Opening to the Horizon’s View

by Janet Arnold-Grych

There are times when my world contracts to only a few square feet—the distance to my computer screen, the car in front of me, the bills on my desk, the cereal boxes in the grocery aisle. As my view shrinks, I feel pinched and puckered, a too-big Alice stuffed in a very small Wonderland. With creativity squeezed out, minutiae and minor indignities loom large.

I recognized my recent state, and discovered its remedy, at 6,500 feet. The horizon became my antidote.

The towering trail that I hiked was overflowing with beauty, to be sure—purple and red wildflowers, heady pines, boulders striped red and gray. But it was not the presence of bounty that called me to look up and look out. It was the absence of constraint. And, amid that vast spaciousness, I found myself recalling the writings of poet David Whyte on the power of horizon.

I remembered that David began his career as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands. He spent many hours immersed in books and keenly observing nature. Particularly when on a boat in the islands, he found the horizon to be a soothing balm to his overworked eyes. But, more than that, he recognized the power of the horizon to connect us to a deeper internal conversation.

David describes the horizon as a sightline that takes us out of the immediacy of our surroundings, allowing us to scout new ground. Connecting to an expansive horizon stretches our sense of self and possibility. It reminds us that there is more, that we are more. In one of his most famous poems, Mameen, David writes

Remember the way you are all possibilities 
you can see and how you live best 
as an appreciator of horizons, 
whether you reach them or not.

Before standing on that high trail hewn into the ancient rock’s side, I might have shared a common litany of responsibilities and gifts—competing work projects, family obligations, home projects. But I would have missed how I spoke about them, how I focused on the brittle details and shared them with shallow breath. Now I am aware.

While some pilgrims may hear their horizons whisper bits of wisdom, I did not find mine to offer deep insights or a plan for mastering my life in 10 easy steps. It simply invited resonance with something bigger than my small self. In that resonance, an alertness, an aliveness was reawakened. Brought into the light by the absence of definition and structure, that awareness opened into something palpable.

Back home, I have struggled a bit to hold on to that feeling of possibility offered by the horizon. The commute repeats. The bills pile. The details and minutiae once again nip at my heels. But I have tried to keep my gaze turned outward, beyond my computer screen. I have tried to remain renewed by my physical memory of that vastness, and the physical experience of my nearer, albeit less grand, horizons. The trick, perhaps, is to keep a channel open to notice and to receive.   

To define my world by my computer screen, my desk, my bills, is to collapse my identity to the tasks held by those items. It all becomes very small (and I become very prickly). The horizon buffets those constricting tendencies and bolsters a fuller me. It helps me to be a very big Alice, in a Wonderland even bigger than I can imagine.  

Janet Arnold-Grych is a yoga teacher and writer whose work has been published in Elephant Journal, Huffington Post, Third Coast Digest, and other outlets. 

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