There is a State Forest not far from us that covers hundreds of acres of woods. I imagine the trails are old logging roads, and in the stone walls, you can see traces of when the land was used for grazing. Mostly sheep from what I’ve heard.
Now the land is populated with tall trees, and this time of year the ground growing green with wild flowers.
I’ve only walked these woods once before. I always found them intimidating. So much wilderness, I worried it was too easy to get lost.
But in the morning, as Jon and I lay in bed talking, I began to remember the kind of fear I grew up with. An irrational fear that was reinforced by my upbringing. The kind of fear that says the world isn’t a safe place and it’s best to stay close to home, not wander, not take chances, not to reach too far outside the small circle of family.
A stunting and repressive fear.
As Jon and I talked I came to see that even thought I’m still visited by those irrational fears, that they still invade my life when I do something different or new, they no longer stop me from living the life I want to live. And when Jon suggested that I’m no longer the person who grew up with those fears, that it’s time to say good bye to the fearful me, I started to cry, a sure sign that what he was saying was true.
So that morning, I took Fate and we went for a walk in the State Forest. The woods I always wanted to walk, but was afraid to.
Because I had walked into them once before, I knew the trails were well worn. My plan was to walk an hour in then turn around and walk an hour back out. Much further than I had gone the first time.
As I walked, I thought of the song line, how the Aboriginals in Australia sing the land. And I did my version of it, paying attention to the natural markers around me, the unusual trees, the wildflowers (there were so many wildflowers), the stone walls and the stream that followed the trail then disappeared.
We went up a mountain and down it. The trail often obstructed by fallen trees, some of them cut with a chain saw long ago to keep the trail clear. Some of them impossible to pass.
After an hour I found a log to sit on. Fate climbed up next to me, (as she does) and waited as I listened to the woodpeckers bang out their stories to each other in the tops of the trees.
On the trail back, I thought of the part of me, the fearful part, that I was ready to leave behind. I didn’t feel her anymore, it was as if I already left her back in the woods. I didn’t feel sorry for her, or worry that she might be scared. I did wonder briefly if she’d haunt the woods. But what I really sensed is that she lay down in the earth, among the wild flowers and ferns and disappeared into the soil becoming a part of it.
And the thing is, walking in those hundreds of acres, I wasn’t afraid for a moment. Even when I lost the trail for a bit, and decided to follow Fate, who was unusually insistent that I follow her for a change, I wasn’t scared.
I think it was because I trusted myself. I saw in myself, what those around me growing up, could never see in me. Which is my ability to make good decisions for myself and even if I made a mistake, my ability to deal with it.
Something changed inside of me yesterday. A shift occurred. I became a little more of who I really am. I shed the fear I was raised to worship. I laid it down in the woods, left it in the soil for something else to grow from.