Chapter Nine

You can’t say A is made of B
Or vice versa
All mass is interaction.
Richard Feynman

A couple of days after Nikko and I discover the waterfall, everyone hikes up for a picnic lunch. Nikko and I find a flat stretch of grass, and practice. We get rough for a while, the soft grass serves as a mat, finish with forms in slow meditative tai chi style.
At the waterfall, David Li is busy exploring every piece of rock, bush and dirt he can get his little hands on. Janah knows enough about plants to fill a small encyclopedia, and if she recognized one as safe, David could taste it to his heart’s content, if she didn’t, they take it away and replace it with something he could stick on his tongue. He is going to wind up a thousand times healthier and virtually non-allergic compared to the kids treated to antiseptically clean homes and constant anti-bacterial wipes.
We hike back in the late afternoon, then a rest and tea, followed by burgers and fries after dark, the fireplace and bed. It’s magical to sleep here, dark as death, silent in the night.
We gather as usual on the porch. Since their initial chat, the bird waits for Janah every day. When she comes out, he’s on the rock near the edge of the forest. Now, it sits perched on her crossed leg. She feeds it crumbly granola while they commune. A day later, there are three birds and a ground squirrel. It’s fascinating, Janah surrounded by her bird friends, then a nosy ground squirrel. An hour later, Nikko, Ning, Chan and the baby go up the hill to the waterfall.
I stay with Janah to see if I can grasp the language of the birds. We walk into the woods with the animals following, listen to amazing stories, stop to hear the gentle whispering of the trees, less sophisticated than the birds, soft exchanges of greeting.
The third morning of the third week, Janah asks Ning if she could carry the baby when she went to the rock. She’s curious, what would her animal friends do? She is certain they won’t hurt the child, rather she doesn’t want the baby’s playfulness to scare them.
She’d asked her animal friends the prior day if she might bring the baby to meet them. After a burst of chatter she doesn’t understand, they agree.
Janah walks slowly to the rock, David bundled in her arms. She sits next to her first bird friend. He’s the least fearful of the small group and always hops on her knee as soon as she sits.
“Your young grow slowly, by this time, mine are looking for a mate. Are they stupid?”
Janah giggles, a sound the birds like, it means the creature is happy.
We live many years, and you can see how big we grow. It takes more time for us. Surely you know that each life in nature develops in its own time.”
The birds all chirp madly, they are laughing at her.
“Oh, you played a joke on me. You knew the answer all along. I am learning to laugh at myself for being so slow.”
The others join her on the rock, peering silently at the baby, mumbling among themselves, Janah can’t quite catch it.
David raises his hand. The bird on Janah’s leg closes its claw around the little finger. The baby laughs and laughs, the bird ducks his head and lightly pecks David on his belly, more gurgling and giggling. They all flap their wings at the same time, David’s eyes get big, and he coos, “ohhhh,’ then he flaps his arms like the bird’s wings.
“Your young would make a good bird, learns by observing. Too bad he has no feathers, his wings are no good for flight. But he has a pleasant attitude and does not fuss as much as our young.”
The ground squirrel gathers its courage and hops onto the rock. He creeps up to the baby silently, then a burst of chatter and peers at Janah She only heard, ‘baby’ and ‘hawk.’ She took this to mean she should keep the baby safe from hawks.
She mentals as best she can, ‘Yes.’
He takes a step closer then turns suddenly, his tail to David’s face. He taps the baby’s nose with his furry tail twice. David has an immense smile on his face and giggles. The squirrel taps and David giggles and gurgles, they play the game for a few minutes, then the squirrel turns back to peer at his face, its nose twitching a mile a minute. David’s little hand brushes the top of the squirrel’s head, he coos again, “ohhhh,’ strokes the squirrel’s head once more. The squirrel lets loose an incomprehensible blast of chatter, to which David replies with his own babble as if he understands every word. His hands wave up and down while he does it. The animals watch, then the squirrel chatters again, then birds began talking all at the same time and David natters, babbles and gurgles right along with them.
The bird tells Janah, “He understands more than you. It is time for your young to rest. Bring him tomorrow and we will talk again. He is easy to teach. You are more skilled than your kind, still slow, boy is faster.”
With that the birds fly off, the squirrel runs down the rock and up the tree. Janah looks at David Li, she laughs and laughs.
“So much for my big deal brain.”
When she climbs off the rock. She stands David on the ground and holds his hand. The squirrel reappears a few steps in front of him. David reaches out his hand, but the squirrel only chatters. David waves his free hand, the squirrel moves away a few steps, then turns back to face the baby. David takes a step, wobbles, Janah holds him upright, a second step, the squirrel let loose a stream of incomprehensible chatter, then David manages a third, then fourth step. The squirrel runs between his legs then scoots around to the front. David screeches with delight and takes two more steps. Janah lets go of his hand, he takes one more step, stands for a moment, then plops down on the grass. The squirrel is on his hind legs, nattering away, David rolls over to crawling position. The squirrel runs under him and flicks its tail in David’s face. He giggles so much his face is red, the squirrel runs off to the woods and up a tree.
Janah takes David by the hand, lifts gently, he grabs her loose cotton pants with his other hand and pulls himself up. He stands, his face bright with accomplishment. Janah picks him up, walks to the porch.
Ning is full of tears, Janah gives Chan his son, saying, “When we leave this place, we mustn’t let him lose this newfound skill. I will talk to Master Sung and explain. Ning will be allowed to bring him to the temple to be with Master Hue. There will be joy at this new development.”
Chan bows deeply to her, knowing none of this would have happened without the compassion she radiates. The animals felt it and trusted. Somehow, the child, not having the slightest idea why communicating with one animal should be any different from communicating with another, simply slipped into a state of understanding with them. He knows no mental limitations, his young mind grows exponentially every moment. Janah feels creaky by comparison. She wanders to the dock, folds into lotus and is gone from us for the rest of the day and into the night. I join her after dinner, the others inside around the fire, the baby playing.
I sit next to Janah and wrap a thick blanket around both of us, not a night to test the power of qi. Ning and the baby go to bed, Chan and Nikko stay on the porch, the moonlight glows on the water. We are no more than thirty yards away, clearly silhouetted against the still water reflecting the moon high to the left As they watch, what had been two bodies seated side by side became only one. Chan and Nikko enter no mind.
Ning asks Chan after he showered, before they go out for breakfast, “Last night, I woke and you weren’t in bed. I had the feeling that something unusual was happening, it flooded through me. The baby was sound asleep. I crept out and saw that the door was still open and I could see you and Nikko sitting in meditation. I tried to be very quiet, I knew it must be something important. I stood at the screen door and I saw that Daphne and Janah were still on the pier, motionless. They seemed to me to have bundled up together, because I only could make out one person, there was only one head and a blanket around the body. I presumed that one sat in front of the other. I was flooded by an incredible calm, and I remembered our child’s extraordinary day. Am I too curious?”
Chan shakes his head, “Not too curious. I saw last night what Nikko has seen for the last few years. The events with David, and then to see the two as one as a reality, made it impossible for me to do anything but sit in no mind, for the honor that has been given us, for the blessing of the White Angel, for the blessing of my beautiful wife and our child. Seeing the two as one, on top of all the rest….”
Ning, “Say no more, husband. Then, without knowing it, I saw the two as one as well. My child is learning the language of the forest from its inhabitants. To talk of it is to dishonor its beauty.”
Chan hugs his wife. Her heart understands instinctively the futility of seeking explanation for the inexplicable. He reads the joy in her eyes, not the joy of being more. The joy of knowing that nothing, no one or thing, is separate or apart.

Chapter Ten

Do I have to catch mice?
Daphne Sylk


An eagle circles overhead while our group heads up the trail to the waterfall. David explores his newfound walking skill. Standing on his own watching a bird fly off, David waves his arms madly after it. He wants to fly with them. Chan picks him up and flies him around, holding him by his tummy in his giant hands, David flaps and kicks. It is almost like the real thing. That night, he peers at his mother out of the corner of his eye, mimicking the way a bird studies something, cocking his head back and forth.
“If he does that in front of Master Hue, it will bring tears of laughter to his eyes.”
Janah, “The birds have taught him to play, which they do all the time, we are too caught up to notice.”
The day before we are to leave, Janah is on the big rock, David walks mostly, then crawls himself to the porch and is making his way up the steps to Ning. He knows she has a bowl of soup for him, he has his dad’s appetite.
Janah is watching his progress when a darkness settles over her and a giant whoosh! floods around her. She finds herself eyeball to eyeball with the biggest bird she’d ever even heard about, one that can fly anyway. Her big eyes peer directly into Janah’s. Eagles have two centers of focus. They can see forward and sideways at the same time. Like all birds, they see in color.
Janah, “Welcome. I am honored by this visit.”
“Every animal in the forest is buzzing about the human who talks to them. I came to see for myself.”
“Your language is easily understood. The others have more difficulty explaining to me.”
“Bigger brain. I hear better as well. Not like the owl, but better than most. The owl understands everything you say. Come tonight and you will meet him. Do not bring the young one, bring the one who is you. The owl can teach her.”
“We are leaving soon, tomorrow. Should we stay, come back?”
“She will learn enough for now by sitting with him. The transmission is direct, her mind can only take so much. Return in a year and we will see what she has learned. She can be ignorant of pain?”
“She welcomes it.”

“Ah, the owl will be relieved. His mind is strong, he needs a strong mind to absorb.”
“What will she learn?”
“He has his own way, chooses to impart as he sees fit.”
“What, if I may be so impudent, can I do in return?”
“We need nothing from you, we have more than enough. You need something from us. Because you are open to receive, we give, nothing is lost. Your kind has never understood that. Unlike some of the others, I do not pity your kind, the most ignorant animals on the planet, and you believe you are the greatest. Humans create their own suffering, why should I sympathize? There are more like you, far too few. Be joyful and receive, nothing is required.”

With that, the giant bird spreads her wings, eight feet across, a single beat and she’s aloft and soon circling over the cabin, then up to her home in the high cliffs.
“You want to slow down? I think even Nikko may crack under the weirdness.”
Janah giggles, “She’s eating this up, not that it’s noticeable. We’ll need to have a confab up at the falls today, talk it over, and prepare them for tonight.”
 “I heard the owl the last few nights. I think I know the direction. We need to enter the woods.”
“He’s not much on sociability, your new Master Tan.”
“It’s an owl, I hope I’m smart enough.”
“According to the eagle, it’s like my thing with Tan. You just sit and take it. He does all the work.”
“I’m good with that. Wonder what the moms would think? Their girls in the deep woods, in the pitch dark, getting mental transmissions from an owl.”
“Sis would shake her head and go back to her computer, Chris would want to know if you’re going to make dinner, K-mom would paint the scene. Dad would be interested in how your brain felt when it happened.”
I laugh, “I think once you and I happened, everything else has become just one more thing.”
“I’m delighted they handle it that way. I can’t explain this anyhow. They help by not asking for explanations. I guess they know that.”
Later, at the falls, Janah tells the others about her conversation with the eagle, she giggles helplessly, the baby starts giggling with her which makes everyone else laugh. Well, Ning and I laugh, Nikko and Chan stare at something in the falls that apparently only they can see.
Chan, “Do you need me to follow you into the forest?”
“Yes. It’s not a safety problem, we’ll be among friends. Daphne will undergo something, we don’t know what. She may need help getting back.”
Nikko, “Daphne…”
“I know your heart. I need you to stay with Ning and David. Janah and Chan will be with me. If my mind goes, you’ll be forced to take care of drooling Daphne until she unites with the universe for good.”
Nikko, “As you wish.”
“Then it’s settled. Let’s forget all this and enjoy our last day. The sky is clear, the falls, the forest, and David needs to be changed, phew!”
Ning does diaper duty and David is soon toddling around, squatting down to pick flowers and taste them. A butterfly hovers in front of him, he looks at it sideways and reaches out his hand. It lands on his palm. Ning starts, afraid he might eat it too. David plops onto his butt and holds the butterfly to his face, he is gurgling, then bababababa, mamamamama, sounds. He raises his hand over his head and the creature flies off, wandering through the grasses and stalks of flowers. David turns his head and eyes his mother, then rolls to his side and crawls over to her. She is seated on the ground with Janah, he pulls himself up and stands between them. Chan is a few feet away, sitting next to Nikko. He walks to his dad and flaps his arms. Chan picks him up and flies him around in slow circles. The baby flaps and grins, screeching in pure joy.
Two hours later, we make our way down the hill, only a little reluctantly, holding on to the experience is pointless. The joys of the retreat are joys for those moments. There will be new joys soon enough, and other things, significantly less joyful.

Chapter Eleven

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north,
a great cloud, and a fire enfolding itself, and a brightness was about it,
and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
Ezekiel 1:4 King James Version

Janah and I sit on a blanket under the owl’s tree.* Chan is a few lengths away, motionless. It is dark, the moon full, not pitch black, the sky we see through the canopy of trees is diamond filled.
Even though we are over a quarter mile into the forest, I can hear Nikko singing to David. She and Ning decided to sit on the porch for a last star show before our departure. Nikko will wait up anyway, no matter how long it takes.
Janah and I settle into no mind. A great horned owl, a big tough bird common in North America and Canada. Janah could not make any connection, the bird is not talking like the eagle or the smaller doves and crows that visited her.
Chan can see our outlines easily in the moonlight, he listens to the forest noises. There is rustling on the ground and in the trees. Some of the local residents are curious. Suddenly, like a switch flipped, there is the most amazing silence, the silence of nothing, not a breeze, not a leaf turns, not an insect buzzing. I feel a tingle in my head, a small vibration, then stronger. It is getting painful, like needles in my brain. My eyes pop open, I didn’t open them, they opened, wide. I see the forest like it’s daylight, I can see every leaf, every piece of bark, dead branches on the ground, dozens of birds, squirrels, three deer, a wolf, insects on the leaves. The clarity is blinding. My brain is hot, sweat drizzles from my forehead, down my cheeks and neck. My eyes involuntarily snap shut. I can’t open them. My neck is warm, then my head starts to turn. My face looks out over my left shoulder, then behind my left shoulder, then almost directly behind. My head rotates to the right, past the shoulder and around behind me. It is shifted, not by me, to the left, then right, my neck twists each time almost to the point of my head reversing, like the kid in The Exorcist. Then it quits, the pain subsides in my neck. I’m able to relax for a minute, breathing deeply, I qi up to release the lingering strain. My eyes feel like thick sacs of blood. My ears swell inside, like sinus congestion in an airplane. My head is exploding. I gasp, an admission of exquisite, nearly intolerable, agony.
The threefold process, eyes, neck, ears, continues in rotation for an hour, then a second and into a third. It’s after midnight, I’m limp, barely able to hold myself upright. The owl gives a series of cries, screeches, then the houhouhouhou we call hoots. I pass out and fall to my side.
The owl screeches once and flies off its perch into the night. Chan picks me up like I’m weightless and carries me back to the cabin. Nikko rushes to me, looking silently at Chan, then Janah.
Chan lays me on our bed.
Janah, “I don’t know. There was definitely some sort of process in her head and body. It was intense, I couldn’t read it. I felt that she was in agonizing pain, that she was receiving. At several points, her head nearly twisted around. One way then the other. She’ll have to tell us when she recovers. I have no idea what went on. This is a first, apart from a few things that happen suddenly, I can always see what’s going on in her mind. This directly affected her brain cells and body, it didn’t transmit to me.”
Nikko, “Any ideas?”
“Yes. They’re just ideas. I want to wait to see before I speculate. Let her rest, her vitals are fine, the pain has exhausted her.”
Nikko, “How severe?”
Chan answers, “Sweat poured, her hands clenched, she moaned in agony and gasped. Have you ever heard her do such a thing, in any practice, ever?’
Nikko, “Never.”
Chan, “She did tonight.”
“I’ll make her comfortable, then she will rest between Janah and me. Time to sleep.”
Chan goes off to his wife and child, Janah undresses and washes up while Nikko tends to me. My breathing is regular, Janah takes my pulse, its normal slow resting rate.
Janah curls in next to me, Nikko on the other side, I’m already disappeared, they fall away as well.

*Because Owls are generally active at night, they have a highly developed auditory (hearing) system. The ears are located at the sides of the head, behind the eyes, and are covered by the feathers of the facial disc. The "Ear Tufts" visible on some species are not ears at all, but simply display feathers.
The shape of the ear opening (known as the aperture) depends on the species of Owl - in some species, the opening has a valve, called an operculum covering it . The opening varies from a small, round aperture to an oblong slit with a large operculum. All owls of the family Tytonidae have rounded openings with large opercula, while in Strigidae, the shape of the outer ear is more varied.
An Owl's range of audible sounds is not unlike that of humans, but an Owl's hearing is much more acute at certain frequencies enabling it to hear even the slightest movement of their prey in leaves or undergrowth.
Some Owl species have asymmetrically set ear openings (i.e. one ear is higher than the other) - in particular the strictly nocturnal species, such as the Barn Owl or the Tengmalm's (Boreal) Owl. These species have a very pronounced facial disc, which acts like a "radar dish", guiding sounds into the ear openings. The shape of the disc can be altered at will, using special facial muscles. Also, an Owl's bill is pointed downward, increasing the surface area over which the sound waves are collected by the facial disc. In 4 species (Ural, Great Gray, Boreal/Tengmalm's & Saw-whet), the ear asymmetry is actually in the temporal parts of the skull, giving it a "lop-sided" appearance.
An Owl uses these unique, sensitive ears to locate prey by listening for prey movements through ground cover such as leaves, foliage, or even snow. When a noise is heard, the Owl is able to tell its direction because of the minute time difference in which the sound is perceived in the left and right ear - for example, if the sound was to the left of the Owl, the left ear would hear it before the right ear. The Owl then turns its head so the sound arrives at both ears simultaneously - then it knows the prey is right in front of it. Owls can detect a left/right time difference of about 0.00003 seconds (30 millionths of a second!)
An Owl can also tell if the sound is higher or lower by using the asymmetrical or uneven Ear openings. In a Barn Owl, the left ear left opening is higher than the right - so a sound coming from below the Owl's line of sight will be louder in the right ear.
The translation of left, right, up and down signals are combined instantly in the Owl's brain, and create a mental image of the space where the sound source is located. Studies of Owl brains have revealed that the medulla (the area in the brain associated with hearing) is much more complex than in other birds. A Barn Owl's medulla is estimated to have at least 95,000 neurons - three times as many as a Crow.
Once the Owl has determined the direction of its next victim, it will fly toward it, keeping its head in line with the direction of the last sound the prey made. If the prey moves, the Owl is able to make corrections mid flight.

Chapter Twelve

Man at the doctor, he raises his arm, “It hurts when I do that.”
Doctor says, “Then don’t do that.”


I sleep until nine the next morning.  Janah joins me in the shower, uses the opportunity to check me over. Externally, I’m fine, minor cuts and scrapes from dueling with Nikko on the mountain. We usually have a few battle scars.
Janah, “How’s the brain?”
“Hoot.”
Janah giggles, “Do you want a field mouse for breakfast?”
My turn to laugh, “I’m a Buddhist owl, a Shaowl-in priest.”
Janah giggles again, “Skip the jokes with Nikko. She was hyper-protective last night, mightily concerned.”
“Got it. I’ll cover it all with everyone when we breakfast. No point in telling the story 3 times.”
Nikko gets in the shower with us, “Crowded in here, maybe owl can perch on the curtain rod.”
I hug her tightly, “Owl is very grateful for such a perfect student. Let me wash that beautiful hair.”
We dry, dress and out to the living room. I head for the coffee, Chan is outside on the pier, Nikko goes out to join him. Janah hears David babbling, she knocks and goes into Ning’s bedroom. David is standing next to the bed, Ning is dressed, slipping on her sandals. David toddles to Janah and holds his hands up, the universal sign for “pick me up.”
Janah follows the simple directions, takes him to the porch, sits in the rocker while David looks around for his friends. Ning has a bottle of juice and a cup of warm oatmeal. She feeds David while Janah holds him.
I appear with a tray of cups and big pot of Irish breakfast tea, honey and cane sugar, the rest of the wheat bread toasted and buttered, a jar of blackberry jelly to finish up. The boat will be along in a couple of hours, then an hour ride back. After that, we drive to Toronto, then fly to JFK, in the apartment by six thirty or seven.
“So, anything unusual happen while I was rappin’ with Hootie?”
Janah, “We’re waiting patiently for you to eat. If you’re finished, start talking. I’m as curious as the rest, I couldn’t get in there while the process was happening. You were on your own.”
“Pretend someone took a white hot needle and stuck it in your ear, then took a second and stuck it in your other ear. When that was over, they twisted your neck, practically turning your head around. Before that, there was something in my brain, like burning, then I felt like my eyeballs would pop. I could feel the pain, I could feel sweat pouring out. I knew Janah was there, I could feel her alongside me, not in me as usual. When it was done, I was unconscious, so I didn’t feel me or her. This morning  I have a slight headache, my eyes are still adjusting, and my ears tingle inside. My neck is sore. Janah’s going to have to work on me before we split. As a matter of fact, I could use a frozen gel pack on the back of my neck.”
Ning jumps to get it, settles it on my neck and covers it with a towel. I sit cross legged on a pillow, Janah hands off the baby to Ning and kneels behind me, resting her hands on my temples. She make them cold.
I give a welcoming sigh, “God, that’s better. I don’t know exactly what the whole thing was supposed to accomplish. I don’t speak any bird that I can tell.”
I stay in position for half an hour. Nikko, up from the dock, takes the ice bag off my neck, wipes me dry with the towel. I turn my head to thank her. It turns all right, it turns nearly backwards.
Janah, “Dang. Turn the other way.”
My head practically three sixties to the other side.
Janah, “Any pain?”
“Bit stiff, much better.”
Janah, “Can you see, hear, think with it twisted like that, does it block off anything, does it seems to restrict blood flow to your head, feel dizzy?”
I turn one way, look and talk, then the other, talk, describe what I see accurately, speech normal, breathing regular. I respond to Janah’s questions clearly.
Nikko, “That’s cool. Daphne can see behind herself. Sis will freak.”
Janah, “Nikko, go do something quietly in the bathroom. We’ll see if she can hear it.”
She closes the door to the bedroom, then the one to the bathroom. It must be thirty feet to the bedroom, another twelve to the bathroom. A minute passes, she comes out to the porch, “Anyone have any idea what I was doing, could you hear anything? I’ll give you a hint, I wasn’t peeing, I sat on the toilet, the lid was closed, I was doing something else.”
Chan, “There was no sound,” Ning agrees.
“She was filing her fingernails.”
Nikko, “That’s it.”
Ning, “Not even Daphne could have heard that.”
Janah, “She did. She heard it like an owl. I’m anxious to find out what she can see in the dark.”
Chan, “Ah. So there it is. She was selected because the bird knew her unique sensitivity. Her hearing has been enhanced, she may have some sort of enhanced night vision. What’s the neck about?’
Janah, “Who knows, a bonus for enduring the pain maybe. The animals have a sense of play, it could be nothing more than that.”
I walk, turning my head backwards, it is strange to have such cranial mobility. I have an added benefit the owls don’t. The reason they can rotate their heads is that their tubular eyes can’t move in their sockets. Their actual peripheral range is less than a human’s. They more than make up for it by being able to twist their necks around 270 degrees. It’s why they seem to stare, their eyes, on their own, can’t move. I can twist my neck, and move my eyes. Not just figuratively, I can turn my head and see directly behind me. The only thing I could have improved on was to have the eagle’s vision. An eagle can see a moving rabbit on the ground from a mile away. I’m good, not that good.
My hearing allows even better reception. It isn’t dog hearing, I have the same unique range I always had, an owl’s is basically the same as a humans. Within my improved capability, I can now also hear more distinctly. Like an owl can hear a mouse stirring under the snow, I heard Nikko filing her nails lightly more than forty feet away, through a room, in a second room with both doors closed. I’m my own surveillance device.We make Manhattan a little late, a short delay flying. I call the moms and say Nikko and I will be over in the morning.
Susan, “You guys stay at the apartment. Call me when you’re up and we’ll come to you. I know you have clothes and travel stuff to deal with. Don’t do breakfast, I’ll bring something from the deli. Lacy dealt with the apartments, your fridge and Ning’s are freshly restocked, we pushed around the vacuum and dusted.”
“So I see, thank you. We’re hungry, I’m glad we didn’t have to go back out and forage. The retreat was absolutely fabulous. Tell you all about it tomorrow.”
We have creamy mac and cheese, baked chicken, coleslaw and cookies, then collapse into bed. In the morning, there is coffee, tea, flaky, buttery croissants and fruit, then more coffee and tea, then somehow it’s lunch, pizza boxes are everywhere, along with wine and champagne glasses. The moms, Lacy and James sit listening to one barely believable story after the next. David walks around from one mom to mom for hugs and kisses, then when Janah says “bird” to him, he starts giggling and flaps his arms like crazy.
He goes to Nikko, climbs into her lap and starts his version of a song, lalalalalalala, then looking at her so she’d get the point. She takes him to one end of the sofa and sings softly, His eyes never leave her face and when she raises the pitch or the volume he waves his arms at her and kicks merrily. He slips into sleep and Ning takes him to his crib.
Susan is crying, Lacy is helping her.
Lacy says, dabbing her eyes, “You guys have to slow down. You go off for a month in the woods, I figure you’re hanging out, hiking, feeling the vibe. When you come back, Janah’s been talking to the animals, Daphne’s been turned into an owl, David is, I don’t know, he’s walking and who knows what? Nikko is singing samurai poetry.”
Chris, “What did Chan and Ning get up to with all the other excitement?”
Ning, “I had lots of time with my husband. He is content to enjoy the water. He rested, worked on other skills.”
Chan, “Nikko sat long hours with me on the pier looking out over the lake. The mountains hold many miracles if we are still and listen.”
Ning, “Then we spent a lot of time up the mountain near the waterfall. It was joyful in that sacred spot, everyone felt it. The greatest part was easily the communion of this family the family of beautiful creatures that live in the wilderness. My child and Daphne are testament to their intelligence and sensitivity.”


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