“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”Leonardo da Vinci
Three summers ago, my friend Kevin and I were on a road trip (our 16th together), heading north from Salt Lake City toward Yellowstone. It was a sunny late morning in June and we were taking our time, leisurely winding along a two-lane highway in Southeast Idaho, enjoying the panorama of rocky hills, lush farms, and green valleys.
Then, as we crossed a small river, something appeared in my consciousness. And when it did, I knew it to be as real as I know that I love my daughters.
I suddenly knew that, ahead around the next little hill, the road would bend to the right and pass between a large hill on the left and a shallow green valley on the right. From the highway, two little roads would lead down into the valley, one from the near end of the valley and one from the farther end. Those two roads would meet in the center of the valley and form a triangle. At the near end of the valley, by the juncture of the two roads, there would be a park of some kind and a gathering of people. Beyond the park would be a small town with low buildings.
I could picture all this quite clearly in my mind because I had been to this town before. Except I hadn’t. Until this morning, I’d never been in Idaho before in my life.
When we rounded the bend, a large, craggy hill appeared on our left. The terrain on the right opened into a flat, low valley. Two roads led down to it from the highway, one on each end of the valley, forming a triangle. Near the juncture of the roads in the valley was a small water park with children playing and a dozen cars parked nearby. Past the water park I could see low brick buildings trailing away toward the center of a small town.
“Take this road,” I told Kevin. “Let’s stop.”
He parked our rental car near the water park and headed to the post office for stamps. Meanwhile, I stood in the parking lot, turning in slow circles. What the hell is going on? I couldn’t escape the powerful feeling I had been here before. Everything in this town — which I now learned was Lava Hot Springs, a village on the old Oregon Trail known for its geothermal springs — was familiar. The roads, the buildings, the water park. Everything.
Twenty minutes later, back in the car, I said to Kevin, “I know this town.”
“Really?” he said. “From when?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a past life?”
“OK, dude. Whatever you say.”
He was skeptical and I didn’t blame him. There was no explanation for it. I’ve had brief flashes of déjà vu many times in my life, but this was more than that. It wasn’t just the feeling of reexperiencing something familiar. Somehow, I had known exactly what we were going to see in this town before we ever arrived.
So what was it? A hallucination? A random misfiring of brain neurons? Perhaps the town resembled a dream I once had? Any of those things might be possible, but they didn’t explain the precognition — seeing something clearly in my mind before I ever experienced it.
Over the next four days, Kevin and I visited the Grand Tetons and crossed the Continental Divide. We explored Yellowstone National Park, arriving just in time to watch Old Faithful blow its top to the delight of 300 Japanese tourists. We saw waterfalls and wildlife and hundreds of wonders of nature.
We drove through Wyoming and Montana and Washington and the corner of Oregon, where we stepped up to the edge of the Columbia River gorge to watch base jumpers launch themselves from the 700-foot cliffs. We explored the hills on both sides of the Snake River where Lewis and Clark made their famous westward journey over 200 years ago. Finally, we ended our trip by crossing the salt flats of Nevada on our way back to Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
We covered seven states in five days on that trip and it was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life.
Back home, I thought a lot about my strange experience of precognition and déjà vu. What was the connection between me and some little Idaho town I had never seen before? What did it mean?
Eventually I accepted it as just another in a long line of unexpected gifts from the universe. A reminder that — just beyond the edge of our awareness — the universe holds an infinite supply of awe-inspiring mysteries.
I’ve come to realize over the last few years that we don’t give the universe enough credit. If we merely pause to notice, we suddenly understand that everything is much grander than the limits of our five senses. Consciousness is bigger than our brains. It doesn’t just live inside our heads; it’s everywhere. Even time is not the concrete concept we think it is. It’s slippery and sometimes bends back on itself.
Who knows…maybe I briefly slipped in a parallel universe in Southeast Idaho. I suppose I’ll never know exactly what it was.
But I know one thing for sure: Everything in our universe — including myself — is connected to everything else in unseen ways. Perhaps our adventure in this life is all about revealing those connections.