FEAR, GUILT, TREES, AND FLOWERS

Leslie and me…

Thanks to all your wonderful prayers, which I humbly requested from you all, our Bloomington house is now under contract! The new hopeful buyers are a couple who truly love the house. And these angels appeared only five days after I asked you for your prayers. Dang, you folks are powerful! Of course, there are still hurdles to be leaped before the sale is finalized, but we are very hopeful that our Bloomington house will be inhabited by the end of August. Thank you all. And thank you, again.

Here at the little blue house, our pastures sparkle with the colorful heralds of a waning summer: fireweed, goldenrod, Queen Ann’s lace, and a dainty blush of red on the ripening apples. The pears on our ancient pear tree are all formed and lovely, though still hard as rocks. The blackberries that completely surround our property are in full-glory purple.The last of the fledgling robins are long gone, and young hawks are practicing their aerial maneuvers over the newly mown hay field next door…

Yesterday, I underwent Kidney surgery for a kidney stone that has been nagging at me since before our move to the Northwest. All’s well, and that hurdle is behind me now.

Earlier in the month. I spent a day with my friend Leslie making pans full of homemade manicotti. She made the noodles, and I filled them with a combination of three cheeses and lots of eggs. While we worked, we struck up a conversation about the differing responses people have to trauma and chaos. Leslie works closely with the substance abuse community, having had such issues herself in the past. We talked about how the addict sees far fewer options to handling traumatic or challenging events. Leslie said, “As I see it, addicts have two options: fear or guilt. I do the guilt thing. Fear isn’t my go-to place.”

“Me too!” I laughed. While I’ve never suffered from an addiction disorder in the classic sense, I believe that many people “self medicate” in some way, must of the time. Some of us just find substances that are not quite so deadly—like techno distractions, shopping compulsions, cleanliness obsessions, or a hundred other ways and means for running from our lives for a moment or an hour or a lifetime.  For me, lately, it seems to be cooking. Cooking is my go-to when life gets scary. Spatula gripped tightly in my fist, I can face nearly anything. Even the bathroom scale, as it starts its inexorable rise to the stars.

As an addict of sorts, I find that I’ve been pretty limited in my emotional responses to a lot that life throws my way. My go-to place—first and foremost—is guilt. “Everything that happens in my life is somehow—partially or totally—my fault!” Of course, such revelations are really not very funny, but laughing them out loud helps take some of the gruesome sting of truth out of them. I started naming them: “The house sale fiasco was my fault because I chose to move before escrow had closed. My husband lives in pain because I carted him around to all the wrong doctors. I got cancer years ago because the gods were tired of me taking up space on the planet and wasting their time on stupid things. A bird strikes my window, and I am guilty because I live in a place with windows. Does this every stop?” My list could go on all day. Of course, fear is one of my coping strategies, too, but boy-oh-boy, guilt wins out first time, every time.

 

…at Multnomah Falls.

Later that night, after I’d managed to scarf down nearly half of my total manicotti allotment, I took Mazel Tov for his last stroll around the grounds for the evening. Looking lovingly at our beautiful trees, breeze-tipped grasses, and a sky deeper and more inviting than I can ever remember it being before that night, I pondered. I sat on an old Douglas fir stump, and tried to imagine guilt or fear in the natural realm, or in our original instructions for living life here on this beautiful Earth. I could not impose these attributes anywhere: not on the birds flying to roost for the night, not on the crickets just starting to chorus, not on the berry bushes or the stones or the light gliding in on a golden beam across the backyard.  Fear and guilt were mine alone. Something I bring to life. Something utterly “unnatural” in the true sense of things.

But surely, animals suffer great fear, you might say? I have a different perspective on that. In the natural order of their lives, animals are beings of significant caution, but little fear. When faced with catastrophe, animals run, or fight, or freeze up. They don’t just succumb to the misguided luxury of bathing over and over in fearful thoughts or memories. They do something. And if there is nothing to be done, they either die, mend, or walk away, leaving the trauma behind.

In the unnatural order of their lives, I will admit with deep sorrow that animals do suffer fear, and suffer it long and hard. By unnatural order, I mean the landscape where animals’ lives intersect the human world. Domesticated animals, livestock animals, laboratory animals, zoo and rodeo animals, abused animals,  and countless other creatures who live with or close to us may dwell in fear, unable as they are to respond to us by biting or running. Creatures who run or bite, in our world, ofttimes suffer deadly consequences.

The time I spend in nature has innumerable health benefits, many that I’ve spoken to in my writings over many years. One of these benefits is that I am increasingly able to feel that line where the harmony of nature presses up like a kiss against my less-healthy human nature. And as our borders touch, I can absorb moments of that health and harmony through my heart and soul and skin, and bring it more fully alive in my day-to-day life.

I am a better person for the presence of nature. I am more patient because I’ve lived with the daily examples of hunting cats and spiders. I am more fearless for the presence of hummingbirds and mother possums. I am more healthfully cautious owing to deer and squirrels. I am a better grandmother for my witness of the mothering of birds, coyotes, and crawdads. I am more loving thanks to my mother cats, ratties, and rabbits. I have my moments of guiltlessness now, because I’ve been blessed and befriended by the fierce and abiding pride of trees and flowers.

May you be blessed and carried by the wisdom of All Our Relations through these confusing, confounding, opportune times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to FEAR, GUILT, TREES, AND FLOWERS

  1. kathey says:

    Susan, what a great piece of writing. Congratulations on having your Indiana house under contract. Still praying for this activity to see completion soon. Everything happens in its own special timeframe. We humanize our daily events so unlike the events that take place during a day in the natural world. I, too, wrestle with the emotions of guilt and fear, and finally understand how confining and controlling they both are. A part of the human condition, at best, and cause for human lacking at worst. Guilt and fear are emotions necessary to rise above in our earthly journey to achieve happiness, true happiness. Your words today are teachings that help guide us towards this goal. Thanks and blessings to you in the Northwest!

  2. Carter says:

    As I see it, in the natural world a creature lives or dies with the relationship it has with its surroundings. Does the rabbit notice the coyote that is stalking it? If it does, it will run feeling the flow of adrenalin. The running dissipates the adrenalin and eventually the rabbit will stop, either in it’s hole or in the jaws of the predator. Does the rabbit interpret the adrenalin flow as fear? I don’t think so. Fear is a construct of the human mind. The rabbit knows only the fight/fight response.

    I guess these days they say freeze is part of the response. But I don’t think so. People freeze at times, perhaps we’re not used to running away any more. Perhaps being raised in a “civilized” society, where the natural order is marginalized, trains us that there is no need to flee. The police, military and laws obviate that need. If an animal freezes at danger it usually dies. I guess the opossum is an exception, but I don’t know how the ratio of death to survival works out.

    When people freeze, what happens to the adrenalin? If running won’t help that helpful survival necessary adrenalin does not dissipate. It has to wait to be eliminated by our bodily processes. In the mean time, we have senses heightened, the mind is alert and the body is ready for action. We’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. So, to me the fear that we feel under threat is a label we have created for the physical response we have to the action of adrenalin on the individual life system we call our body.

    Just sayin’ is all.

  3. Suzy Gerlicher says:

    Susan, we have made it a point to take “mental health” days out to our family farm, so that we can escape the chaos that seeks to devour us during the week. These trips have been such tremendous blessings~ no electronics, no clients, no ringing of phones, no noise or clatter~ just the peace and wonder of nature out there. Wonderfully there are 42 acres of nothing chaotic including guilt. So every time we get close, we breathe easier, we relax~ the muscles and joints lengthen and decompress and the sense of healing begins. Our hope is that you’ll always find peace in the healing nature brings! Blessings always, Suzy

  4. Bob Sholis says:

    Susan, thank you for this latest insightful and meaningful writing. Gives me much to reflect on and embrace and mirror in my own life on this Monday morning when I am catching up with things. God bless you. :=)

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