Kayaking on an Ocean of Fear

Earlier today, I went out on the water with Danika.  In a couple of kayaks, we rowed out to where the water just began to roll, and as we got further, I realized I had never been so far out into the ocean with so little between it and me.  I could imagine worlds beneath my seat, a universe of creatures and realities alien to me and my experience.

And I did feel terror.  I felt it in a more real and more immediate way than I’ve maybe ever felt it before.

Everyone says that: in a “real” way, or “it felt ‘real.'”  But what does that even mean?  I’ll tell you what it meant for me, today:

Here was the thing I am most afraid of, the actual entity I fear more than anything else — a fear so pure that it’s utterly divorced from any reality or practicality — and I was literally floating on top of it, nothing but maybe an inch of candy-red plastic separating us.

I was directly upon my fear.  We sat together, it and me.  I had to commune with it whether I wanted to or not.

I discovered several things in this process.  That I did not want to be still — I felt better when I was moving, even when I was moving further out, over deeper and deeper water.  That I could feel the fear and keep myself from being overcome by it if I thought about something else, like how the scenery transported me despite being here, or how to structure a magic system in a fantasy novel I might write someday.  That it was worth feeling the fear in order to accomplish something, and because I got to witness a particular beauty I usually feel separated from, and because, possibly, the beauty was better for the fear I fought to get to it.

That fear makes imagination expansive.  Every bunch of seaweed housed a monster, every stretch of sea without seaweed could have housed anything.  That expanse of the fear, the size of it as it stretched out all around, and deeper and deeper beneath, me, is what is sticking with me most.

That there was so much possibility in it — not good or bad, no value at all.  Only that there was a lot.  Only greatness, in its old sense.  A large and expanding mass of fear meant a large and expanding mass of anything I could imagine.

It was a feeling that opened me up and opened the world around me.  I’m thinking about getting up early to do it again tomorrow.

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