I dressed in pigtails, Lycra and bug spray. What else does one wear to face their fears? Then I crept into the wild, Wyoming woods in search of the monsters that lurked within.
It’s a fourteen hour drive from my home in the Bay Area to my cabin at the edge of the Wasatch Forest. Think rustic; think no cell network, electricity, water, Starbucks or ambulance service. Imagine a toilet seat in a forest with no outhouse protecting it and you’re beginning to get the idea. It’s pristine, glorious, all American forest. The idea of spending a week there by myself both thrilled and terrified me. Drywall has separated me from Mother Nature to the point that I’m terrified to be immersed in it.
When I got into the cabin I instantly started cleaning out the bugs, mice poop and a year of dust. Then I went on a long hike, greeting a few animals along the way: forty-two antelope (including six babies), seven grouse, a pair of whooping cranes, baby chipmunks, woodpeckers, two bucks, hummingbirds, a falcon, a Goshawk and a few hundred songbirds. By the time I got home the bats were circling. Between the cleaning and the animals I felt like a regular Snow White without her dwarfs, which was fine by me. If seven tiny men had come out of the forest with picks and shovels I would have had another mess to clean up.
I was in a magical place and then… night came and the dark decided to fill in the spaces.
I lay in the pitch black (of course, it was a new moon) listening as some creature scratched at the rafters while I tried to identify what the #$@* I was so @$#&* bloody scared of. It’s hard to fight a monster if you don’t know its name.
The scratching stopped. I had my answer. Physical vulnerability is difficult for me but spiritual vulnerability is excruciating, which is why I was out here in the middle of the wild with a half bar of cell phone service, a 7 mile drive to the nearest main road and a candle. Vulnerability is a heavy metal jacket. There was only one thing I could do: say a prayer, “Thank you God for inspiring me to do this!”
I had come to the limits of my faith. Oh I’m a bundle of Universal trust when it comes to telling the world how I chatted it up with a ghost in a Nevada hotel room. I’m a-okay working nine years on a novel. I’m the Universal “Yes” Girl when asked to do a radio show, a column, a teleseminar, a TedTalk or any other opportunity that comes my way because I figure it’s all in The Almighty’s plan. I trust that the people in my life are meant to be there and the ones who aren’t were meant to move on. I believe with every breath in my body that my parent’s spirits are still mucking around in my life.
But there are limits to my faith and I’ve come up against a big one, here, in the middle of Backwoods-Boonies, WY. If a mountain lion decided I look like supper wrapped in Lycra, I don’t trust God to toss it a gopher. If an alien craft hovers over and takes me away for some midnight reproductive surgery I don’t trust God to bring the lightning.
The dark is a cave where mystery thrives. All the things we don’t understand; the things we can’t begin to fathom that stalk us from that dank space teasing our human senses with a creak and a clank. There are mechanisms bigger than us that we will never grasp and faith is our opportunity to accept this fact. To make yourself vulnerable is to go so deep within that cave you’re forced to choose: fear or trust.
After a terrible night of sleep I woke up angry at myself because I had allowed my fears to dictate how my night would go, how my time and experience would go… how my life would go. I had come to the limit to discover I was not satisfied with the size of the box I was living in. There is a big difference between fear and danger. The trick is to know which is which. As my husband said, “You should be more scared of the drive to the cabin than anything you’ll find in those woods.” Hallelujah and pass the praise, find me a flashlight because I was in for some serious caving.
I packed my backpack and set out into the Wasatch woods to hike for areas I’d never been. I came upon nothing but one beautiful natural space after another. That night I forced myself out of the cabin to stand in a dark clearing to study the stars. I felt the dirt beneath my feet, listened to the quiet of the trees and realized the moon is as much a part of my life as the sun is. I returned to the cabin, offerering the spirits of the animals in the forest to join me in my dreams and fell into a peaceful sleep.
The choice belongs to each of us. Where do your vulnerabilities lie? What would it take for you to challenge them? Are your fears keeping you from your dreams? Are you content with the box fear has put you in? Are you ready to push the limits of your faith?
If so, I recommend dressing in pigtails, Lycra and bug spray. What else does one wear to face their fears?
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