It’s July and Still Raining
Sonia Nevis — July 2008
The rain continues, although there is word out that it will stop. The gardens, of course flourish and even my glass flowers seem joyful with all the water. They sparkle. I, however, feel as though I might turn into a mushroom.
I’ve been reading the accounts of several soldiers fighting in Iraq. I was sent back to many thoughts I have had about the reports from many soldiers in different wars about their experience being a highlight of their life. For me, that seems unimaginable. So it’s clear that my imagination has not stretched sufficiently.
I try to deconstruct the soldiers’ reports and I’m guessing that their experience is a mixture of profound fear and extraordinary courage. I’m wondering why I am pondering this, and I think it is because of some feelings I have and how I live them out.
I grew up being terrified of water. When I was three years old an uncle lived with us and he was into teaching me tricks. He was young, big and strong and he taught me to become very physically rigid and then to stand on his hand as he raised me up above his head. I was always scared. As bad luck would have, a family friend was sailing on the newly commissioned ocean liner, the Queen Mary. And the family went on board to say their farewells. My uncle took advantage of the opportunity, on the deck, of doing “our” trick of raising me up above his head, and then moved his arm to suspend me over the water. I have very few memories of my early life but that is indelible.
My uncle stayed bonded to me and was always distressed that I wasn’t grateful to him. I wasn’t.
I joke that I am afraid of everything, which I say is a good thing since I’ve had to learn to be courageous.
In my twenties or thirties I took diving lessons and did a perfect dive off the high board absolutely terrified. I knew that I would never do it again but it was an amazing high moment for me, a memorable one.
I’ve begun to understand the power of the combination of fear and courage. If all goes well, courage emerges out of fear. They are intimately connected. I can now understand why I worried that my children were growing up in a Cleveland suburb where there might not be enough danger to support development of their courage.
I also understand why I do some silly things, like drive without my seatbelt and drive too fast. I want the feeling of a little danger when I have had too much safety in my life.
When I reflect back on the soldiers’ reports, and am awed by the size of the fear that they experience and the matching courage they bring to the moment, I realize again how lucky I am. I know how many people in this world never have to look for dangerous experiences; they live in them.
My truly dangerous moments have been few but I have learned to love the experience of taking risks. Indeed, I’m lucky.