(Credit to Milt Rodriguez, from whom I first heard this parable.)
Taki gazed out across the cool green lawns, admiring the rocky outcroppings which her landscape artists had created for her enjoyment. The sun could not reach her where she reclined, shaded by cypress trees and just beginning to be sleepy. A gate rattled and Taki looked up, expecting to see her serving girl bearing refreshments, but the man who strode through her gate was a stranger. A mild surge of alarm awakened in her breast. As he approached, she stood, watching him. He didn’t appear to be dangerous, and no one had ever hurt her. He was most likely some maintenance man she had yet to meet. By the time he reached her, she felt only curiosity.
The handler spoke in a low, soothing voice as he clipped a collar around her neck. Taki supposed she must be going to see the vet for one of her frequent check-ups and followed willingly. The vet had a quiet, gentle manner, and always offered treats when she had finished with her examination. Taki liked her. But this new human turned the wrong direction, and Taki immediately took notice. She had never been led in this direction before. She peered around her with interest as they walked. A few moments later, they stopped and the man tossed a bit of food into a crate that sat in the back of a vehicle. Taki knew this trick. He would close the door after she leaped in and she would be stuck there for a time, but it was not too great a price for a treat. What did she have to do besides sleep? And a crate was as good a place as any to do it. She gracefully jumped into the box, and in a few moments they were off, bouncing down the road.
Taki didn’t care for the bouncing, and with the back gate of the vehicle closed, she couldn’t see what was going on outside. It seemed that they bounced and bounced for a very long time. She felt the sun must have passed halfway across the sky by the time the jarring and jolting finally stopped. The rear gate of the vehicle opened and the handler snapped the leash back onto her collar. The sun, high and hot, washed out any brightness of color her surroundings might have had, but it felt good on her back as she leaped out into the light.
In every direction she looked she saw space. Openness. Nothing but golden grass and hot, sharp wind. Taki crouched in fear . . . not terror, not yet, but she had never seen such a place, never felt such a huge expanse around her. Always, Taki had been encased in a womb of walls — not too close, but not so far away as to fail to offer protection, insulation from the things happening around her quiet enclave. Here, she saw no walls at all, and so far as she could tell, nothing at all happening around her, either. Only the vast open expanse of nothing. She pressed her body against the warm ground and made herself as small as she could.
Every muscle taut, Taki furtively took in those sights she could see without moving, and smelled the smells. These were not the loud smells that drifted over the walls into her yard at home . . . smells of humans and food and the nearness of many kinds of animals. These smells were subtle, wafting scents of grasses and heat and the occasional hint of another animal. The smell of the Land Rover still lingered, and of her handler crouching nearby, quietly waiting . . . for what?
The story continues: