Spirit Rock is a meditation retreat located in Marin. The facility is beautiful; a huge three level temple, some residence halls, and community centers nestled in the hills.
The deer are unafraid of humans. A young buck danced across the road five feet in front of me, showing how butch he was. Another time a few seemed to be headed toward the food hall. Regularly, one could watch them settle in for the night (and find many deer hollows), or move from location to location, in little herds of five or eight.
Hawks. Turkey vultures.
A lot of poison oak, pretty red with autumn. Oaks, giving way to firs. Wild oats and short thistles. One morning I found a zillion spiderwebs, highlighted by dew in the dawn light; invisible any other time.
And then there was the cougar. One morning, after our 7:15 am breakfast (which was after the 6:30 a.m. sitting practice) I went hiking (mindfully) up the hill behind the residences. Found a cool top of a hill crossroads. Near there, another hiker just ahead of me (who had started out behind me, but whom I let pass ;-) ) had stopped. I looked where he was looking, and saw a mountain lion. Long tawny body, square head and tight ears, looking right at us.
After a few moments, he crouched. The other hiker and I made ourselves big, as the cautions all say to do. I felt myself rooted into the earth, ready to kick ass. I wasn't afraid per say, but I sure was going over options in my head. I was wearing flip flops (neither those nor my motorcycle boots made for good hiking shoes... though I did get complements on the boots after the retreat ;-) )... I could throw them. Run. Or the two of us could beat the cougar up...
After a few minutes, the lion opted out, and went back down over the ridge.
The interesting thing was, we had no way of knowing if he'd gone 'away', or was paralleling just out of sight.
The retreat was silent, but I broke it, quietly, on the way back down, warning about four other hikers of what I'd seen, so they had the option to continue or not.
I of course was bursting with excitement when I got back down into the retreat. But, no talking! but! I wanted to tell Abe who I'd gone there with (we saw each other maybe a dozen times in the entire weekend), but... And guess what, he came trooping by, and I leapt up and mouthed the words. lol Hand to his heart. We did exchange a few words. I was so happy.
And later he came up to me... yep he'd gone up the hill, and, astonishingly, seen the cougar. :-)