Afraid of the Wild

I realized a while ago while visiting my favorite oak tree that I am still afraid of the wild. For all the writing and talking I do about getting into nature, there are some things I can't bring myself to do just yet. Like walk through knee-high grass in summer for fear of ticks, for instance.

My mom works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that means I grew up with a more-than-healthy concern for Lyme disease. As I stood at the edge of the trail, facing the magnificent tree that I've sat under so many times, I just couldn't budge. I'd never been there when the grass was high, so I'd never had to confront this particular fear. 

I tried talking myself into walking right through that grass without a care so I could lean up against the tree's wide trunk and take in branches and sky and Mt. Diablo and rolling hills. But it didn't work. I hiked further up the hill and sat under a much smaller tree right next to the trail where I wouldn't have to touch any grass. I felt like a wuss, like I had failed somehow. The view isn't as good from that tree; there are too many cookie-cutter houses and strip malls below. Leaf-blowers whined and car motors rumbled and there was too much smog. And right before me was miner-stripped Mt. Zion's deep ridges, a stark reminder of the damage we do to Nature. It didn't quite create the mood I'd hoped for. But, the view did echo my inner landscape: one in which I'm still afraid of bugs and diseases and dirt. A landscape of separation.

I think that's when the tiny iridescent-green beetle came to visit. It landed on my hand and stayed for a long while, tromping around. Eventually it settled on my finger and I was able to take a picture. I sat with that beetle, watching its antennae waving in the wind. It seemed to have achieved the relaxation I longed for. So I settled back and took its example, content to let the breeze tickle my face. Later, another beetle joined us. It landed in a container where I'd put cherry pits and carrot nubs. I got it to crawl on my other hand and I tried to see if the two beetles could be friends. It didn't work out. The second beetle soon flew off. The first beetle and I shared the space for a bit longer and then it left as well.

I like to think that beetle came as an ambassador from the wild. It visited to say, "Hey, we're not so bad. Get to know us. Don't shy away. And relax already." I don't know if the beetle cured my fear of ticks, but it did encourage me to slowly become more courageous about exploring the wild.



Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Loved the post. I still don't like camping. I'll do it, but lay awake thinking of everything that might be OUT THERE.

Geophile said...

Glad you mentioned ticks. They're the one thing I'm afraid of. I wasn't for most of my life, but two years ago my husband had a tack we didn't find for 4 days and less than a week later he was close to death with a disease we later learned to be acute ehrlichiosis. It was horrifying to watch him transform from a healthy man to near death without knowing what was happening. (It took 4 days for a doctor to figure out what it was.)

The point is, after a lifetime being in woods and fields without fear, now you couldn't pay me to sit on a log or walk through tall grasses like I used to. Attitudes change.