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Excerpted from Second Sight by Judith Orloff. Copyright 1996 by Judith Orloff, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Books and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"I found myself standing in a sort of tunnel, feeling safe and secure."

Judith Orloff, Second Sight, Part 1

I am large ... I contain multitudes.

-Walt Whitman

It was 3:00 A.M., the summer of 1968. A magical southern California night. I was sixteen years old and had spent the weekend partying at a friend's house in Santa Monica, oblivious to my exhaustion. The soft, warm Santa Anas whipped through the eucalyptus trees, blowing tumbleweeds down deserted city streets. These winds were seductive, unsettling, conveying a slight edge of danger.

The scene was Second Street, two blocks from the beach, in a one-bedroom white clapboard bungalow where my friends and I hung out. We were like animals huddled together for a kind of safety, apart from what we saw as a menacing outside world. Brightly painted madras bedspreads hung from the ceiling, and candles in empty Red Mountain wine bottles flickered on the floor. Barefoot and stretched out on the couch, I was listening to Bob Dylan's "Girl from North Country." I was restless; I wanted something to do.

A young blond man I'd met only an hour before invited me to go for a ride up into the hills. He was a James Dean type, cool and sexy, dressed in a brown leather jacket and cowboy boots, a pack of Camels sticking out of the back pocket of his faded jeans: the kind of guy I always fell for but who never paid much attention to me. I wouldn't have missed this opportunity for anything.

The two of us headed out, stepping over couples who were making out on a few bare mattresses placed strategically on the living room carpet. We jumped into my green Austin Mini Cooper, my companion at the wheel, and took off for Tuna Canyon, one of the darkest, most desolate spots in the Santa Monica range, a remote place the Chumash Indians had consecrated, made sacred.

The road snaked up into the mountains to an elevation of about 1,500 feet; we could see the entire Malibu coastline laid out before us in a crescent of lights all the way from Point Dume down to the southernmost tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The balmy night air blew through my hair, filling my nostrils with the scent of pungent sage and fresh earth. A few lone coyotes howled to one another in the distance.

For a moment, the man I was with glanced over at me and I felt something inside me stir. The softness of his voice, the easy way he moved his body excited me, but I did my best not to show it, determined to play the game of acting as if I didn't care. The heat of his arm extended across my body, his hand now on my leg. I reached my hand over to meet his, slowly stroking each fingertip, one by one. I felt intoxicated: He was a stranger, completely unknown to me. It was the ultimate risk. The closer our destination became, the more my excitement grew. I was anticipating what would happen when we reached the breathtaking view at the top.

The higher we climbed, the more treacherous the curves in the road became. But we were paying little attention, talking nonstop, high on a potent amphetamine we'd taken an hour before at the house. On the last curve before the top, he didn't respond quickly enough and the right front tire plowed into the soft gravel along the shoulder. The car lurched wildly as he wrestled with the steering wheel in a frantic effort to regain control. He slammed on the brakes. I heard the tires shriek and then we were skidding off the pavement and hurtling over the edge of the cliff, plunging down into the darkness below.

I recall only fragments of what happened next. I do know that time slowed down and I began to notice things. The night sky was swirling beneath my feet instead of above me. I could hear peculiar sounds, as though amusement park bumper cars were crashing into each other. I made the emotionless observation that something was distinctly odd, but couldn't quite pinpoint what it was. The horror of my predicament--my imminent death--never really registered. Instead, something shifted; I found myself standing in a sort of tunnel, feeling safe and secure. It didn't occur to me to question where I was or how I got there. Although far in the distance I could hear the wind rushing past the open windows of the car, I was now suspended in this peaceful sanctuary while we fell through space toward the canyon floor hundreds of feet below.

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