Stepping cautiously down cracked concrete steps dusted with cobwebs, mouse droppings and rich North Dakota soil, I was the first to enter the underground cellar at my father-in-law's abandoned family farmstead.
Looking into the blackness of a place I had never been before was intimidating. I am no farm girl and had no idea what my fly into my face as I descended. Once inside the room my eyes began to adjust to the dimness and I peered into the corners and around the rugged wooden door.
"It's safe," I called back up the stairs to my children who had wondered if there would be snakes, bats or worse, a ghost, hiding down there.
Despite the 90 degree heat aboveground, the interior of the cellar was cooler as if air-conditioned by some unseen window unit. The floor had warped over time and was uneven but to my surprise there was very little evidence of animal intrusion. This fortified room would certainly have kept produce fresh and provided a safe hideout during tornadic summer storms sweeping across the golden prairie.
Like most frightening unknown experiences, once I had entered the room, surveyed it and found it safe, I realized that there had been nothing to fear at all. Peering into that deep darkness from above allowed my imagination to conjure up all sorts of dangers and reasons not to have ventured below ground alone.
But turning around to look back from where I had come, I was glad I took those perilous steps into the depths of uncertainty. Here is where my husband's Grandparents kept treasured food, where hands of his ancestors dug deeply into the earth to build an essential shelter and storehouse for their small new family alone on the plains. By just being there my respect for the hard-toiling homesteaders increased immensely. They had no idea how things would turn out from year to year, season to season, even day to day.
The same goes for my creative life, my personal life, my spiritual life. So often I allow myself to clam up, to become stuck in the mud of doing nothing because I am unsure of how things might go, how others may respond to me and how I may have to change by going deeper. I, too, must build a shelter and storehouse for my personal stories, my life experiences and my right to simply be me. Without taking the steps, often the scariest steps, I cannot turn back and see how wonderful it was to have gone in, moved through the fear and stepped into the unexplored space of real, true living.