Life Is a Trip

The transformative magic of travel.

How to Make Fear Disappear

A fear dissolves

It probably started out as a flash of lightning that struck a tree. Within hours, it has spread to other trees. And before we knew it, it was a raging forest fire. When I went to the gym, the athletic ones were lined up at the window, watching the powerful plumes of smoke rising above the mountaintop.

 It wasn’t the only fire in New Mexico, but it was the latest one in a string of conflagrations that dotted the state’s landscape. And then the fires started in nearby Colorado: vicious, insistent, driving people from their homes, swallowing up houses.

 Two summers ago, when smoke infiltrated my abode, I threw some belongings in a suitcase and left Dodge. This time it wasn’t so easy and my reaction wasn’t immediate. My husband and I felt like shut-ins, and when we went out for walks, we wore masks. His allergies had recently escalated and inflamed his lungs, and mine were well on the way. We were a wheezing duo.

 Damn, I thought. Damn. I was feeling scared and out of sorts. I hated the idea of not feeling safe at home.

 It was about 8 o’clock at night a few days ago. The wind suddenly changed course, and the air wasn’t smoky for a while.

 “Quick,” my husband said. “Let’s go outside.”

 For one evening, I didn’t feel like the Masked Man. We raced outside and walked for a few blocks in the direction of a spectacular lightning show above the mountains.

 We stood very still, watching nature’s fireworks. In the distance we could hear the howling of coyotes—strong, piercing, slightly baleful. Behind us, a sliver of moon hung in the sky, and we could hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

 Lightning, coyotes, moon, the lilting music of leaves. It was breathtaking or, rather, breath-giving. We stood for a long while, awed by the soothing power of nature. It dissolved our fears and replaced them with wonder.

 It would be good to be able to do this every time fear strikes. Remember that the same energy that causes fire also causes beauty. Remember that nature is a friend as well as a formidable adversary. Recall that sounds and small moments can change mood and response. Remember. Remember. Remember.

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 Photo by Paul Ross

 Judith Fein is an award-winning international travel writer and the author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel.

 

Judith Fein is a travel journalist who lives to leave. She writes for numerous publications (The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler, and The Boston Globe).

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