When I think of my Dad, I think of him outside. One of the things I love most about him is how he’s full of knowledge about the natural world.
It’s not book knowledge, either. It’s the kind of knowledge that only comes after years of spending your days outside, running barefoot through grass, climbing trees and rocks, swimming in streams, wandering through woods.
Dad shared a lot of that knowledge with me. He taught me how to tell the difference between white and red oak trees. He explained all the ways you can tell a poisonous snake apart from a harmless one (and how to identify a number of each). He demonstrated how bats use echolocation to jet around by throwing rocks in the air and letting me see how the bats would swoop toward the rock to investigate.
And he told me about the rabbits. My Dad explained that when you startle a rabbit, he’ll bolt from his hiding place and take off running. It looks like he’s running away, but eventually, that rabbit will run in a circle right back to where he started. The rabbit does this because he’s returning to the last place he felt safe.
The memory of my Dad telling me about the rabbits kept swimming back to me over the last few months. I thought about it so often I started questioning whether or not I had made it up entirely.
But one night the realization of why I kept picturing running rabbits hit me right in the face: I’ve been the frightened rabbit for a long, long time.
I spent a lot of time and energy running myself (and the people around me) in circles. I was scared and didn’t understand what do to about everything I found to feel afraid of.
I got spooked and took off looking for — what? I didn’t even know. So I ran those circles, endless and without resolution, always starting back over where I took off from.
Plenty of people go through life like that — like me, like that frightened rabbit. You get spooked and you start running. You run through the same routine day after day. You make no progress, even though you produce so much energy to keep running back to the last place you felt safe. Continue reading