Dancing with Fear (and loving it)

Lately, I have been so busy with my coaching that my writing time has been in short supply. Taking a break on this beautiful, September afternoon, I threw my laptop in a bag and headed to the Wyomissing park. I love this place. It is teeming with life and I walk through it almost every day. The energy here is palpable. It fills this space like the gas in a hot-air balloon. I was certain something would show up in me, so I hiked up to a bench under the canopy of a wise, old tree. He sits at the top of this hill, keeping watch over wide-open spaces bordered by dense pines and rolling green mountains beyond.

Here I sit.

I’m settling in now, leaving my work behind. The wind is playful, spinning up gust after gust of cool air to tease the leaves, giving them false hope they can fly. It’s too soon for that, so they find their joy making jigsaw puzzle patterns out of the shade darting around in the grass below. They never grow tired playing this game. And I never grow tired watching it.

These natural surroundings calm me. I am content. I can sit here, just like this, for hours. This is peace. If it weren’t for the needs of my physical body, I would be happy to stay here for as long as I can imagine. Right at this moment, this is bliss. Forever feels like a good idea.

Sitting quietly, I am startled by a very large bee. I hear her before I see her. She has a large, fat body and announces her presence with the buzzing of a tiny drone. She’s in the air, about a foot from me, inspecting the seat I’ve claimed. Finally, she lands within a few inches of what looks like a gouge in the wood, the length and thickness of a crayon. Her intent is clear now as she crawls to the gouge and waddles along it, disappearing through a hole I can't see at its far end. I’m guessing she’s returned after a long day exploring, settling in for the night. She hasn’t re-emerged.

Thinking back now to the moment of her arrival, I had a choice to make. Startled by her buzz, a prickly twinge of fear showed up. I learned early to pay attention to buzzing, if not from my own experience, from that of my parents. Or perhaps their parents or their parents’ parents. I wonder how long is the tail of some of my learned fears; all of our learned fears. Regardless, this I know. I don’t like to be stung. No one does. But today, another emotion pushed through the fear response intended to keep me safe - curiosity. And so, I had a choice. React instinctively to the fear, or engage with it. Shoo the bee away, or allow the discomfort in while wondering about why she showed up. Swat the bee, possibly killing her to protect myself, or notice the fear, and dance with it while allowing in the possibility that she meant me no harm. I chose to dance and I received the gift of witnessing the fascinating ballet of this harmless carpenter bee.

I’ve been watching for some time now while I ponder and write, hoping for a chance to capture a picture of another event like this one - catching a bee in the act of burrowing back into its home. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. But staying in curiosity while engaging with my fear has yielded the gift of her performance and some more information. It appears that carpenter bees live rather solitary lives in their nests. And judging by her friends, they seem willing to drill nests from every position, including upside down. Maybe that’s a rain advantage. Finally, wasps appear to congregate with these creatures. Friends? Not sure. Neighbors? Apparently so. All simple observations, I know. But observations, nonetheless, that were literally created by this dance with fear. Observations that would not exist without it.

The sun is setting now, and I am in such deep gratitude. For my old friend, who never fails to keep good company, freely offering the shade of his generous canopy. And my new friend, who has been resting comfortably out of sight, burrowed deep inside the same pine board that tirelessly holds me up without complaint.

These final thoughts inked, it's time to head home. It feels good to know I'll always be welcomed back by both my old friends and new. I'm liking this pairing, fear with curiosity. And I intend to keep dancing.