The smoke from half a dozen fires has cast a shadow over my entire world, filtering the harshness of the morning light, but somehow this allows me to see without shading my eyes, the brilliance of the blood orange sun.
It almost brings me to tears.
Waking early this morning, being left behind to deal with the details of the lake house, I linger on the deck, allowing my pleasure to dip into the rippling surface of the lake. I let my imagination swim in the open water, long strokes, cooling my thoughts, stretching the tight and rigid muscles of the mind.
Yes, I made coffee, in fifteen minutes I’ll feel a false sense of euphoria, which I boldly accept.
I’m always going, doing, moving if not physically, mentally towards some ambition, or goal if you will, as if headbutting my endeavors into a poorly guarded net translates to a win. I go blindly at times into my day, only to catch up with my fears, bewildered by the unexpected assault.
Feed the dog, make the bed, rotate the laundry, find the words, dig a little deeper, disrupt the murky dregs, push past that trove of brilliant trinkets, to the sediment of insecurity, fear, unresolved conflict. That’s where you find yourself, preserved like the lady down the street who sculpted her aging face, but just beneath the surface, the scars remain.
Happiness has always come naturally to me but today I feel as if I’m been thrown in the ring, and life is gayly beating the shit out of me. Thinking back on the events of yesterday, the first day of classes, the parent conferences, the technical failures, the frustrations of screen sharing, the google drive that went down, the air pods that refuse to connect, the mildly humored students who only see a version of me in a small square box, as I attempt to educate my students from a distance. It’s exhausting, followed by a frantic reframing of lesson plans, an indigestible meal, the long silent night, the fear that I might never get it right.
There are two kinds of fears, ones that make sense, and ones that don’t, I’ve learned the irrational ones are the most popular.
I feel the passage of time so profoundly in my sixth decade, as if an hourglass where the sands of time never return, we simply turn them over, and over again, the past sifting into the future, the future seasoned by the past. I think I need a reboot.
I want to slow down. Take a deep breath. I know the idea of living intentionally is a little bourgeoisie these days but it might also have something to do with my age. Why do I fear disrupting the status quo? The idea of realigning my life to fit my current needs is terrifying.
Fear tends to avoid resolution, it mutates, but I say muzzle that idiot, because control is simply an illusion that makes one feel safe. It’s not attainable. Look at our world, shit happens, a simple mask might give me a sense of control, but it is simply a swath of material, a thing I strap onto my fear.
“My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me,” says Jane Austen, as if a cornered racoon, who bites, snarls, and threatens the one who tried to chase it away.
This reminds me of recent events, was it only a week ago, or a few days? Who remembers?
I heard the dog go slamming through the dog door by our room, it was around two in the morning, he was growling something fierce. You could hear the sound of his paws scratching against the brick as he flew across the yard, towards some dangerous, but invisible prey.
It’s pitch dark, so I assume he smells when a predator enters the yard, the way we smell fear when it presents itself. The growling gets really loud as I sit up in bed trying to make sense of the situation. What horrible thing is lurking in the dark?
I say out loud, “What the hell is going on?” Nothing like stating the obvious.
That’s when Shaggy begins to yelp, emphatically, his fear igniting my own. Something has a hold of him and it’s not letting go.
I spring from my bed yelling, “Shaggy is hurt, oh my God Larry, something is out there, and it’s biting Shaggy,” okay, truth be told, I was screaming like a crazy woman.
Larry is beside me as we struggle with the lock on the back door, standing in the portal, Larry yells in a commanding voice, “Shaggy come, Shaggy, come,” as if he could intimidate the eerie darkness.
It’s as if a mountain lion has wandered into our yard, I’m like, “Larry get out there and save our dog,” but he remains within the safety of the doorframe. We tend to stay within the frames we ourselves build, fearing the unknown, the savagery of prey and predator.
I hear Shaggy trying to move towards us, towing whatever has a hold of him, whimpering loudly, mixed in with my screams, it’s amazing I didn’t wake up the entire neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the grandchildren’s bedroom is right next to ours.
Audrey comes out of the room, holding a worn stuffed animal, rubbing her eyes, “what’s wrong Grammie?”
I turn away from the horror that is playing out before me, and say, “Oh, it’s okay Audrey, go back to bed honey.” I try and turn her towards her room and see that Cora is starting to sit up in bed, looking confused, and adorable.
Nic is rounding the corner of the hall, his COVID hair standing on end, and he immediately moves to settle the girls.
Just then Shaggy comes limping into the house, shaking, and panting.
Again, I find myself screaming, “shut the dog door,” whatever the hell is out there I don’t want coming in. That is my modus operandi when confronting the unknown.
The dog goes straight to the children’s room and checks each of their beds, he’s so distraught, I think he might faint.
I say, “Shaggy, the kids are fine, come here,” as I coerce him into sitting on the floor in my bedroom, petting him gently in an attempt to calm, but his heavy panting persists.
Nic and Julie are doing the same with the kids, and that’s when I see the blood seeping onto the carpet. His left paw is injured.
I’m yelling again, “he’s bleeding, he’s bleeding, did you hear me, he’s bleeding,” I do have a special knack for stating the obvious, it was as if I could feel the blood oozing from my own wounds.
Yann Martel says I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life.
It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to confront it, to detangle it from the truth, or you leave yourself open to further attacks because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you, an unscrupulous illusion.
Everyone is telling me to keep it down but I’m so alarmed by this entire episode I want to call 911. Yes, this is an actual emergency, my dog has been attacked, and is bleeding out on the carpet!
We have lived in this same house for more than 30 years and nothing has ever attacked one of our pets in our own yard. I’m now tortured by the knowledge that something vicious is lurking in our sanctuary.
Shaggy won’t let me near the injured paw. He has it tucked beneath him but his breathing is starting to slow. I grab a black towel out of the hall closet and lay it on the floor by Larry’s side of the bed. Shaggy stays close to Larry when he’s scared, he goes right to the towel, and lays down, tucked beneath the edge of the bedspread.
Grabbing the carpet spray out of the laundry room I try and clean the blood off the carpet before it sets, removing the evidence of unexpected wounds, we do this without knowing. The house is settling down as I peer into the dark yard wondering what the hell is out there?
Thankfully the kids went right back to sleep, while I laid in bed wide awake, adrenaline pumping through my veins for hours. I would not make a good fireperson.
Nic stayed up, peering out the sliding door to his room, trying to identify what type of rodent was threatening my dog, my illusion of safety. Every time he heard a noise he’d throw on the floodlights in the back yard, trying to illuminate the threat, but as we know that is not possible, it’s the chimera that bites, breaks the skin, leaves us defeated and bloodied, a predator of our own making.
We were not meant to live in the shadows, we came to give light, incandescent, fervid, edifying light, illuminating the darkness for each other.
Previously Published on cheryloreglia.com