I have been running off and on for the last 37 years. These days it’s mostly “off”….but a year ago, I was getting up every morning at 5 and putting on my running stuff and going out to run in the dark.
It was beautiful….so peaceful running under the moon…so meditative to be out before the rest of the world woke up.
Except for the occasional car flashing their high beams at me, or a deer crashing back into the woods, I was alone. There is something about repetition and solitude that I love…it seems to just open something inside of me and I can think without any distractions. I’ve run in the rain…I’ve run in the snow…sleet…any kind of weather…and the response is always the same: running makes me feel free. I love it.
I told my co-workers about my morning runs…didn’t get into any of the philosophical stuff with them…and I think it was more of a curiosity than anything else. It wasn’t part of their experience so they couldn’t really relate to why someone would get up so early to do something like that if they didn’t have to.
One of my co-workers asked a question that changed the experience of darkness for me. She’d grown up in our valley…had been with the post office for a long time…and was a practical woman.
She asked, “Aren’t you afraid of the snakes?”
That was something I’d never thought of. Of course the giant rattlers would want to lay in the warm summertime night road. It only made sense that they’d be out in large numbers.
From then on…in spite of the fact that I’d never seen a snake (in the dark, of course)…never heard the rattling warning as I plodded through the night time…from then on, every stick and shadow I passed was a python ready to wrap…a diamondback ready to strike.
DANG IT, MABEL!!! I wasn’t afraid until you told me I needed to be.
I’d seen bears on a few of my morning runs. I’d seen wild turkeys, deer, racoons…other animals, for sure…but never a snake…but suddenly they were everywhere I imagined them to be. I gave every stick a wide berth…running out of my way to avoid every silent and still piece of wood that could maybe just metamorphosis into a slithering death muscle.
There have been so many things that I wasn’t afraid of until someone told me I should be.
There’s a line in one of David Wilcox’s songs that says, “afraid of the darkness in the morning”. It’s pretty true…we’re paralyzed with expectation…dreading the snake that just might be lying in wait. Most of the things that I fear have never happened to me. I can think that it’s because I was watchful…a successful guardian, prepared for the worst and able to cut it off before it got to us….but the truth is probably that in reality none of the bad would have happened.
We support each other in our paranoia. Without someone to remind us of what we should fear, we’d probably miss a lot of things to be nervous about. “Watch out for the snakes!!”…the fiscal cliff, high wind and falling trees…predatory lenders…lions, tiger, and bears….there is always going to be something to fear.
I have an artistic daughter who’s getting ready to go to college. I majored in art…spent a lot of time in a studio smudged with paint and graphite…and I have a family now and deliver the mail to make money. My counsel to her was to get a degree in something that would make her employable…and pursue her artistic interests on the side.
I find the snakes for her to be afraid of.
She would love a studio art degree…love pursuing something creative…but like any parent I want things to be easier for her. There’s nothing brave about my counsel to her…maybe something very practical…but she should be able to pursue her own bliss…like I was given the opportunity to pursue mine.
It’s beyond my abilities to keep anyone safe. I can grab their arm before they step out into traffic, we can teach them to use their turn signals…not eat poison…wear a warm coat on a cold day…but in the end we’re all on our own. We take what we’ve learned and use it to survive.
It is in my power to not encourage the fear of things that won’t affect them. Fear radiates…so when I get my own under control, I’ll work at not letting it spread.
I want my children to see the possibilities in the world. I want to raise positive people. I want to give them a chance at seeing how wonderful this world can be.
I haven’t seen any snakes for years.