Thistle in the creek

Thistle only likes KNEE deep water.

Over the weekend Thistle and I headed out for our usual hike. It was a rainy Saturday, but dogs don’t much care about a little wet and neither do I (so long as it’s just a little!). There was only one other car in the parking area and it belonged to a family with two dogs. They didn’t know the trails and I did, so we headed out together for an impromptu hiking party.

Poking around in the woods with kids and dogs is always entertaining. They see things adults miss and they’re much more willing to stop and investigate. Which made hiking a trail I’d been on over and over again a whole new experience.

At one point we stopped to check out a spot where the creek runs down a sort of rock slide. The older of the two girls threw sticks in the water for Reba—one of the dogs. Which meant Reba was faced with a quandary. She really wanted that stick, but she’s not a fan of water. She’d wade in ankle deep and stretch her neck to reach the stick, snatching it and running back to land.

Most of us had moved on down the trail when the eldest daughter came running to join us with Reba by her side. “Reba faced her fears!” the girl crowed. “She went all the way in the water!” Then the girl added, “Well, by accident.”

Reba’s desire to retrieve that stick won out over her desire to avoid the water. And she went swimming.

Which got me thinking that “by accident” is a pretty great way to face our fears. Sure, it’s wonderful when we can set our minds to something, persist, and overcome. But what about the time I meant to avoid driving over the Cooper River Bridge into Charleston, SC, took a wrong turn, and found myself ON the bridge? I had no choice but to face that fear and I was all the better for it.

Maybe the trick is to find the desire that’s stronger than the fear. For Reba it was a stick. For me it was she-crab soup. And when we focus on that desire–that longing–to the exclusion of whatever scares us maybe then we can overcome our fears.

Even if it seems to happen by accident.