Photographer Nathan Leland says this photo was serendipity. â€śI punctured my bicycle tire as I was leaving Topanga State Park and was walking home. The ticking sound of the wheel not being pedaled caught the attention of the deer, who moved and I saw him. My daughter is an animal lover so that shot was for her.â€ť
Hypervigilance. A state where you are constantly scanning your environment for any signs of danger.
The pit bull running in and out of traffic on Topanga Canyon Boulevard startled me enough to pull over. He seemed confused, unaware of any danger. I opened the door to the back seat and called to him. Yes? No? Maybe? Another car slowed then zoomed past. The dogâ€™s eyes fixed on me, tongue lolling from a big mouth that looked like a smile, then trotted toward the car and jumped in the back seat. Ooo-kay. Now what? As I pulled onto the boulevard, two paws planted themselves on the console and a big head drew close to mine and that tongue planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. Lionel would be mine for the next 14 years.
Little did I know that he was dog aggressive and during all that time, I would find myself in a state of hypervigilance whenever I walked him for fear a loose dog would show up and he would attack. It happened and despite constant training, he would never be off leash or allowed to run loose. I paid some hefty vet bills before I realized that. At home, he and my shepherd, Homer, were buddies and he got along just fine with the cats. Mornings I would wake happily bookended by one or all of them.
These days, I canâ€™t blame my state of anxiety on my dog. Both Lionel and Homer passed away 10 years ago. Something has changed in our ordinary lives. I can get tied up in knots about almost everything these days, mostly because I canâ€™t disentangle myself from daily news reports abundant with buildings falling down, fires, gun violence, climate change, war, death, grief, fear, distrust, anger, insurrection against our government, stupid politicians and a pandemic. Never mind that my life is pretty much drama-free, Iâ€™m still anxious, maybe not to the point of hypervigilance, but that feeling can sit there and suck the life out of you.
And then, someone I never met posts a photo he took in Topanga State Park, decimated by the Palisades fire in May. He caught that earthly moonscape, but in the foreground a charred laurel sumac skeleton is sprouting new growth accented by the ochre hue of a scorched manzanita in the background (Our Cover). Another photo (above) of a deer reclaiming its place in nature also brings my worrying mind to a standstill. The knots I tied so tightly loosened and I was inspired to consider how hope springs as eternally as vigilance must in the face of despair and fear of losing what we love. Itâ€™s in our nature to do so.
Thank you Nathan Leland for the generosity of your gifts to calm our troubled souls.