I was confiding in my 14 year-old grandson recently about my fear of snakes. He lives far away and we were on zoom. I told him that during the summer and early fall snakes are slithering through the tall grass, lounging on warm rocks, and generally waiting to terrify me. This means that my usual refreshing, invigorating walks become terrifying treks. With my eyes riveted on the ground in front of me, I told him, I miss the gorgeous views, mountains in the distance, a sky full of huge cloud pillows, the bright yellow chamisa bushes ahead, the ravens wheeling above me. There were alternative routes, I explained, on dusty dirt roads, but this was my favorite one and I hated to give it up, but those snakes…
He agreed this was a sad state of affairs, which was pretty generous for a young teen in the throes of adolescence. And he had some advice: “Just go on the walk, the one you like, through the grass, with the views and the ravens and everything, but don’t look down. Keep your eyes on the horizon and just keep walking. If you’re not looking for them all the time, you won’t think about them, and you can enjoy yourself.”
I pointed out that I imagined I would worry about stepping on one, and that if I did I would surely have a heart attack and die and the snake would bite me for good measure and…. but he had returned to his digital device.
It’s an interesting and tempting recipe for living, and maybe one I should cook up now and then. Those things that haunt me, scare me, anger or sadden me, those things I have zero control over – why not just look elsewhere? Why not find a more pleasing, nourishing view? If I take my eyes off the path, littered with domestic chaos and global crisis, if I breathe deep and look out at the horizon, maybe all that distress won’t be there.
Of course I know better, and so does my grandson. We both know the snake may actually be basking across the sunny path, and that I may even step on it and stumble. We both know that the sadness and suffering are still there in the world, and that I may open the morning paper and be confronted with another horror, maybe this time it’s people clinging to a jetliner in Afghanistan. But he knows a balance is what his grandma needs. He knows she will still worry about the snake, but if she can choose, even for a few steps, to take in a different view, she will be happier and healthier.
He’s a smart boy.
16 thoughts on “Look at the Horizon”
Finding a balance is difficult, and is an ongoing challenge. I try to take on small bits. It’s not easy. Keep moving forward and seek out beauty and simplicity.
Thank you, Cynthia. You’re a smart one — like my grandson!
I think fear is like a pair of handcuffs we choose to stick our hands into. Sounds like your grandson carries around a key to unlock them. Perceptive.
Hi Richard and great image of the handcuffs. I’ll pass that on to my grandson…. and ask him for the key.
Yes it’s important what you decide. To concentrate on. It can make all the diffrence’
You two have made some powerful decisions about what to concentrate on, and so many people here, and around the world, are the better for it.
Hurray. Don’t give up what you love out of fear, just keep your eye on the horizon and focus on what you love, not what you fear. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Lucy
Thank you, Mike, and you seem like a guy with an eye on the horizon a lot of the time. That’s where your great smile must come from!
Love this so much, Lucy. I used to be terrified of snakes on my walks this time of year until 10 year old son Carson once said to me in exasperation: “Stop living in fear, Mommy!”
Love that, Sally!! Carson’s words will be ringing in my ears on my next walk.
I am sending Lucy’s grandson’s wise suggestion to our dear friend Ed J! He share’s Lucy’s terror of snakes and would do well to look up and enjoy the horizon, the moment and the moment ahead of him. xo
Thanks, Barbara. Happy to have you spreading the wisdom.
When walking in rattlesnake county, I get comfort from having a walking stick. I tell myself that snakes will hear the stick clicking against stone and earth and creep away, and if they don’t, the stick will be there for my defense. I don’t know if either of these is true, but that’s not the point, is it?
Many thanks, Ken! I am going to choose a nice noisy walking stick and step out with confidence.
I just finished your book, INTO THE CANYON which leaves me breathless. There is fear to enter a new way of life, new people, new depths of love and then there is fear to leave what becomes so beautiful and precious. Those fears are good as they mean a valuing of the daily graces given in this deep Navajo community.
Lucy, your life story encourages opening doors and revealing conversations. I think the lesson I am learning from your book and the people here in your blog is this… a healthy fear means a healthy respect. An unhealthy fear paralyzes. Thank you for the chance to expand!
I’m so pleased that you have joined us as a subscriber. Welcome! And I appreciate so much your thoughts on fear. Yes, I have a healthy respect for snakes, which can easily flip into paralyzing fear. I need to draw the line for myself! Thanks so much.