My family got me outdoors starting as a child. My father took my brother and me to the beach. We also went as a family for a week at a time to wooded Upstate New York. My mother also sent me to her parent’s farm in Jamaica in the Caribbean.
So I was surprised–though I should not have been–when talking with a staff member at Olmsted Manor Retreat in rural western Pennsylvania.
I told her I’d just returned from having lunch alone at Wildcat Park, not far from the retreat. She asked if I wasn’t afraid. I responded no and shared some of my background including my parent’s influence on me. The staff member went on to tell me that people often stop short at the entrance of a trail just at the edge of the forest, a few steps from the retreat. And that those people who falter, stopping before going under the canopy of the trees, were often from metropolitan areas.
When it comes to being afraid of nature, I realized after the conversation that I have experienced fear too. There was a moment this week where I understood fear. A bat got into my room in the dark of night. When I awoke hearing the flapping wings, I knew it was a bat. I scrambled out of the room and slammed the door on my fear. Fortunately, the bat flew out of my room, under the door, and into the hallway. I was grateful I didn’t have to herd the bat out of the room.
There’s no shame in being afraid of nature. What’s important is how we respond to that fear. Do we let it stop us? Or do we push up against the fear so we don’t miss out on the benefits of nature: fresh air, open spaces, leisure, and contemplation.