We used the arch of our feet and our body weight to push the shovel deeper into the forest soil, “See? If it takes serious effort to turn over the soil because the roots are snapping, it means nothing was buried here. Let’s try over here instead...” Amy and I were at the bottom of a steep hill in the middle of our town on a quiet street up by the granite excavation place or whatevertheheckscary place I always considered it to be.
We were digging for a body. Or maybe a skull or dog bones or a box full of money like you see in the movies. We were digging next to a fallen tree in this exact-ish spot because 5 months ago I was on a 10-miler and at the bottom of the steepest hardest hill in the middle of nature with my chest heaving from exertion there in front of me was a beat-up truck parked on the side of the road and a man digging a hole beside a tree. A man was digging a hole in the middle of nowhere. Now, as Amy reasoned, he might’ve been burying his dog that he grew up with - a man’s best friend. Or perhaps he was digging for mushrooms, I don’t know. All I know is that I HAD to pass him in order to get home. And my legs ran as fast as my imagination did in those few minutes. I haven’t run there alone since. And I haven’t forgotten that feeling I had of willing myself i-n-v-i-s-i-b-l-e as I flew past him. Today on a run, I recounted this story to my friend, Amy. Amy is fearless. Or, as she explains it, just doesn’t think about the what-ifs in scary situations. She just does what she knows she can do. “Sometimes the best solutions are the simple ones, Kay. So let’s get a shovel, check it out and close the book on this thing.” Alright, Amy, so long as you’re the brave one.
i have a serious fear of burglars and muggers and generally sneaky criminals.
i know everyone who is sane probably has a healthy fear, but i would say my fear is borderline unhealthy. it’s the 5th cookie you eat after dinner.
It can’t be helped. When I was nine, my family was thisclose to sending me to a psychologist because I was so deeply terrified of Freddy Krueger that I kept myself (and my sister) up until 4am for two months straight. I slept at the foot of Mary’s bed in the event Freddy decided to split my bed in half with his razor fingers like he did in the movie. Not that I’d seen the movie. David Habif was obsessed with horror movies and brought a Freddy picture book into reading class. I was his reading partner. Sweet.
Then when I was 13, a man tried to break into our 1980 two-toned Dodge Ram Van named Carlos while my family were sleeping IN IT. We were on a road trip and had pulled off a Connecticut exit in the middle of the night to get some rest. I distinctly remember my father telling me for the hundredth time that, “No, no gang is going to walk up to our car and kidnap you kids. Go to sleep, Kay.”, my mom mumbling to me to go to sleep as I stealthy poked her arm repetitively as I watched the man walk around the car as he decided which window he would break to get in. Not until blue lights surrounded our car by what I can only consider to be angels, did my family rouse from slumber.
2 points for Kay.
So, here I am 20 years later, chipping away at deep soil wearing bright running clothes and watching my friend maneuver the shovel into sink holes near one fallen tree after another. Here I am, hoping to unearth something incredibly important or nothing but worms and black soil so that the storyline running through my head could either be true, be false, and just be put to bed once and for all.
We found broken glass bottles and a stash of acorns. That’s it. But it felt good to be out there, facing the assumption in the face. I think oftentimes the not knowing is the fear, and the assumption is what we use to placate it - to ground it. Sometimes our hunches are correct and sometimes they are wildly off and can lead us to sleeping at the foot of someone else’s bed.
And you know what? To the ten cars that passed us? We probably looked like the crazy ones! Two girls hopping around, laughing at the sky, digging random holes and jumping up on fallen trees in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a fear that was now nothing but a beautifully deep forest and a cold spring brook that I hadn’t ever noticed on my runs because i was too busy building a fear. I'm not gonna lie - I'll still be the 5th cookie person with a mildly unhealthy fear (or, as I see it, an incredible imagination) of burglars or creepy people , but not every strange thing is a bad thing and not every noise is a burglar.
Amy, thank you for being brave. It may seem like a small and stupid thing, but for someone who sometimes has difficulty letting go of being spooked, it was a great lesson; when you’re scared, face the fear. It’s simple and it’s actionable and you get results no matter what. And those results may well be just a pile of acorns in a beautiful forest.