When I was a child, I lived on a dead-end street in southern Atlanta. The houses across the street had driveways with a steep incline. My drive was a steep, long decline, emptying into the carport of our home. The homes near mine were all nestled in woods. I would guess that we had at least one, if not two acres of wooded property. There was some line where our yard stopped and the endless woods began … but I don’t know where that line was. To me, it felt like I owned the woods as far as I could see.
I still remember several years ago when I heard a Wood Thrush singing and my heart leapt. That little song pricked my heart. The memories rushed over me … of crunching leaves in the fall, towering canopies, rocks and turtles and a slow babbling creek. It was the first time I had heard a Thrush sing in a way that I was able to isolate her song, connect it with my childhood and identify her as a Wood Thrush. I am absolutely certain that this childhood environment is where my love of the outdoors, trees and the Wood Thrush began.
I don’t remember a lot about my childhood next door neighbor. I vaguely remember the mom and her teenage daughter that babysat for me just a handful of times. But, I do have one vivid memory of the neighbor.
The daughter loved dogs. She was faithful to keep her dogs penned in the backyard. They had a very tall fence that usually served it’s purpose well. The last dog I remember Jeannine owning was a dark brown
HORSE Great Dane. His name was Ace. I still remember being fearful of him simply because of his size. Jeannine would tell us that he was playful and wouldn’t hurt us, but we never really got to spend any time with him – one on one. Knowing what I know about Danes, I wish she had taken time to acquaint me more with him. Danes are such gentle animals. It would have been nice to know his temperament back then … to really know him … because I was needlessly petrified of him.
I remember one afternoon, my friend Joni and I were walking the path between our house and theirs. We were both somewhere around nine years old, I’d guess. We were both looking down, walking and talking when we simultaneously looked up. *f.r.e.e.z.e* I have only experienced paralyzing, physical fear one time in my life. This was it.
I still remember that moment … that feeling … that complete paralyzation.
I could not talk.
I could not turn around.
I could not walk.
And I certainly couldn’t run.
Joni and I stood there, frozen like statues … at eye level with this tremendous beast …. only a dozen small feet from us.
Frankly, we weren’t exactly sure WHAT to do. Should we talk to him? Not sure. Should we turn our backs on him and walk away? Don’t think so. Should we run? Assuredly not.
Part of our fear was surely rooted in “the unknown” for we had no idea what he was thinking or what he might do
if we spoke
Thinking back on it, I can still picture his face. I saw playfulness in his eyes … but I did not recognize it at the time. Had we run, yes, he would have followed us. I believe he was still a young adult and he would have thought we were playing. He might have pounced us, had we run. But, he wouldn’t have been malicious. He just wasn’t that type of dog.
Maybe that frozen state was a “God thing.” Maybe God knew that Ace would think we were playing, had we tried to run away. Maybe he would have pounced upon us … and scarred us for life by being attacked by a Dane (a child-like explanation that would have been a gross exaggeration of the actual event). Maybe our inability to move … was a gift.
Whether a gift or not, after a bit of effigy practice, I think we quietly discussed what to do. Eventually Ace lost interest and relaxed just a bit. I believe I remember him even looking away at one point. Finally … after what felt like an eternity, we chose to s.l.o.w.l.y back up and then turn around and intentionally-walk back to my house.
I still remember the feeling of relief I felt when I stepped on my brick step, reached for the handle of the door
and walked through our wooden carport door into the kitchen.
And it was over.
That may have been the most intense five minutes of my entire life.
I’ve thought a lot lately about that little slice in time.
I am there again.
But, rather than a Great Dane looking me eye to eye
I can’t see what is before me
yet I am paralyzed.
Over the weekend, I took advantage of the cable television in the hotels while I was getting ready each morning. I found the Suze Orman show and listened in to her advice to different people in their personal situations. I listened to her give advice on many scenarios, but none involved being
a newly single mom
a college student son
and middle school student daughter still living at home
with no health insurance
a vehicle that runs purely on grace
and no savings.
Even as I write this post,
I don’t know how to wrap it up …
I don’t know how to eloquently put into words ….
how to tie together
the then and the now ….
the now and the future.
I don’t know what is to come.
Frankly … I’m paralyzed.
I just don’t know what “life” should look like.
And I don’t think this is a “God thing” … the paralyzation.
Because I know in my heart and my head that He knows what is to come
and He has it all under control.
But, for now, I feel like I’m in effigy practice.
I don’t ever remember “the unknown” being such a frightening thing.
But, then, I’ve never done the unknown