The Only Thing To Fear Is

It’s a bit crazy, don’t you think, the way a tiny little fear can hang in your psyche, floating beneath the surface, both there and completely out of view? Sure, it may peek shyly around more gregarious personality traits from time to time. But so much as glance in its direction and this kind of fear scampers—gone, submerged, hidden (and contently so) once again.

Until a friend shines a light its direction, that is, a friend who has no idea what she’s about to dredge up with the mere suggestion that you take the kayak out for a fun little paddle on the ocean, the one right there in front of you.

It happened this weekend when my dear friend Teresa and I were stretched out in the sun on Edisto Beach, soaking up the last of summer’s golden rays.

Can’t you literally feel the stress leaving your body? I said to her then, eyes closed, our faces turned up toward the bright afternoon heavens. Can’t you feel the sun drawing it out of you? 

Oh, yeah, she said, no hesitation. Oh yeah.

We lay there a while quiet, our toes in the sand, our bodies basking, our hearts and souls content. Until Judith and Greg returned with the kayaks that is (the ones they’d paddled way way way across the sound, so far as a matter of fact we’d lost interest in watching them) and drug them (not so delicately) onto the shore.

Why don’t you go out next? said Teresa.


Why don’t I go on out next? Because I’m sitting here on this beach, in the sun, with you my friend, fully content. Because “going out” on the kayak would require that I take a boat—a boat I would have to paddle—out into the ocean. Because the ocean is filled with jellyfish (Tim had been stung) and sharks (Jay had just caught one!). Because I’d have to put on a lifejacket, for heavens sake, a life-saving jacket because the risk of some unforeseen circumstance causing me to go overboard and into the ocean is so likely someone—namely The Law—deems it necessary!

Why don’t I go out next?


When did I get so afraid? That’s the question I’m asking myself as the voice in my head searches an internal database of reasonable excuses. What happened that led me to the conclusion that padding a kayak into a very calm inlet on a very calm day was entirely too risky?

Good lord it’s being middle-aged, is what I thought. (It’s my excuse, currently, for everything.) I am becoming so middle-aged.

Well, you can guess what happened next.

that’s a big ocean out there
easy now
yo, jay. did you notice… jellyfish everywhere!

My mind was eased, I might as well say it, to be accompanied by Jay Coles. No stranger to the grand wonders of nature, he was the perfect guide—hanging close enough to answer the incessant questions I had about the sea life around us (and close enough to keep me calm), yet far enough away that I experienced the personal thrill of ocean kayaking. My heart was pounding as we made our way back to Edisto’s gorgeous shore.


Up next?

Walking all the way down the staircase without death-gripping the rail.

Oh baby, life is just going to get better and better and better. Hang on.



5 thoughts on “The Only Thing To Fear Is

  1. This is such a great story and photo essay.

    As I watched you write the word “Finish” on the “What do you want to do before you die” blackboard on Main Street, I am now convinced your word was in reference to “fear”. Finished with that. Done. Next?

  2. Cathy,
    Once again you hit the nail on the head. I am struggling more now than ever with fear. I, too, say it’s because I’m so middle aged! Is it because we’re aware now, in a way we weren’t when we were young, of all the things that can go wrong. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because of all the chances I took that didn’t work out. I think my real fear is of being disappointed one more time. Whatever it is, I don’t like it! Thanks for striking a blow against fear.

  3. Good for you, Cathy! Suzann & I were just talking about how Kevin convinced me to paddle a canoe on the river this past weekend (outfitted with a life jacket, of course!) and now has his sights set on getting me into a kayak — yikes!

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