The gray squirrel sits innocently on the deck railing. His tail is erect like an antenna searching for danger. The suet feeder sways gently behind him and is a sure sign that he has been up to no good. I linger at the window hoping to catch him in the act. Like a child contemplating mischief, he hops awkwardly back and forth tail twitching. He dives into a planter for a bit perhaps hoping I will lose interest. Eventually, he leaves the deck in a jerky gallop. I hope he is headed for his treetop home but lose sight of him in the dry leaves.
Squirrel sightings are a common occurrence in our yard. Tall maples provide ample habitat for our furry neighbors. I often watch them chase each other in the bare winter limbs. My neck straining to catch their arial ballet and derring-do. Feathery tails flow like flags adding ballast and beauty to their acrobatics. Often their daring leaps catch my breath. Yet in all my years of watching, I never once saw one fall. Occasionally a squirrel will miss its mark but in some midair jujitsu it always finds another branch. I wonder if there is a purpose to these wild chases. Perhaps it is just the joy of being high above the dangers that lurk below.
I suppose we humans experience the same dichotomy in our different surroundings. We each have places that evoke nervousness and fear. Places that make us wary and unsure with muscles twitching like the squirrel’s tail. Likewise, we find ease and comfort in familiar places. Venues where we soar with the same surety and fearlessness as my leaping squirrels. Places where we forget ourselves and know only joy.
Lately though, I find some familiar places have morphed into worrisome spots where fear slips in. Locations where I once was relaxed and entertained, I now ponder plans of escape. Sitting in a theater, a concert hall, and occasionally in church I look for exits or spots to duck and cover. Sometimes I search the faces of strangers who seem troubled or sad and wonder. These thoughts seep in and catch me unawares. If I let them linger, they will cover me in a cloud of worry. I know fear will take over if I let it. It will turn me inward and blind me to any hope or possibility. Fear then becomes an evil dictator demanding my undivided attention and vigilance.
I recall a conversation I once had with my grandson about fear. We were sipping hot chocolate when he announced suddenly, “You know, Nonie, I’m afraid of heights.” I scoffed almost choking on my hot chocolate. I remembered how he terrified me this past summer climbing a tree in his backyard. He climbed higher than I thought he should, but he never once glanced down in fear. He focused only on finding the next branch with nimble confidence. Remembering his feat, I rebutted his statement by saying, “That is NOT true. You are the best tree climber I know! I even have a picture of you in the top of the tree.” He then went on to clarify “Oh I’m only scared when I don’t have anything to hold on to.”
Remembering his eight year old wisdom, I wondered if I am sometimes fearful because I believe there nothing “to hold on to.” My answer arrived in a dream.
It was late afternoon, I was in my front yard preparing to do some chore in the hedges by our front porch. I had just lugged a large bucket and bent down weary, hungry, and ready to call it a day. Suddenly, the front door opened and my husband John stood on the porch. I was surprised to see him home early. He looked relaxed and summer handsome in his khaki’s and crisp white shirt. He raised his arm in sort of a sweeping gesture towards the shrubs and said, “I’ve got this, Cathy.” Relief and gratitude washed over me in that moment. I felt taken care of and deeply loved.
When I retold the dream to John the next morning, I tearfully realized that God often comes to us in our dreams and in the voices of those we love. I was being told that God does indeed “have this.” I am not alone, and I do not need to be afraid. This was my answer. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I only needed someone to point to the ruby slippers already on my feet. My dream reminded me that I do have “something to hold on to.” It is my faith in God’s constant presence and unshakeable love. There is nothing to fear, and there is hope to be found in such a remarkable love. ~c.hause