Orangutans are largely solitary creatures, and because the ingredients of their preferred diet are widely dispersed, they’ve developed ways to avoid having to rummage through the canopy all day, expending precious energy in a restless search for food. One of these strategies entails little more than sitting quietly on a high branch and peering off into the dense green air until the desired delicacy announces itself to their gaze. Primatologists who study the apes have called this behavior “the fruit stare.”

I’ve been doing it a lot myself lately. Midway through last summer, I stepped into the in-between of in-betweenjobs. I’d visited this particular bardo before and had always returned, at the end of my transit, to a mundane realm inhabited by an alarming number of both hungry ghosts and jealous gods: the world of New York journalism. Now I was hoping that time in the in-between might lead me somewhere else.

Like more than a million others last year, I was laid off, a downsized casualty of a company down on its luck. However, unlike most (my pride insists on noting), my departure was voluntary. If leaving was a way to spare my boss some broader and more painful staff curs, it was also a way to spare myself the daily necessity of foraging in the corporate canopy, expending precious energy in search of a satisfaction greater than vested stock options. In the end, I bent my neck to the block willingly. I could honestly say that I had, as the human-resource handbook blithely frames it, “chosen to pursue other opportunities.”

Because of the circumstances, my leaving wasn’t fraught with careerist panic, or with rueful clinging to a familiar if tedious rourine, or with any bur a few passing twinges of regret. I was, after all, getting exactly what I’d asked for. But when I finally hailed a cab and headed home-home, that is, to a newly renovated apartment, a sunny terrace, and a loving wife-I was seized by a dizzying mix of joy and (mostly) terror. What, I thought, had I been thinking?

I’d tasted something similar once on a trip to Colorado.

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