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courage, or fearlessness, or fear and its absence

I used to be fearless.

My mom says I couldn’t sit still in her lap as a toddler, and was always wandering away into the desert to bathe in the moon and ride the mountains and howl with the coyotes.

If there was an option to take a risk and see what happened, I did.

I lept off of things,

I crept into darkness,

I said “yes” to any and every opportunity for adventure. I loved thunderstorms and wild feeling weather and situations. I followed my courage to many places, some of them as far as on the other side of the earth, without a second thought. Because every time I did, I was glad. It resulted in feeling strong and happy and like I had found something precious I got to keep.


And then something happened, a dark cloud appeared in the sky like the beginning of a violent monsoon. I could see it far away in the distance on the horizon, dark and ominous and full of lightning, and I was still in the sun but in my peripheral vision kept my eye on the cloud as it grew closer. I grew meeker, more and more afraid of things that I didn’t used to be afraid of, random things, irrational things, unlikely but real things. And by the time a sickness that didn’t make any sense descended upon our little shared planet, the dark cloud was directly over me, shouting with its thunder and telling me that everything was scary and nothing was safe or would ever be safe again. I am standing huddled under a rock with my eyes squeezed shut, full of fear to the brim. Unable to process the possibility of what might or might not happen.


But the thing about storms is, they pass. They are scary and powerful, but also kind of beautiful in their power. They remind you that the earth has girth, wisdom, force and beauty beyond our comprehension and speculation. While they are happening, they take up the sky. But they, without fail, always pass. The clouds dissolve and there it is, blue from horizon to horizon.


Sometimes, when I am in nature, or I get in a boat, or I am on stage, or I have done something brave that gives me something precious, I can feel my fear leaving me. When I walk in the woods all of the trees with their sturdy knowledge and certainty bow to me quietly as I pass them. With every step I feel the earth’s support as she pushes my foot back each time it pushes against her. I can feel my wild, my strength, my fearlessness, even if just for a moment, fill me up. The earth and I have done this before. So I know that even when the storm comes, I will survive it.


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