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Horizon Gazing

I just finished reading—and loving—Maria Semple’s novel WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. It did what my daughter Mary and I agree our favorite books do; it took me, with delightfully snarky authority, to places I’ve never been, and let me listen in on pockets of people I will never know: The culture of Microsoft, Seattle real estate, architecture in Los Angeles, the MacArthur Genius Grants, and an amazing trip to Antarctica. I particularly enjoyed Semple’s West Coast take on things, and the fact that none of her areas of exploration involve anything to do with yet another view of life in Manhattan.

Because she had me believing every detail, one sentence jumped out at me. The father explains to his daughter that, “When your eyes are softly focused on the horizon for sustained periods, your brain releases endorphins. It’s the same as a runner’s high.”

Wow. So that explains it. My husband and I have noticed that we can’t seem to read with any efficiency while sitting on the beach. Our eyes keep drifting up. I’ve always described it as the scene simply being too compelling, but now Maria Semple offers the science behind it: gazing at the horizon is a better brain fix than anything anybody can write.

I guess this also explains why I’ve always longed for a cabin with a porch facing West, and now that I have it, why it feels so good to me to sit there and gaze across the valley of young trees to the forested ridge beyond.

Seven months ago today I had total knee replacement surgery. I’m doing okay with the knee itself. I’ve had a bad knee almost my whole life, ever since I knelt on a sewing needle at fifteen, so, no big deal there. The hard part has been detoxing from four months of Oxycodone. My brain, apparently, has to learn how to pump out the endorphins on its own again, and it sure is taking its sweet time about it.

People have always known about this horizon gazing, of course, even if they didn’t know the science. Isn’t it right there in the King James version of the Bible?

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

A good RX for me.

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