What Scares Us. What Scares You?

From time to time, we offer a group post in which we all weigh in on the same subject. Today, in honor of Halloween, the subject is: What Scares You? We’ll share what scares us, and hope you’ll add some thoughts about what scares you.

Kate Flora: As a long-time crime writer who has spent years imagining bad things, as well as a writer of true crime, the thing that I stumble over, and worry about, and definitely fear is randomness. Random crimes. Crimes that aren’t predictable and can’t always be avoided no matter how careful a person is. These are the crimes like the one recently involving a teacher who was out jogging and simply snatched off the street and murdered. The random shooter from a highway bridge or the group of careless teenagers who drop rocks onto passing cars. Yes, huge spiders on my sleeve scare me, as do many of the post-pandemic drivers I encounter on the highway. So do crazies who get in my face when I’m walking (I seem to be a crazy magnet) but most of all, what scares me when I read about them or imagine them are the random acts of violence that can come out of nowhere.

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson:  Lots of things in real life scare me right now, including the guy to the left and other far right Maga Republicans who want to take women’s rights back to the dark ages and otherwise screw up this state and this country. Loose-cannon dictators in other countries scare me. And climate change. And natural disasters. And pandemics that kill off way too many friends and acquaintances.

But in the interest of keeping this post from being too depressing, and in light of the fact that being “scared” can also be a fleeting, almost pleasurable thing, I’ll add that the thing that scared me the most as a kid was the cyclops in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. I swear I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to find it following me, for years after I first saw that movie!

Maureen Milliken. What Kathy said! (Full disclosure, I’d thought of saying “the collapse of democracy,” but then I figured I should stay in the spirit of fun, not crushing.soul-shredding terror.)

I don’t really get scared that much, but I have to say any time I’m out walking in the woods by myself, I make sure the panic button app on my phone is engaged. Women should not have to police themselves, or be afraid of hiking or being alone at any time, anywhere, day or night, but yet we’re the ones who have to be on guard.

On a recent drive up the Kennebec River Valley, I wasn’t afraid of getting swept away at Wyman Dam, but was fairly nervous about being alone in such a remote place.

And I’m not referring to bears, coyotes, skunks, or any other critters. I’m talking, of course, about the animal that’s most dangerous to women.

A couple weeks ago on a beautiful fall day, I went driving up the upper Kennebec Valley, just to enjoy nature, see the foliage and check things out. At two different Kennebec River boat landings the only people there were me and a guy (different guy each time) sitting in a pickup truck smoking a cigarette. I’m not saying the guy was doing anything wrong, but I’m wary of being alone in a remote area along a river with a guy who is not fishing, not boating (no sign of equipment for those things at least), but just sitting there, watching me get out of my car. Maybe they were enjoying the river and the foliage and all that, too. But since I’m a woman by myself, it’s not in my best interest to find out.

I also checked out the massive and lonely Wyman Dam, but, after walking around a little bit, began to feel like I needed to be back in the safety of my car.

And I knew if something DID happen, people would be all, “What the hell was SHE thinking wandering around on her own like that?”

Several years ago I mentioned to two different men, separately, that I didn’t like to go into the deserted USM library garage late at night. Neither realized my point was that as a woman, I don’t feel comfortable being in dark deserted public places at night. Once I explained it, their lightbulb lit up and they got it. It seemed like a revelation to them. It was funny how I had the exact same experience with each guy. My lightbulb lit up, too — how women have a whole level of fear to deal with that men not only don’t have, but aren’t even aware of.

Laura Richards, formerly of Scotland Yard, and an expert on gender and domestic violence, remarked during a manhunt in England for someone who’d killed a young woman walking home alone at night that, instead of women being urged to stay indoors, maybe the curfew should be for men, since they’re the ones who were doing the attacking. Oh the hue and cry! The horror at the thought that they would have to alter their behavior.

Anyway, none of that’s going to change anytime soon, is it?

Oh yeah, the other thing? Bats. I used to never have a problem, but a long-running bat infestation in my house, that included frantic indoor visits from the lovable little flying rodents, who weren’t any happier to be in the situation than I was, has caused a bat-phobia. I had it taken care of two years ago (they block the entrances, etc.), but one got in last fall, and now every sound in the eaves makes me lie in bed paralyzed with anxiety that one is going to burst into my bedroom and fly into my face. Very very occasionally, if I hear a noise in the wall, I even go downstairs and sleep on the couch, which bothers the hell out of my cats, because that’s their territory in the wee hours.

I’m trying to get over it by reading about bats. The Nature Conservancy is unwittingly helping by frequently sending a fundraising aappeal with a photo of bats on it that says, “Who could love this face?” I feel like it’s a message from the universe for me to get over it and have some kind feelings for the poor bats. I even use the bookmarks that come with it. And, I admit, the return address labels.

Oh, I’m also afraid of a tree failling on my house while I’m sleeping, but that’s a story for another day.

Brenda Buchanan:   I’m glad Maureen came out of the closet as a bat weenie, because it gives me courage to admit my fear of mice.  They freak me out, full stop.  When I was in college in Boston, a dorm across the alleyway from mine was gut renovated. The process loosed many, many, many mice (and rats!) into the neighborhood, all seeking new homes. My dorm apparently had a big neon Welcome Mice! sign invisible to humans, because we had a lot of new dormmates that year. These were not the live-and-let-live field mice of my childhood–not a one resembled Stuart Little–they were urban mice (and rats!) and they stole my sleep often that year.

I don’t have to contend with street smart rodents in my suburban neighborhood in southern Maine, but once burned, twice shy, as they say. Our local expert on how to keep unwanted creatures outside where they belong will be making her biennial visit to our abode soon, sealing up any potential entry points. She is one of my heroes.

Matt Cost: FDR once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Well, yeah. But what are the things that we DO fear? There are many, but I will focus on quitting, which is a fear that haunts me year around, not just at Halloween.

As Lance Armstrong says in the classic movie Dodgeball, “Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn’t have anything to regret for the rest of their life. But good luck to you Peter. I’m sure this decision won’t haunt you forever.”

Kenny Rogers said, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em”. And that’s the truth, as long as you realize there are some things you never give up, and you never fold ’em, and you never quit. Regret is not something that goes away.

John Clark: Having recently fallen off a stone wall and mashing my face, Human frailty is ever more on my mind. Granted the days of ‘ten feet tall and bulletproof’ are far behind me, but having to accept that I can’t do something I’ve always taken for granted, on an increasing basis is demoralizing. If me brain starts mushing, it’s all over, alas. I’m also in the DeSantis, Koch, LePage, and the rest of those hellspawns are scary when they’re not being buffoons, corner.

Maggie Robinson: I too am finding politics pretty problematic, and I can’t tell you how many hours my husband and I have spent discussing the depressing state of almost everything except our adorable grandchildren. But I remind myself to look to the natural world for comfort and joy. Fall is such a special time, and it’s never long enough. I recently went into my beautiful garden to plant 75 daffodil bulbs. After planting about 40 of them, I decided to take a break and bask in the sunshine. Well, guess what else wanted to bask along with me? A really, really enormous slithery snake that slipped through the leaves by my favorite chair, right where my feet would have been if I had sat down. I have been told there are no poisonous snakes in Maine, but that did not stop me from screaming. Then I saw a really, really enormous fat yellow spider weaving a web on that same chair, a few ladybugs already caught in it waiting to become dinner. No basking, but another scream. I went back to planting and dug up a really, really long earthworm. You can figure out what I did–when I went fishing, someone else always had to bait my hook while I closed my eyes. I guess the natural world and I are not truly sympatico. No snakes. No spiders. No worms. And no politicians of a certain persuasion, please.

Sandra Neily: Maureen and Kaitlyn hit the fear truth for me already: a pic of Paul LeRage (yes, that’s what I call him, lerage … am soooooo done with bullies), and then the fear of being a woman alone, exploring, when men feel threatening, even if there’s nothing overt.

But the biggest fear I sometimes had was guiding the Penobscot River and first thing we’d hit was a rapid called Exterminator (named for good flipping reasons), knowing that after a brief, placid warm up, I had a crew who’d never paddled much or at all. Folks figured it out a bit later into the trip, but the first rapid was the unforgiving Exterminator. It was a very bad swim.

And then of course the roar of the river often took away crews’ sense of left from right, as when I’d yell … (the pic shows a good yell)  … “All Forward Left,” or “Back Right!” The good news was we were trained on the rough places, trained to work the river as if our entire crew hit the floor and we were left alone up on the raft tube.

I now go yearly to stand next to the river’s rapids and cast flies out into the current. And each time I wade out to my knees to fish or just stand there and feel the tug and hear the rush, I am grateful for whatever the river has to offer, but also grateful for years of being in the thick of it.

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2 Responses to What Scares Us. What Scares You?

  1. Tom Burns says:

    Random violence based on what kind of hat one is wearing, the color of one’s skin, one’s age or demeanor. Walking in public never knowing what is going to set someone off.

  2. Julianne Spreng says:

    When I was a kid flying squirrels lived in the drop ceiling my dad had installed to keep the heat close to us so we wouldn’t freeze to death in the winter. As the sun went down they would come alive. Skittering around inside the ceiling and flying over to the huge tulip tree across from the house. Sometimes we’d see them up close on the bird feeder dad had screwed to the outside wall by a window. They were cute and exciting and their antics were something to laugh about. My sisters and I were proud that we had a colony of nocturnal critters in our home.

    When it was time to go to bed was another story. The ceilings were that old horsehair board. Lightweight and very easily punctured. In the corner of my room there was a spot that had been scraped through from the topside. Just a tiny hole dad had covered with tape. Completely unnoticed during the day. After the lights went out, the skittering would begin. I just knew those cute, funny animals had become huge bloodsucking monster squirrels that would tear the hole open, slip through and tear me to pieces. I never thought about it during the day. This happened almost every night for a long time.

    I agree with you all about the random violence, the increasing vitriol, the unrestrained verbal attacks that are leading to more violence. And why the hell should women have to protect themselves from unwanted attention from men, both known and unknown. Give me a snake or spider or bat any day.

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