Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How you look at it


Our pal Andif and her husband Jim left for one of their hiking trips today, and in the comments last night she gave us us this cool photo to hold us until they get back with some new ones. I'm posting it because I like it, but also because she has managed to make something ordinary--a few leaves--look strange and otherwordly and maybe even a little threatening. Which just happens, heh heh, to synchronize nicely with the post I had already written for today. Of course. If you'd never seen a leaf before, what in the world would you think those were? They look to me like hot air balloons, but also like pods, possibly full of pod people. . .

If you don't mind my asking, what scares you? And I'm not asking about just any kind of scare, either. . .

I'm interested in a particular kind of fear, the kind that is in no way supported by any facts whatsoever at all. Like, how kids are scared of the bogie-man under the bed. Like, how I was terrified of werewolves. Like, how my neighbors deadbolt their doors as if we live in a high crime neighborhood when in fact we live in a no-crime one.

Are you scared of anything that can't be supported by the facts? Or, do you know somebody who is?

Half of why I'm asking is that as a fiction writer, I like to know what creates tension. But the other half of why I'm asking is that it interests me to watch society as a whole, and individuals--myself included--barricade and circumscribe and expensively defend our lives against things that not only will probably never hurt us, but which may not even exist.

I say "probably" and "may," because you can't actually prove there's never been any such thing as a real werewolf, can you? Sure, sure, you say that nobody has been attacked by a werewolf lately, but you'll never catch me strolling across the moors, alone, at night. . .

But, whew, it's daylight right now, so I think it's safe to get out of bed. And get coffee. And meet you in the comments. As soon as I pick these strange black, coarse hairs off the carpet. . .

50 comments:

Nancy P said...

The "security" at airports comes to mind. . .

G'morning! What's that strange bite mark on your neck that wasn't there last night?

Nancy P said...

Not that your neck wasn't there last night, but that the bite mark. . .

Must have coffee.

Beth said...

Coffee, Nancy. Lots of it!

How about purely irrational fear? I'm petrified of drowning. Enough so that I can't watch movies like Jaws or The Deep without reminding myself to breathe - my heart races, palms sweat, the whole lot. I'd rather be chopped into small pieces and fed to a large dog than drown. Don't come near me in the water - don't pretend to submerge me - you might lose an arm. I'm getting scared just WRITING about it!

Not that being afraid of drowning is irrational - but the level of my fear is. Complete panic.

I live in North Idaho. Very little crime. Very few locks on doors. Cars left running in the supermarket parking lot. No werewolves, only a Sasquatch or two...

Nancy P said...

I'd rather be chopped into small pieces and fed to a large dog than drown

lol! That's what I'm talking about!

I haven't been on a ferris wheel in years, but when I was, I felt just like you do in water. . .DON'T TOUCH ME--don't tease me--don't MOVE.

Hmm, I'm remembering something Don Maass says. . .

But first. . .northern Idaho? Such beautiful country,.

Beth said...

You've been here?! That's rare. Most people think we're somewhere near Iowa...it IS gorgeous. Unfortunately, lots of people have figured that out recently...Coeur d'Alene is also, now, too full. Hence, time for Beth to move on. But if you can look past the hoardes, it is beautiful.

Uh oh, which pearl of Don's wisdom are you remembering? He has so many! :-)

Nancy P said...

Beth, was the literary agent Donald Maass at your retreat? I love him. He's such a good writing teacher on top of everything else he does.

He says, if you need to get deeper into the emotions of a scene or character, stop and think back to some time when you felt that emotion. Write a detailed account of it--what day was it, date, time, weather, who was there, what are two or three things you remember seeing, etc.

What he has students do sometimes, I think, is then see what happens if you insert that exact scene in your story. (With necessary alterations, of course.) I have done that, and it worked. But it also works for me just to get me to "feel" how that. . .for instance, ferris wheel terror. . .felt, and then to give that to my characters. It's a great technique for the times when the feelings aren't coming out on the page. And my guess is that the reason they're not is that they're buried (maybe not very far down) in something in our own past.

Hmm, thanks for jogging this reminder, Beth.

Nancy P said...

I have been to northern Idaho, up to and just over the border. I esp. remember a wildlife refuge with a huge eagle's nest in a lone tree, and a diner with a great breakfast.

Catharine said...

Lately, I'd say I've got a fear of mosquito bites. To the degree that I don't want to stay on grass any longer than I HAVE to if it's dusk.

But, that's rational. My irrational fear is movies & books about people who kill themselves. Like Beth, I get scared just thinking about being exposed to them.

Most recently, it happened while I was watching The Bridge, a film about the Golden Gate Bridge and the people who jump off.

I happen to LOVE the Golden Gate Bridge. But, this movie was too much. That horrible feeling took over and we had to change the channel.

There was a tragedy in our neighborhood right after we moved into the house where I grew up. A woman with 4 kids (then same number my mom had) put herself and the kids in the car in the garage and (with a hose into the car) killed herself and the kids.

I was 4 years old at the time and for some reason, my mother shared all the gritty details with me.

And it's haunted me ever since.

Nancy P said...

What a tragic story, Cathy. My (much more shallow!)fear of werewolves started at a movie that I was way too young to see.

It's interesting. There's no denying the fact of your neighbor's suicide. It happened. So in that sense, your fear was "rational," except that--like my (shallow!)werewolf fear, it was based on only one incident that really had nothing to do with the facts about you and your own family. That's the irrational part, but that doesn't stop us from extrapolating from one incident into a deep lifelong fear of something.

Catharine said...

The connection (at least in our case) is an exposure to something we weren't old enough to handle.

And that's a lesson I've tried to remember.

My brother-in-law is a film editor, but I've missed nearly 1/2 of his films (mostly the early ones) because I don't think I'm old enough (yet) for them.

That my fear overcomes family loyalty and my love for him shows that it's not only irrational but it's also overwhelming.

GreenMinute said...
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GreenMinute said...
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GreenMinute said...
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Nancy P said...

What an interesting intersection!
Well, there are some spiritual paths that claim there are, at base, only two emotions: fear and love, and that fear cannot continue to exist in the presence of 100% love, just as darkness disappears in full light.

Nancy P said...

Finding!! Brilliant. Yes, yes, yes. Soooo scary sometimes. (Thrilling,other times.) Finding OUT, too. Jeez, who would ever want to find OUT? We write stories all about that pursuit and resistance.

And oceans--I'm terrified of being in deep water (lol, some metaphors are just too damn obvious), though I love to sit safely on the shore and look at it.

And green? xxoo. Little lambs eat ivy, but TOA doesn't, because she's no lamb. :)

Beth said...

Don IS a great teacher! I attended his week-long Writing the Breakout Novel workshop in 2005. That's where I met Jason, Lorin, et al, and they urged me to attend WRW. I'm blessed to have learned so much from these talented, energetic, generous people.

Cameron McClure, who has been with Don's agency for three years, was at WRW in May. I think she helped some of the newbies understand that agents aren't all nasty, scary, mean people. :-)

Catharine, I think you're smart to know what you can and can't handle. There are limits to what we should put ourselves through for family. Hopefully he understands.

Fear and love - both strong emotions. Ditto love and hate. As for understanding them, I'm open to suggestions!

Jen said...

Irrational scary thing the first: demonic possession. This is thoroughly irrational because I do not believe in demons, nor do I believe in possession. (I think it is truly, underneath, a fear of madness lurking in my genes, but that my pop culture saturated mind has conveniently symbolized it through the filters of books like The Exorcist and films like The Omen because apparently my subconscious finds that more entertaining than the raw fear itself.)

Irrational scary thing the second: being the center of attention. I clearly have social anxiety disorder, and my experience of it is completely irrational. I have loads of nervous trouble interacting with people. Any time I inadvertently call too much attention to myself (good or bad; doesn't matter), I promptly flee the area, or, failing the ability to do so, make an ass of myself so that everyone wants to look away of their own volition. Sometimes I do both. I'm a big hit at parties.

Oh, I'm irrationally afraid of so very many things, I could make this list all day. I really like that one quote of Georgia O'Keefe's about how she'd been absolutely terrified every single second of her life but that she never let it stop her from doing whatever she wanted to do.

Catharine said...

Awwk, This is not the place to lurk while at work:

Greenminute, this is so true:
"One of the best reasons to have Lunch with Nancy is to steal something she says."

That's almost exactly how my blog got it's name!

I ALWAYS listen to Nancy.

"Is anyone esle afraid of finding? "

Yes.

For some reason this reminds me of a recurring nightmare:
I'm walking down the street and someone ahead of me turns their head and looks at me.

Or I'm sitting in a library reading and I look up, just as someone turns their head to look at me.

I think that what scares me is that I've been FOUND. But I always wake up so I don't know for sure.

Maybe this is a form of Jen's fear too?

Catharine said...

And Nancy, "And oceans--I'm terrified of being in deep water"

I've got an ocean story to tell. Does it matter if it's true?

Also (back to the Ferris Wheels) the Lipstick Chronicles has an interesting post: The Not Much Amusement Park

Nancy P said...

jen, I used to have that demon possession fear, too, and I think you're right, that it's really a fear of going crazy. There is only one book that I've ever thrown away. . .literally put in a trash barrel, making sure it was outside of my apartment and not in it. . .because I was so frightened of it. I'll bet you can guess. The Exorcist. If it's any comfort, I've gotten completely over that fear. I think I accepted my Inner Crazy Person. Seriously. Also, I have come to believe the world is insane, so I'd have to work harder at it than I do, even to be noticed as nuts.

Speaking of being noticed. . .I used to have that one, too. It has translated as I've aged, more into a condition of not needing to be noticed, which must sound hilarious coming from a woman with a blog.

Jen said...

Funny Catharine, I actually have a recurring nightmarish dream in which I'm not quite entirely lost as much as just alone at a dark carnival, very Bradbury-esque, and desperately wanting to be not quite entirely found as much as located by a group that I feel I'm supposed to be with. Alas, my people don't ever come, and even in the dream I am too disabled to walk the paths away from the monstrous merry-go-round, so I always wind up sitting alone and afraid on the bench watching the poor bastards on the ride whirl around and scream.

Um. I feel like maybe I should say something not so depressing and scary now. Cotton candy!

Jen said...

Well, Nancy, I think everyone is crazy -- seriously, I mean this in a philosophical way -- so my fear is more about becoming so crazy that I lose my sense of identity. I'm totally okay with being a huge freak, though, and I embraced my Inner Nutjob a long time ago. :D

Nancy P said...

Man, this leads down interesting, converging, diverging paths, doesn't it?

Finding. Finding out. Being noticed. Being found. Being found out?

Something atavistic about all this. Hiding in the jungle, hoping no big cat spies us. Those yellow eyes, upon us.

Jen said...

PS. Re: book disposal

One of the bits I absolutely loved on that dumb show Friends was that dumb-guy Joey used to put the Stephen King book he liked to read (I think it was The Shining) in the freezer because it was too scary. One day he traded books with Rachel, and when he got to a really sad part in Little Women, he put the book in the freezer. No matter how many times I've seen that episode, it always makes me laugh.

Nancy P said...

becoming so crazy that I lose my sense of identity.

Ah, interesting, indeed.

Mine was kind of opposite, I think. I thought I didn't have an identity, so I didn't want that "fact" exposed. Or, alternatively, I did have one, but I didn't want it. I had an identiy as a Nice Girl. Gak. Throws up arms in horror. No, no, don't expose me as a nice person!!!

Nancy P said...

I loved that ep of "Friends." You've probably hit on one reason it was so huge--now and then they would get something so right that I'd feel that deep chuckle? shiver? of, "Yeah. Me,too."

Nancy P said...

Cathy, please tell your ocean story! We'll look for the deeper truth, lol.

Kelly McCullough said...

Two things, chittering, and really big old houses. If something in a video game or a movie chitters it goes right past my forebrain and into the climb a tree right now part of the monkey brain. On the houses front, if its big enough that I know I could never truly search it by myself it creeps me out.

GreenMinute said...

You all are just great! What a fascinating blog. I could go on about each post. Too good. Too good.

Finding out and being found out. Wow.

Oceans II. I think oceans can come and get you.

I was standing once by peaceful water. A breeze came up. The surface of the lake danced a bit. Then the sun tilted and I saw a bunch of little flashes of light on the gently moving water.

I thought I was having my picture taken. No kidding, it looked just like that. I had to leave.

For me, having my picture taken is the same as being found out. I hate it.

Nancy P said...

Chittering! Well, that's such a cool and funny (sorry!)fear I don't even know what to do with it, but the temptation to chitter is almost overwhelming. My fingers want to type the quiv. of chittering sounds. Kelly,come back!!
;}

Okay, I'm really not so nice.

Off to library, where they have wifi.

Man Eegee said...

Spiders! Which isn't so irrational, but the other one is the very idea of the giant squid. [shudder] It started out as just a mild dislike, but when I got into my first boat over the open ocean a few years back, I nearly freaked.

Dreams are fairly influential, too. I still recall a nightmare I had when I was a child that took place in the back pantry of my grandparents' house. Still think of it today when I walk in there. Never do find that witch with the piercingly orange eyes, thank Buddha.

Warren said...

When I was a kid the next door neighbor insisted that you had to leave her house by a different door than the one used to enter her house. She got really upset if you asked why.

Also I remember the kid in Sunday School who developed the fear that she would get leprosy.

Kelly McCullough said...

Warren, the door thing's fantastic and would go great in a book I'm working on. If you aren't going to use it, can I?

Beth said...

Dreams - I've been out of school for over 30 years, yet I STILL dream that there's an exam and I didn't know about it - didn't study - can't find the classroom - I wonder if that will EVER stop...

Ocean - I sailed around the world with Semester at Sea a couple of years ago. Each day at noon I would print the location report for the rest of the passengers. Keeping in mind my earlier confession of fear of drowning, it was a challenge to read water depths of 20,000 feet...talk about not being able to touch bottom! I just had to not think about it...

Kelly McCullough said...

The school nightmare--I had that from the time I was 6 or 6 up until 38 when I sold my first book and I haven't had it since. The psyche is a weird place.

Nancy, please, no chittering, although the typed variety doesn't really bother me and it's a specific sort now that I think of it, because it doesn't bother me when squirrels do it.

The game Marathon had these giant, exploding, invisible spiders and the way you knew they were around was the chitter which went straight through to my spine from the first time I heard it. I mostly played wearing headphones and Dr.Mc. would grin and ask, spiders?" if I jumped while playing.

Nancy P said...

Man E, a witch with orange eyes! Cool!

Kelly, you're so right--that door story has all sorts of possibilities.

Hi, Warren! Good to see you here.

I have not yet made it to the library. Sooo sleepy.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

My fears mostly have to do with the weird thing that you didn't even consider could happen, happens. So because you didn't think cleverly enough to do what you could have done, you're doomed.

So as a result, I have to think of every possible bad thing that could happen so it doesn't.

For instance: don't leave the can of bug spray in the car in the summer because it might get too hot and explode.

What if, when I get out of the car in the driveway to get the morning newspapers and my husband is behind me and waiting for me, this is the morning the brakes decide not to work and the car rolls down on me?
(I never go directly in front of the car.)

What if on the airplane, I change seats and as a result something does or doesn't happen to the person who was in my old seat and I shouldn't have changed seats. Or what if I should have changed? Not even necessarily because of a plane crash, but someone with the, um, flu. Or it's Donald Maass. Or Nancy. And I shouldn't have moved.

But I guess those fears aren't really irrational.

Renata Adler once wrote an amazing short story about a woman who was so neurotic she couldn't choose which egg to cook in the morning because she couldn't decide whether eggs wanted to be cooked, like that was their destiny and they only way they could be fulfilled or whether eggs were upset to be the ones chosen to be broken.

So you can see how fear would get in the way.

Catharine said...

"So as a result, I have to think of every possible bad thing that could happen so it doesn't."

Oh, Hank, that is close to what I always say, "The things I worry about don't happen. So I'll be OK this time."

I've never been afraid of oceans, but I totally understand how people could fear them.

We have an ocean story in my family.

My grandparents grew up on an island in the Azores. And my grandmother's sisters (who were older than her) walked to school along a beach every morning. All the kids did.

But, one day a huge wave swept up to where the girls were walking and washed one of my (future) aunts out to sea.

I never heard whether the other girls continued on to school, but I suspect not.

boran2 said...

Heights used to bother me, now it's deep water. And lately poison ivy (I have blotches now.) has emerged as a leading candidate. Okay, that last one is not completely serious, and a novel about poison ivy would be dreadful.

Nancy P said...

Hank, I am so laughing at the egg story. Trying not to laugh at your stories, too, because that would be tactless :), but. . .

Life is hard in the conscientious lane!

Nancy P said...

I never heard whether the other girls continued on to school, but I suspect not.

Well, Catherine, that is a terrible and tragic story, and I am properly horrified and sympathetic, but one of the things I am loving most about doing this blog is that you guys are all sooo dryly funny.

And this: "The things I worry about don't happen. So I'll be OK this time" is actually not such a bad mantra.

I almost forgot that I was deluged by a wave on a California beach when I was small, and my parents never knew I thought I was going to drown right there in the sunshine. Probably part of my fear of being in ocean water.

Nancy P said...

Oh, boran2, think what Stephen King could do with posion ivy!!!

He could call it, "Blister."

You poor baby.

Catharine said...

"Probably part of my fear of being in ocean water."

Nancy, it doesn't sound quite so irrational now. I mean, you've actually thought you were drowning.

Your parents didn't even know you were in trouble?

Nancy P said...

They were sitting close, definitely paying attention, but they didn't realize how bowled-over and scared I was.

Nancy P said...

Anybody else watch So You Think You can Dance, or Top Chef? I'll admit it, I'm a reality show fan.

Catharine said...

You have to tell me BEFORE the show!

We've been watching the horrible American Inventor (it's pretty shocking to see some of the things people think are inventions) and a show about celebrity impersonators.

I didn't even know the other shows were on.

Catharine said...

but they didn't realize how bowled-over and scared I was.

Ah, a classic breakdown in communication. I hope you learned to scream after that?

Nancy P said...

I'll give you a heads up next time!

Last season I kind of enjoyed "inventor," but it's pretty bad this time, isn't it? I fast forward through almost all of it.

Catharine said...

Inventor is HORRIBLE. The trick to getting your "invention" (and it's really more like, gadget) accepted is to have the best story. Like Queen for a Day. It's a terrible show. I hate it. Hate it.

Jen said...

Top Chef is fun, I love the clever dishes and all the foodie snark.