AS WITHIN, SO WITHOUT
Ferncliff Forest in Rhinebeck, New York, is a beautiful 200 acre privately owned Preserve with hiking trails and a modest camping and picnic area that surrounds a serene lake. It is a nature lover’s respite. The area begs to be photographed. I gave in to it. I took a few photographs as we climbed up large hills winding through bare trees. I could imagine how the trees would look in a month when the leaves filled in the bare spaces. My destination – the reason that I wanted to go the forest in the first place – awaited me in the center of the forest on top of a steep hill. My camera ready, I excitedly climbed the hill and walked up to the fire tower. I was genuinely surprised at what happened next.
When I walked up to the tower’s steps, I hesitated. I allowed others to go before me. It was not what I expected, but I did not understand the apprehension I was feeling. I climbed the first set of steps, about a dozen. Simple deer fencing was all that covered the outside of the tower from the base of the steps up to the railing on each set of steps all the way up the 80 foot tower. I’ve climbed the Statue of Liberty’s narrow steps, only feeling slight vertigo. But, this was different. Once I got to the landing before climbing the next set of steps, I froze. Hesitatingly, I began to climb the next set of steps to the landing with tears in my eyes. I started up again and again backed down turned around on the landing and went down the first set of stairs and once down on the ground, looked up at the tower, my fear beginning to grow.
I had started repeating “I can’t, I can’t” over and over which was turning into a self fulfilling prophecy. Someone I was with said to me, “What are you afraid of?” In that moment I knew my fear was a metaphor. What I was afraid of was beginning to become clear. And, suddenly I became frustrated with myself for not trying harder. I had waited so long to come here, climb the tower and take breathtaking photographs of the view from the top.
Where does fear come from? Are we taught to fear? Or do we create our own fear? And is there something else at play here? Fear is paralyzing, it stops us in our tracks inhibiting us from moving forward. It doesn’t matter what you are afraid of or what event triggers the fear. Why we fear is personal. All humans are not afraid of the same thing. Most people fear spiders, others do not; some fear other people or situations while it doesn’t bother other people; many people fear death and others enjoy living. I believe some fears go way back, not only in this life time, but further back, to a past life. We are all working out karma from another life or lifetimes. If we don’t work it out in one life time, we carry that karma with us to the next life and so on. I believe that while I was on the fire tower the karma clock was ticking.
With a fear to conquer I decided that the third time was the charm. I began again. The first set of steps. The second set of steps, half way up, backed down, sobbing from fear. I knew what my fear was and it wasn’t the tower’s steps. The fear I felt inside about moving forward – financial security, stability, taking the next step – was manifesting on the outside. As within so without.
Determined to get up the tower and take pictures, I looked up, not down or ahead, as was suggested by someone else and I prayed to be kept safe as I moved upward. I breathed, counted the steps and finally made it up the fourth set of steps (about half of the tower –the rest will have to wait until fall when I go back). The view of the Hudson River and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge was amazing. It was more amazing because I had chosen to move forward. In the end what helped was counting steps…one at a time.