"You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough."
Tommy and I entered the avocado grove from the same dusty trail each time, leaving behind the sawgrass and sage, and enveloping ourselves in the cool, deep green of the only forest we knew. The sprawling trees with their broad blue-green leaves blocked out most of the midday sun. We'd left our dog partners, Rip and Jansen, back at the house. Scrunching across the dried-leaf floor, we stopped at a welcoming tree and gave it a light shake. The avocados were ready for picking and the trees would soon be stripped by the corporations who monopolized picking the local groves, offering the avocado ranchers, large and small, a take-it-or-leave-it deal. For that reason, we felt entitled to harvest grocery bags full of our treasured teardrops to sell to neighbors for money for Mexican firecrackers, or to go the movies—maybe to see The Night of the Living Dead just one more time. We were, after all, crazy and confused 12-year old boys.
But today we had ambitions of a distinctly epicurean nature. When we shook the tree lightly, a couple of perfectly ripe, pebbly and purplish Hass avocados fell to the ground with lusciously weighty thuds. We took them up to the top of tree, and perched ourselves on the forks of the thin branches up in the broken sunlight. We pulled out our folding knives and cut around the avos longitudinal equators, down to the fat seeds, with a sweeping turn of the wrist. We popped them open, revealing their gloriously satin green interiors, and tweeked the seeds out with the tips of our knives. We reached into our back pockets, and pulled out the spoons we always carried into the groves with us for this very purpose. Just as I was about to scoop up a bite, Tommy stopped me, sporting a knowingly mischievious look. He reached into his front pocket, smiling broadly, and pulled out two of those little blue Morton's salt and pepper shakers. We laughed, and spooned up our seasoned alligator pears with the relish of secret winners. This was the food of the gods (and still, and always, is).
One day out in the canyons, Tommy and I went into a huge patch of prickly pear cactus armed with machetes, and spent our repressed rage lopping and chopping our way through the tear-paddle leaves. The slicing felt so meaty and tactile that it made my teeth stand on edge. Looking back on the destruction we'd wrought, at first I felt purged, having vented the rage I'd rightfully concealed behind the façade of our happy family life. But almost instantly, I became deeply saddened, like I imagine one feels after surviving a desperate battle—only in this victory, no one fought back. The oozing green leaves lay like tears cried for the Sacred, piled up wastefully on the ground. The savaged cactus patch had been blissfully reaching to the sun for years. I heard the canyon crying in my mind's ear. My young soul switched off...it had to, or I'd have started crying myself.
We continued the day running in the same open vein as we switched to our rifles and sat under an old Bigleaf maple, shooting every bird that landed above us. Eventually, even the dogs became as palpably disgusted with us as we were with ourselves and withdrew, leaving us to that still soul-place where we could hear the cumulative cries of all the living consciousness we'd cut short that day sink inside our hearts.
I was never sure what effect that day had on Tommy, I think he went on to continue hunting, but aside from the odd mosquito or ant, I would never be able intentionally kill anything again. Thirteen was lucky that way, I guess.
"I am the true Self in the heart of every creature...the beginning, middle, and end of their existence."
The Bhagavad Gita 10.20
. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available everywhere too – but ask for them at your local bookstore!