Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taking Fear for a Walk

I wrote this piece two summers ago; during these chilly winter days, it's nice to recall being too warm in August and wanting ice cream. 

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
Acts 2: 2, 3

The apartment’s four walls were too confining tonight—the fear chased me all around, leaving me no escape. I had to get outside, even though I’d already been on one walk today. The fear needed more room.
            My fear-plate was full: my health (fine now, but what will happen at the next checkup?); my finances (will the next job ever start?); the well-being of friends (how will she manage another surgery, followed by another round of chemo?). My mind was like a 5-CD disc changer, rotating among the fears.
            I felt better as soon as I stepped out into the late evening; the air has already begun to change, to smell of autumn. I had time enough to walk to the Corner Cone before it closed, and a coupon. How bad could life be?
            I heard the drums before I saw them, and quickened my steps to match their beat. On the elementary school’s lawn, a young man wearing protective goggles, his hair tied back with a scarf, was playing with fire. I wondered if he had a desire to be a Hawaiian fire-eater. He had a pole about five feet long that he balanced on his shoulders, threw in the air, and twirled. Six drummers sat on the ground or on chairs, providing his backbeat. A small crowd of observers gathered, the children most visibly delighted by the show. I kept walking, but after I got my chocolate cone, I joined the growing crowd.
            I do that, I thought. Many people do, although we do so metaphorically, playing with the fire, the passion of our lives, lighting both ends, hoping to dazzle, not to drop the baton or to set our surroundings on fire.
It’s no wonder that on Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended in flames of fire.

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