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Storms and anchors (08/03/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Fight or flee! Extreme fear dictates reactions to the human brain. A racing heart, uncontrollable sweating, tightness in the chest, and a feeling of doom and helplessness can accelerate to the “fight or flee” tendency.

In the ideal life, fears aren’t so complex, ranging from childhood’s boogeyman, scary clowns, and doctors’ offices, to a strong dread of deer ticks, the middle-aged spread, a Judge Judy experience, and fallen arches, to the horrors of broken hips, nursing homes, and bill collectors. (Bad enough!)

Circumstances have us human creatures under their control. The laws of nature rule! Driving directly into a rainstorm, lightning bounces off the bleak horizon slicing our windshield. Surrounded by pewter gray clouds and pelting rain, one can either trudge onward, pull over until it quits, or turn around and go back where you came from. Fight or flee!

These were my thoughts as Pat chose to keep trucking through tumultuous wind gusts and bursting skies on our way to our camper one July afternoon. My agitated request to stop and wait it out at Wabasha was ignored. The man is forever the captain, forging ahead at the helm of his dinghy. Onward we traveled into the frenzy of atmospheric unrest.

It’s difficult to fathom how one’s natural surroundings can offer so much serenity and sheer awe at one time and then turn foreboding and relentless in a split second. By the time we drove through Durand the sky had cleared and it was smooth sailing ahead. The plush, green scenery, with its ribbons of planted corn and roadsides dancing with pinkish grasses, delicate white wildflowers, beds of purple flowers, and the willowy foxtail barley grass, waved in the brilliance of a renewing sun along the rest of our way to Chetek.

The countryside’s familiar clumps of trees, groomed yards and flower gardens, as well as deplorable shells of deserted farm buildings and an occasional ramshackle house, draw us nearer to Oak Grove. The same “FOR SALE” signs continue to advertise the same campers, boats, and houses, some overrun by mammoth weeds and thistles and left to decay. More and more small communities seem to be turning into ghost towns. This is a time of great unrest for the people of our country. Storms and tragedies seem more harsh and destructive, losses come at greater costs, and the rainbows seem to have disappeared. Fear seems to be mocking at every turn. Do we fight or flee?

Upon return, a brief moment of apprehension always ushers us inside our camper, as we anxiously find it all intact. The drops of Torro on the kitchen table and counter had undone our tiny invaders. It was our turn to feed the ants!

Our flowers would survive the weekend’s tornado warning, heavy rains and wind, burgundy coleus with lime green highlights, purple and white petunias, and the first blooming buds of orange tiger lilies along both sides, their roots predestined to hold fast.

We return our colorful, lifelike Native American mascots to their places on the deck. ”The Chief” has been with us longer than Running Bare and Sacajawea and her papoose. They add a certain authenticity to our slow-paced life up north.

Lake Ojaski anchors our dock and “cluck clucks” our pontoon boat against the pier’s splintery, weathered side. That weekend the lake was bleak and choppy. Heavy rains, hail, and wind storms made for frustrated fishermen, women, and children.

Driving home after that July weekend, there were no signs of noisy, formidable storms as in the days and nights before. The lonely shell of fear had been lifted. Only beauty and tranquility graced our drive back home to Lewiston, silence like a prayer of thanksgiving.

Pulling into our driveway, the butter yellow daylilies nodding brightly and a yard free of any branches or debris whipped about inflamed another sigh of relief.

Fight or flee? I’d rather take my chances and watch for the rainbows. A captain won’t desert his ship…no matter what. Anchors away!

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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