Leaving Fear In The Woods

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.

A Red Trillium I saw on my walk.

7 thoughts on “Leaving Fear In The Woods

  1. I really loved your courage and self awareness in this post Maria. It has wowed me. So compelling.
    I grew up near the ocean. My family still lives there. But at a very young age I loved the woods…and the
    streams and used to go ‘exploring’ off on my own in what then seemed miles away from home but was
    really only a few blocks away. I had a secret spot in a place I called holly tree forest for all of the lovely
    holly trees there. Moving to Vermont felt like Heaven to me. Instead, I had a fear of the dark. Nothing bad
    ever happened to me in the dark but it always felt ominous to me. As I worked on my spiritual self over the past several years I began to focus on the light in the dark. The stars, the moon and how the darkness could
    not overpower their brightness. Several years ago I sat outside alone in the dark for many hours. And in that
    one night, my fears were drawn up into the galaxy and disappeared with a shooting star. Not only did my
    eyes physically adjust to the darkness but my spirit did too. I soared through the night unafraid. The darkness hugs me now. This all came back to me as I read your post. I loved your last paragraph…especially the last line ‘for something else to grow from’. Beautiful. You laid yours down in the woods. I offered mine to the constellations. What a special world we live in. This Heaven and this Earth. Thank you. Awesome writing.

    1. This is beautiful Kathye. Thank you for writing it here. I love that idea of being hugged by the darkness and finding the light in the stars.

  2. I am not sure why, but last Friday, I was obsessed with the idea of walking as far as I could in nature, my soul was craving the deep woods, and its sounds. I am hobbled with an injured left foot right now, so it was impossible to do this kind of walk, yet its desire has not left me. Your words took me right where I longed to go, not to mention the beautiful trillium. Thank you so much for the walk but also the insight.
    My childhood was filled with long hours, walking into the woods to find a favorite place under beach trees where I could lay on layers of leaves and dream for hours.

    1. I can see you laying under the beach trees as a child Marcia. An image that makes me take a deep breath and feel peaceful. I’m so glad my writing about my walk could take you there too.

  3. I love this post. It’s could to hear you have the woods so close to home and hundreds of acres to explore. The part about leaving fear behind really touched me. I’m going through a letting go process myself. I always enjoy your posts Maria. You are always going deep. I love following your spiritual life unfolding. It helps me awaken to my own path.

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