What Are You Afraid Of?

Anton Semenov

Sitting here this evening, listening to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns (you must listen to the entire danse if you haven’t already), thinking about Halloween coming up, thinking of all the boring scary movies I’ve tried to watch, and I wonder — what are you afraid of?

I don’t mean DEATH or Dismemberment or Alzheimer’s — those topics are scary on the sunniest of days. Or blood and guts. That’s a given.

I mean spooky-wise. Creepy-wise. 

As I’ve told you before, I live on 14 acres, some of which are natural fields, a spot in the middle that is cleared, then woods in the back. There is a trail that goes through the woods to the back gate/fence. It is a beautiful walk in the daylight … it’s safe and not very long.

I will not walk that path down to the gate at night.

During the day it looks like Ireland. At night it looks like the Haunted Woods From Hell. There’s no telling who or what is hiding right off the side of the trail. Uh huh, no way. Nope.

I also am afraid of spiders. Not really afraid — just creeped out. It is 1/1000 my size, and I scream when one crawls on  me. Flingomatic — I don’t kill them, but I do have one hell of a flicker finger or stand-up-and-shake move. They are nature’s helpers. They spin awesome webs. An artist couldn’t do better. Just not on my person.

I also don’t like walking around in the dark. The dark is atmospheric. Comforting. Quiet. Maybe it’s just that I can’t see well at night. More likely it’s that I watch too many scary movies. Just tonight I watched the second chapter of The Haunting of Bly Manor, and the au pair is playing hide and seek in a huge mansion with two creepy little kids — in the dark.

Are they fudging nuts?

Despite the fact that this is supposed to be a spooky, haunted series, who in their right mind plays hide and seek in the dark in a big, huge house? Especially one that has a wing that no one is supposed to go into?  I wouldn’t like to play hide and seek in my own house in the dark.

On a lighter, spooky note, I am fascinated by creepy art and artists. Not ones who show ripped open insides and mangled bodies. Ick. I mean artists who really know what scares us. Anton Seminov instantly comes to mind. Delightfully creepy. The abandoned places photography of Christian Richter are haunting as well. Or how about the weirdness of Colin Batty? His “postcards” are enough to give anyone nightmares. 

I don’t mean to get you thinking about scary things before you go to bed. Do check out the artists in my Gallery, and feel free to share new ones I can add.

But, for real. 

What would you do if, one sunny, beautiful afternoon, you looked out in the distance and saw a spider the size of a football field crawl over the houses in the distance coming directly at you?

I shudder to think ……

 

Knee-Jerk Response

Today was a step into the Twilight Zone. Between being spacey from pain meds for my dental work yesterday to trying to finish up cleaning a house in another city to driving to the DNV to find it closed two days in a row, I have been feeling quite disjointed.

Then today happened.

Walking into the police department (where the DNV was), a van was honking at me. I ignored it and went inside. Closed. Came back outside and the van was pulled into the parking lot across the street. I pulled my car out of the parking spot and noticed the man from that van heading towards me.

There was nobody else around. This middle-aged, balding man with a mask was walking towards my car. 

I, in my infinite wisdom, thought, “Oh no. Here comes a terrorist coming to kill me.”

“Did you honk at me?” I asked. Flight or fight. Flight or fight. I am too chicken to fight, too self-conscious to drive away. The man came up to my car. My window was wide open (I have no A/C in this car.)

“Can you help me please? I cannot find this place,” he said in a heavy foreign accent. More terrorist feed, like tempting a kid with candy before snatching them up and disappearing. 

I put my car into park. He held out his phone to me. On it was a picture of a business card of a financial

something-or-other. The address was one I wasn’t familiar with. I should have said sorry, no, and took off.

But instead I said, “I’m from a different town. But let me check my GPS on my phone and see where this is.” So I did just that. 

Turns out he was just on the wrong side of Main Street. “It’s over next to the library,” I offered. 

“You know where that is?” he asked. I nodded. “Then will you take me there? Please?”

So now what do I do? What do you think I did?

“Sure,” I said.

This man thanked me and blessed me and blessed my family. He wished me long life and blessings. He followed my car down the street, across Main Street, and, turning in from of the library, I pulled over, pointing him to the building across the street. He thanked me and blessed me and blessed my family again. I blessed him too.

And I felt like such a heel.

I hate that knee-jerk reaction when someone different than you talks/looks/approaches you. It’s a generational thing, to be sure. From our parents to us, racial discrimination and judgment is real. We don’t necessarily feel that prejudice, but somewhere in our past we’ve been exposed to it and our automatic flight or fight instinct turns on. And the news and social media and events of the past few days hasn’t helped.

I was ashamed I was afraid of this man. Yes, people do get murdered or attacked in small towns everywhere. But the actual percentage of it being you is so small that the odds of someone attacking you in particular are practically nill. 

And it’s more important to help than to run. At least it is to me. I can’t be afraid of the whole world my whole life. What will be is what will be. 

I am glad I helped the man find his building. I am glad he blessed me and my family. I blessed him and his family, too.

I wish the rest of the world could learn a lesson from this.

The Last Full Moon

Tonight is autumn’s final dance. The temperature here in Wisconsin is a balmy 55, the night is cloudy, the wind is making my windchimes dance the tarantella. It is a night for dreams, for wishes. The last full moon was rising at 5:48 p.m. It was to be a spectacular ending to an enchanting night. It was cloudy, but I was going to go to the back fence and watch it rise.

But I didn’t.

I hate when I don’t follow through on what I dream about. There were excuses, of course. It was very dark. It was very overcast. And I had to walk through this little path through my back woods. My property is half woods, half open fields. It’s all actually “fenced in”, but the fences are so far spaced it seems like its all free around me.

I can brush off most of the excuses as lame. The moonrise may be bright enough to burn through the clouds. I could use my phone as a flashlight. The one excuse I could not get over was walking through the woods. At night. In the dark.

I’ve written blogs before about this (some say irrational) fear of walking through the woods at night. My husband and boys are hunters and walk through strange woods all the time. And besides — this is my property! Not in the middle of nowhere — there are families on either side, barbed wire in the distance.

I know mother nature is with me. Faeries protect me. Elves watch over me.

Blah Blah Blah.

It’s still dark, you can’t see three feet in front of you, and I’m a short, wimpy granny. I’m not a match for deer, dog, or demon, or a wayward creep hiding by the back gate. My imagination takes me all over the place. You can imagine where it takes me when I’m by myself.

If I can imagine creepy crawlies and djinns and spirits in my stories, you can imagine what awaits in my own backyard. I envy those free spirits that walk the fields and valleys and watersides all alone, one with the Earth, the stars and the mysteries of life. I have to do all of that looking off the deck.

So I pass on the things that creep me out, especially when I’m all alone. I’ll wait until spring when the sun sets at 7 or 8 to watch the moon in all her glory. I will continue to read and write and use my imagination to its fullest.

For now it will be from my livingroom sofa.

PS  The moon’s not out. And it’s raining. I voiced all this angst for nothing.

Don’t Walk In the Dark

20170123_181755I worked late last night. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, and even the ribbons of twilight had twisted into charcoal gray shadows. I drive through the countryside, past full cornfields or soybean fields in the summer, stretches of empty farm fields in the winter.

As I drove along the deserted country road, I had the strangest urge to pull over to the side and just take a walk through an empty cornfield. Of course, I couldn’t because: a) I was wearing only dress shoes, b) it was only 32 degrees out, c) it was dark, turning to black dark.

But the desire made me think past the temporary roadblocks.

If all other circumstances were constant, i.e., warmer weather, gym shoes, a tad more light, I still would think twice about crossing the field. I would be afraid that someone would come along and — well, you can just imagine. I would clearly be at a disadvantage because I am: a) 5 ft. tall, b) 60+ years old, c) know nothing about self defense.

I know that sounds silly, and in some ways it is. But women have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to going off on their own. We are easily bullied, pushed around, beaten, and worse. We always find ourselves having to “prove” we are able to take care of ourselves.

We do take care of ourselves, of course. We travel by ourselves, drive by ourselves, go to restaurants by ourselves. But we don’t often wander through the woods or fields by ourselves. Not when there’s little or no light.

I find that very sad.

I think it’s unfortunate that so few have affected so many. It’s easy enough to bully women to begin with, but it’s worse when our own fears of adversity stop us from doing things we really want to do. It’s one thing to do things alone in a controlled environment, but take off to walk the beach or the woods totally alone — second thoughts. Always second thoughts.

I don’t mean to make this a sour grape thing — I have friends who don’t let petty things like crazies stop them from enjoying life. They are smart, sharp, and pay attention.

I supposed I’m easily spooked. I have a safe path through the patch of woods behind my house that leads to the back gate, and the whole area is wire fenced. Yet you won’t catch me walking that path in the dark. I don’t like that there may be things I can’t see just at the edge of sight. Same is true about empty country roads. Or endless cornfields.

To quote my favorite Mrs. Dudley in The Haunting:

I don’t stay after I set out the dinner, not after it begins to get dark. I leave before the dark. We live over in town, miles away. So there won’t be anyone around if you need help. We couldn’t hear you. In the night. No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark. 

Funny thing is — it’s not the spirits of the dead that frighten me. It’s the spirits of the living —

 

You Are Not Your Conditioning

thTruth time is often embarrassment time. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable time. But often it is necessary time. So here goes.

This morning I read an article on ESPN.com about the Minnesota Vikings investigating a confrontation where one fan demanded to know if another fan was a refugee.  http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14332031/minnesota-vikings-review-refugee-confrontation-fan. 

With all the bombings and shootings taking place recently, I knew it would only be a matter of time before knuckleheads started beating on anyone of a different skin color.

The truth is even more upsetting.

I went to a football game on Sunday; our group stands around on the first level, watching the teams warm up, before we go to the nosebleed seats. As I stood there, this “dark-skinned” man came up beside me, and the first thing…the FIRST THING…I thought was…is he a terrorist?

Turned out his wife came around soon, and they took pictures of each other with the field and players in the background, laughing and posing and having a good time. They took off to seats unknown, and I was instantly ashamed of what I thought.

I had no idea of his nationality, where he lived, what he did for a living. But with the media pumping fear into all of us all the time, I slipped into the same mud millions of others do. I judged a person by the color of his skin.

And I am ashamed.

I know better, I believe better. Yet years of reinforcement of prejudice from all around me had me acting like Pavlov’s dog. Bring in a trigger and your mind instantly goes to the same place. Every time. Now, the guy in the above article was an idiot; he confronted the guy openly, became unruly, and security had to be called. This is what the fellow said:

“…somewhere in his mind, all he saw was a terrorist, based on nothing more than the color of my skin. He was white, and I wasn’t. He didn’t see anything else. He didn’t know that I have lived in Minnesota for the past four years, that I was born and raised in New York and that the words ‘Never Forget’ may mean more to me than to him.  He didn’t know that when I went home and my children jumped on top of me and asked ‘How was the game?’ that I’d be holding back tears as I told them about racism instead of touchdowns.”

Is that what the world has become? A world of suspicious anti-terrorist spotters?

Yes, we have to be  aware of what’s going on around us. I learned to be alert and watch what was going on when I worked in downtown Chicago many years ago. Keep going on with your business, but don’t get lost in your daydreams until you get where you’re going.

But this terrorist threat is hurting a lot of decent people. People who keep their religion to themselves. People who work beside you and shop beside you and are as frightened of someone gunning them down as we are.

Yet extremists go far beyond stupidity and want to ban all refugees from entering the country. Want to do triple checks on their backgrounds and family trees. Why not corral them all and put them in pens like the U.S. did to the Japanese after the war?

The original point of this post was that I let my mind go to the deepest, most embarassing part of my psyche and I prejudged someone with absolutely zero facts. I admit I sometimes do that when I’m around African Americans and Mexicans and other ethnicities.  And I am ashamed.

I am spooked by weird people and giant people and people who talk too loud.

I shouldn’t be spooked by people who just came to cheer the Bears at the game just like I did.

Be aware of your knee jerk reactions. Maybe you can’t stop them, but you can at least realize them for what they are. They say you are not your conditioning — let’s hope that’s true.

And anyway — I’m sure those people who were taking pictures of themselves at the game share my sentiments about football in general and the Bears in particular. (Insert head smack here…)