The paranoid explorers – that’s Matthew and I. One of the first times we decided to go on a hike in Forest Park, the paths were muddy and as we rounded a corner of a tree-top steep cliff on one side and nothing but tree roots to grab on the other, we knew we were out of our element. We turned around just as a family confidently strode by down the path we were returning from. I shouldn’t say “strode” as the two five year olds were haphazardly running down the incline around the corner of the slippery cliff. The parents took turns deep breathing in the pine scented air as though returning from a Zen quest.
Matthew and I concluded that day that we are “People of the Flat Lands”…the flat lands of Northern Indiana to be exact. Good fertile flat grounds for cornfields, basketball courts, and long drives that do not include mountain passes. The biggest predators are ticks and mosquitos. Not bears and mountain lions.
Since our first embarrassing hike in Forest Park, we’ve pushed our limits little by little so maybe now we can almost pass for “People of the Low Hills”. Smith Rock, Silver Falls, Forest Park and a bit on the coast in random places like Ecola State Park…though I couldn’t handle the chain-link fence that hovered over a long gaping tear in our pathway which revealed the ocean crashing on rocks 100 feet below. I blame my genes…my ancestors would have had to have been smart about heights in order to continue the bloodline, and I don’t need to start making traditional changes anytime soon. There is a reason for the fear – imminent death – soooo yeah, there’s always that.
My fear of heights has loosened a bit from the last six years of living in the PNW, but I do have to confess that my fears have turned to unlikely predators. Pumas and Bears. Even the presence of a sign at the beginning of a hike – The one that says “The last sighting of a Mountain Lion in the area was on – ” can kick my heart into pound mode. There is hardly ever a date written and if there is one, it is usually dated for 1992 or so. Not exactly a menacing notice, yet still, my mind believes that suddenly today is the day, as though the area is as overdue for a feline sighting as we are for the big continental shake-up and tsunami. Today is the new date they will place on that sign as parts of my neck will be strewn across the hiking path and into the dense ferns within two hours. Surely the mountain lion can smell my fear like a bee and come running. Or a bear. I watched “The Revenant”. I know what happens.
Meanwhile, in other areas of life, I am by all means a risk-taker, and actually am really proud of this fact. It just doesn’t shine so bright when it comes to heights and pumas, but maybe it will eventually. Perhaps I will be skydiving when I am 75 and living as a wildlife photographer, but I do sincerely doubt it. I have never bought into those “No Fear” stickers on the backs of pickup trucks in the ’90s. Fear is normal. We all fear a lot of things whether we acknowledge them or not, and if we didn’t, life would be ho-hum, don’t you think? Some are worth overcoming, and others aren’t as important, it just depends on what we’ve been sent here to do.