Sometimes when looking back, a person can see a single event as a metaphor for her entire life. Such an event occurred when we were at Rumbling Bald last week with the extended Davis family.
I have a terrific fear of the water. Last summer Ron pulled me out, sputtering, from under Janet Jones’ dock on Lake Tahoma. Other similar scary water events have happened in my life, The first big incident was when I was in high school and loved diving under the waves of the Atlantic at our beach club. One day the waves were fierce and the undertow was terrific, and I got caught under the water and had to be rescued by a handsome life guard. Not only did I come close to drowning, but I was pulled from the water with my bathing suit half off my body. Embarrassment kept me out of the ocean for the rest of my high school years.
Early in our Lake Lure week, the family went tubing on the Green River. Little Bella and I were the two who wore bulky life vests, my tube was tied to Ron’s tube, and still I was scared. I don’t know what I thought might happen, as the water in the rapids was only about a foot deep, but still I gripped Ron’s hand as we flew over the small waves
My crowning achievement, however, was in the lake itself. It was very hot and we brought tubes to the beach and sat in them to try to cool off. I was in fewer than three feet of water and thought I’d be cooler if I reversed my position and flipped onto by stomach across the tube. I hopped off the tube and somehow got caught and fell backwards into the murky water of the lake. I couldn’t see anything, but thought I had fallen into a deep hole because my thrashing feet couldn’t touch the bottom. My arms pumped to get me to the surface, but I was parallel to the lake bottom and just propelled myself sideways. Cheryl was a little too far away to help but she saw that I was in trouble and was yelling, “Stand up, Stephanie! Stand up!” I couldn’t hear her though because my heart was pounding and I was almost out of breath. Either Cheryl or my guardian angel (her name is Jade) pulled me up shaking and panting. “I thought I was going to drown,” I told Cheryl.
I staggered out of the lake and collapsed into a beach chair. Cheryl ran and got me a daiquiri and I dripped onto the sand. My first thoughts were, “I almost died just now.”And that was horrifying. But my next thoughts were, “What if I drowned in under three feet of lake water?” That would be ridiculously embarrassing. That would be more embarrassing than having that cute lifeguard see my bare breast.
What a metaphor for my life! I am so privileged and comfortable, and yet I worry more than most people about what might happen to me or my loved ones. I get into the least bit of trouble and immediately panic and lose my head. Just like in the lake, I am really safe, but I can’t see the surface or know which end is up, and so I thrash around and make myself miserable. When the crisis is finally over and I am able to get my head above water, I realize that the problem was not as great as I had thought is was. I am able to stand up in the shallow water after all.
I recently went to the Magnetic Theater and saw the brilliant “Click, Clack, Moo,” a play about making change in the world with solidarity and peaceful protest. The cows and chickens on the farm are cold and want electric blankets, but Farmer Brown doesn’t see the need. The animals go on strike, and Brown gives them what they want. Images on the back wall recall civil rights marches, anti-war protests and protests for gay rights, abortion rights, and other important peaceful movements. At one point the three main animal characters stand on platforms with one arm raised, recalling the famous Olympic protest from some years ago. It was powerful!
After the show I talked with Jonathan Santos, who played Duck. He is a local activist and writes and performs songs with social content. I bought a tee shirt from him that says, “Change the world by changing yourself.” He asks those who buy the shirts to post pictures of themselves wearing the shirts and telling how they plan to change themselves.
I have already worked on many issues in my life, and I was pondering what I should post. I was visiting with my wise young friend Calvin Sheppard and asked him what he would suggest. As he is a very honest guy, he hesitated but then said, “Don’t worry so much.”
Wise words, but now I have to attempt to do so.