J A C Q U E S

The sun woke up but his face didn’t. How could a pillow turn into a panini press overnight? The sleep was hanging on him like a six-ton-sloth. He tried to shake it.

 

Usually, on a Saturday, his bros would be ringing his doorbell, ready to hike Angeles forest together, the smell of coffee in thermoses awakening his adrenaline, and subsequently his cheeks, his lips, and eventually, his eyes.

 

Today was a different story in quarantine, however. No buddies allowed. Well, one, perhaps. But one who had not been in contact with any other potentially infected Covid-19 carrier in 14 days. He decided to hike alone, albeit late.

 

So Jacques took his backpack, walked through the white metal gate of his Silver Lake front yard, and drove his red Pathfinder an hour and a half to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road entrance of the Fall Creek Trail. Walking alone, he had never listened so intently before this—his buddies were always surrounding him with conversation. And now there were only the sounds of nature—birds chirping, leaves rustling, and a waterfall in the distance. The light was falling, and he had to squint to make out distinctions in the depth of the stones. He hadn’t gone far when he heard the hoot-hoo-hoo of an owl. 

 

“Just like the white-winged dove”, he thought, because he’d been listening to his Fleetwood Mac records on repeat lately. Hoot-hoo-hoo. But where was this early owl? Hoot hoo-hoo. He thought he heard louder rustling. Now he began to grow paranoid. Mountain lions? The forest was watching him. The spirit of the woods disapproved of him leaving the house in the time of quarantine. Maybe the virus came from nature and was going to infect him. A bat bite. An owl’s warning. The sun sank like his confidence. Hoot-hoo-hoo. 

 

Jacques sat cross-legged near a familiar lookout and laid his hiking stick down across his lap. Breathe in, breathe out. He was definitely having a panic attack. Flut-tut-tut-whoosh! A white whir of feathers swiped his shoulder, landing its talons on his hiking stick. Ca-lick. Cl-ick. 

 

He peered through the dusk into the endless eyes of the owl, which tunneled like amber funhouse mirrors. He was really freaking out.  “Do I have fever?” he asked himself, flushing. “Is this how the virus starts?”

 

“Nooooo,” said the owl, in a very human, although booming voice. It kinda sounded like Winona Ryder. “You are indeed having an anxiety attack. Just listen to me, and I’ll set you straight. You need to visualize your root chakra, hoot-hoo-hoo.” 

 

“My what?” said Jacques, beginning to tremble, knowing he was going mad. 

 

“Imagine a beam of light shooting out of the base of your spine and connecting with the center of the Earth, grounding you.”

 

“Oh, what the hell.” He tried to visualize a laser, but it all seemed too Miami Vice raver to him. He was in the woods, after all. 

 

“Create an elevator,” the owl said.

 

He tried again, closing his eyes, and slowly, a vision of a glass art nouveau orangerie began to form. This crystal greenhouse had copper verdigris accents such as leaves and acorns and wonderfully ornate window frames. Branches and vines snaked themselves around corners of crystal, sewing a safe passage as the elevator grew down, forging its way to the center of the Earth.

 

“That’s the source of endless energy,” Winona owl instructed. “Let it fill you and bring you peace.”

 

So Jacques took the psychic elevator and imagined the center of the earth as a warm place where energies float in eddies and flow lightly, connecting with other energies. Everything was possible here. All ideas lived here. All reassurances. Safety. Love. Companionship. Camaraderie. Health. Security. Wisdom. It was the place to reset and be amazed at how easy it is to have everything. 

 

Jacques walked around in the floating energies of all, letting them waft through him and around him, and he felt his breathing return to normal. He experienced a profound sense of serenity. 

 

When he felt he was ready to go, he re-entered the glass and metal elevator with winding roots and watched layers of the Earth’s insides slip down like a Coffee Bean latte as he made his way back up to ground level. 

 

He opened his eyes. His walking stick rolled slightly. The owl was gone, and so was his wallet. He stood back up and began to hike back to his Pathfinder. In the dark distance, he thought he heard, “Hoot hoo hoo.”