He calls at work to say,
“Now that we are starting new-
I brought a spider home.” Not even
my favorite after-work drive
through darkened streets lit with living-
room lamps and red tail lights pulling
into driveways coaxes me this time to relax
and let the universe in. (Which is why we need
a tarantula, he had said before I disconnected.)
Now, still buttoned in my parka and laced
in my boots, I wrap my I’m-back hug
around his neck as he teeters on his stool
talking to Cookiegirl in his sleepy
voice. With tutu motion she hesitates,
then eases from his hand to climb about his chest.
Such delicate stallion steps. I try to pull away
when she regards me and my mittens.
Take them off and stroke her fur, he whispers
to my fear. See, he teases, how she laces
rosy ballet slippers halfway up each thigh? I bite
my lip and nibble on my list: sirens, wrecks, test results, giving
him my trust. A car drives by. Cookiegirl shrinks. I slip
off a mitten and bare my skin. Invite
the world in.
This poem was first published in Flutter Poetry Journal which is closing up shop with its next issue. It’s easy and it’s understandable when we close our doors and pull the shade. Especially when it comes to issues of trust. A few years ago I made a mental list of doors I realized I needed to reopen. At first, it went against the grain of my being. Then, some things came into my life: Cookiegirl, for example.
Her name was actually Susie, according to my daughter and the man who brought the spider home. When I saw her shrink in fear at the sound of a passing car outside on our street, I realized she and I had quite a bit in common. Naming her “cookiegirl” helped me tone down the volume of my assorted fears.
When I was at the writer’s conference in Denver just a bit ago, I listened to a talk about caves. The speaker had a full blown panic attack in a cave with her class of middle-school students. After that, she avoided close spaces. Over time, this fear controlled her and all sorts of spaces began to feel confining. She realized she needed to go back inside that cave and confront the fear controlling her.
So she did. Over and over again.
In her talk she shared some simple lessons she learned. Tell any climber or spelunker or canyoneerer these lessons and they nod their head in a *duh* fashion. But think about applying the lessons not to a cave, but to whatever avenue you drive down, whatever alleyway you balk at, whatever door you won’t open.
In exploring a cave, the lead person is often asked if the tunnel she is following goes anywhere. “Does it go?” is the term. I think about this and realize that often times we don’t pursue a tunnel because we’ve determined too soon that it doesn’t go. Or we fear what it might take to make that tight squeeze even though it could lead us to the enormous cavern, the open space, the pirate’s treasure. Whatever it is you need.
Another lesson101 is to maintain three points of contact. Two hands and a foot. Or two feet and a hand. Once you know those three points of contact are solid, locomotion can continue. Four points of contact? You are standing still. Two points of contact might increase locomotion, but at what risk?
I was sharing this talk with a friend of mine who climbs some of the highest peaks in the world and canyoneers for fun in the winter time. I’ll see if he will let me share some photos from these adventures with you sometime. But meanwhile, he nodded his head at my sharing such simple lessons with him. Sometimes, he cautioned, a person needs to swing out into open space. Sometimes you have to be willing to have no contact for a moment or two.
I want to apply that to my life, to that list of fears that control me. Cookiegirl and the man who brought spiders into my life were the beginning of my tackling that list of fears. People like the climber and the caver-talker help me along the way. Doors are starting to open. I’m more willing to consider that tight squeeze because I want that open space, to let the universe in.