill, I turned the bend, and as though she had been awaiting my arrival, there stood an elegant deer, probably a doe, judging by the size. She (I think it was a she) stood there, on the side of the path eating her morning grass, completely unfazed by my presence.
“Wow,” I said out loud to myself.
I stopped and watched her. I have never once seen a wild animal on this trail, as it’s usually bustling with people coming and going, getting their workouts in. Not a typical place for an animal to chill and hang out, grazing the grass.
But this morning was quiet because of the rain and the stillness.
For some reason, not a single other person passed by while I was visiting with my new friend. Nobody came and interrupted. Nobody else caught sight of her and ran to look.
It was just the two of us, alone, being together.
I thought about the documentary I watched recently called Surviving Death, about the afterlife, and how some people believe deceased loved ones may visit you as an animal. “Maybe she’s dad,” I thought, but didn’t allow myself to linger with that too long, since I didn’t feel like getting emotional.
Maybe she’s a deer. Maybe she’s my dad.
Either way, I knew she was special. And magical. And real. And standing right in front of me, letting me be, as I let her be.
When she decided she was done, she calmly crossed the path, not a care in the world, looked back at me one last time, and gracefully disappeared into the brush.
Though I taped the experience on my phone (how else would we all know it happened) it didn’t quite capture how profound the brief encounter was for me.
A feeling of complete peace washed over me after that. (Don’t worry, it only lasted a few hours — I still have to be funny, after all.) But for the first time in a long time, I caught a glimpse of what it meant when people say what I used to deem the corny platitude, “Happiness comes from within.”
I felt so happy in that moment, so at one with nature and the world around me.
As though the entire earth had been speaking to me. Everyone greeting me with a chorus of good mornings, the animals coming up to me, unafraid, wishing me well.
I had no reason to seek their approval, their attention, their love. I had merely gone out into the rain, when most people stayed home.
I had gone out and looked at what was already there waiting for me. And said, “hello, universe.”
And in return the universe said, “Oh hi there. We wish you well. We wish you peace. All you need is right there inside of you.”
Then of course I had to wrap up my hike with my quintessential coffee fix. But besides that, I truly felt I am just enough as I am. I don’t need anyone or anything outside of me to grant me permission to be.
I can go outside and see magic all around me.
The rain is soothing. The people are kind. The animals are welcoming. And it’s all just waiting for me. Right in my backyard.
Go out and look sometime. It’s wild, it’s free.
And it’s already yours.