The phone rang and I just stared at it. The last thing I needed now was another distraction. I tried to push it from my mind, gazing out the window at the trees and wildflowers, hoping to lose myself in the array of fall colors in the woods around my house. It rang again, and I got a vague but stirring image in my mind's eye of a person needing to talk with me. Quickly I reached over and answered it.
"It's Bill," a familiar voice said. Bill was an agronomy expert who had been helping me with my garden. He lived down the ridge only a few hundred yards.
"Listen, Bill, can I call you back later?" I said. "I've got this deadline."
"You haven't met my daughter, Natalie, yet, have you?"
"Listen," he finally answered, "my daughter wants to talk with you. I think it might be important. I'm not quite sure how she knows, but she seems to be familiar with your work. She says she has some information about a place you'd be interested in. Some location in the north of Tibet? She says the people there have some important information."
"How old is she?" I asked.
Bill chuckled on the other end of the line. "She's only fourteen, but she's been saying some really interesting things lately. She was hoping she could talk with you this afternoon, before her soccer game. Any chance?"
I started to put him off, but the earlier image expanded and started to become clear in my mind. It seemed to be of the young girl and me talking somewhere near the big spring just up from her house.
"Yeah, okay," I said. "How about two p.m.?"
"That's perfect," Bill said.
On the walk over I caught sight of a new house across the valley on the north ridge. That makes almost forty, I thought. All in the last two years. I knew the word was out about the beauty of this bowl-shaped valley, but I really wasn't worried that the place would become overcrowded or that the amazing natural vistas would be destroyed. Nestled right up next to a national forest, we were ten miles from the closest town--too far away for most people. And the family who owned this land and was now selling selected house sites on the outer ridges seemed determined to keep the serenity of the place unspoiled. Each house had to be low-slung and hidden amid the pines and sweet gums that defined the skyline.
What bothered me more was the preference for isolation exhibited by my neighbors. From what I could tell, most were characters of a sort, refugees from careers in various professions, who had carved out unique vocational niches that allowed them to now operate on flextime or travel on their own schedules as consultants--a freedom that was necessary if one was to live this far out in the wilderness.
The common bonds among all of us seemed to be a persistent idealism and the need to stretch our particular professions by an infusion of spiritual vision, all in the best Tenth Insight tradition. Yet almost everyone in this valley stayed to themselves, content to focus on their diverse fields without much attention to community or the need to build on our common vision. This was especially true among those of different religious persuasions. For some reason, the valley had attracted people holding a wide range of beliefs, including Buddhism, Judaism, both Catholic and Protestant Christianity, and Islam. And while there was no hostility of any kind by one religious group toward another, there wasn't a feeling of affinity either.
The lack of community concerned me because there were signs that a few of our kids were displaying some of the same problems seen in suburbia: too much time alone, too much video, and too much regard for the slights and put-downs at school. I was beginning to be concerned that there wasn't enough family and community in their lives to push these peer problems into the background and keep them in proper perspective.
© 1999 by James Redfield. All rights reserved. Published with permission of the publisher, Warner Books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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