"Seated atop the rocky ridge, I noticed two hawks circling just above. In my hands I hold a lulav and etrog, a palm branch and citron — plus myrtle leaves and willow branches — which I have just waved over the land in the ritual blessing that is part of the prayers during Sukkot.

"Each time I reread my previous retreat notes, I am stunned by the difference in the contemplative world and the experience of daily life. If I could follow my own clear advice when I am in the altered consciousness sparked by intensive inner work, when my mentor's voice is as bright as the morning sun, I would be living much closer to the truth. Now I realize more than ever how difficult it is to maintain constant awareness in the everyday world. Yet, despite the difficulties we face as individuals, I trust that the group process of spiritual development is evolving in a positive direction. If this were not so, I feel that humankind would be doomed.

"They hawks continue their slow, gliding arcs, and I notice that a flock of high-flying birds glistening white against an azure sky have interrupted their voyage to cruise a thousand feet about the hawks. There are hundreds of the tiny white forms, but I cannot identify them at such a height. They twist and turn over the land like puffs of cotton in a gentle wind.

"A down feather as soft as an infant's curl floats earthward and brushes the granite rock by my side. It feels like an emissary from above, and I wonder what it is telling me. In Jewish folklore, it is said that most angels are created to do just one thing, accomplish one task or deliver one message. I pick up this angel-wisp and hold it to my check.

"When I glance up again, the birds have vanished, but the feather brushing my face is not an illusion. I feel it as a caress, a gentle and loving touch, and I realize that this IS the message — the way the Divine fondles creatures. It is a silent communication that opens new gateways of understanding, a different kind of poetry — one that transcends words, concepts, and thoughts. It touches my heart and a place of inner knowing. In that moment I am complete, thankful, and fully at peace."