So today I had a fourteen-hour work day. Thursdays are my favorite work days because I start as soon as I get up in the morning and don’t check back in with the family until I’m finished, no matter when that might be. (My husband does the same thing on Wednesday; we find it’s good for productivity and mental balance if each one of us has a day with no domestic commitments.) This makes Thursdays absolutely WONDERFUL for concentrated work on a big project; it generally takes me at least two hours to get myself restarted when I’m at the final-argument-stage of a book, so three-hour work periods don’t tend to be very useful. Today, all day, I worked on the final FINAL draft of the confessions manuscript, which should go on to Princeton very soon.

The problem with Thursdays is that I go down to my office when it’s light, and nine months out of the year, when I come back out of my office, it looks like THIS outside.

See, I live in the country. There Are No Lights. Here’s what my yard looks like from the porch of our house, with the porch lights ON,

and here’s what my office window looks like when I’m standing on the road,

and here’s what the house looks like when I’m standing down on my office step, wondering how I’m going to get back up there without tripping over maple roots/stones/beagles/the well cover and killing myself.

I have a dinky little flashlight that I try to remember to drop in my bag, but half the time I forget it, and even when I have it, it doesn’t do much to illuminate the woods behind my office, which look like THIS.

(Real picture. No kidding. I just took it tonight. No moon tonight, obviously.)

Generally I come out of my office, laptop in my shoulder bag, and begin to stroll up the hill towards the house. Then, after about five feet, I lose it and start sprinting in an undignified way for the lights, bag banging painfully against my hip. OK, with my brain I know that nothing has really come out of the woods to stalk behind me. The rest of me isn’t so sure. (Dorothy Sayers provides an etymology for this particular terror: panic, fear of Pan, god of the woods; the irrational fear of deep dark woods at night.)

So this Christmas, my oldest son gave me this.

It stays plugged into my office wall. I take it up with me when I go to the house at night. If I swing it around, I can practically see every leaf on every tree in the entire forty acres behind my office.

In fact, when I went into the house tonight, Ben said, “Oh, it’s you. We thought aliens were coming to get us.” So apparently we’ve exchanged one fear for another.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in this somewhere.

Showing 10 comments
  • Melody in IL

    I’m not sure that that’s an IRRATIONAL fear of something coming out of the woods. Wasn’t there a time when something MIGHT have done so? It’s an instinctive memory…or some such. In any case, I have it, too. That’s why I always ask dh to accompany me to the barn at night. He thinks I’m being romantic…

  • Lori

    What a hoot! Those oldest children are really in tune with what we really need. One year my daughter gave me a “Mom Survival Kit” filled with chocolate. This year she gave me coupons to watch the twins for 30 minutes. Love ’em.

    I don’t think you’re being unreasonable. If my dark was as *dark* as yours is, I’d be scared too. And plus, it looks like every horror story you’ve ever seen, with a maniac lurking in the shadows. I tell you that only because I think, between the laptop and the humongous flashlight, you could take said maniac.

  • Trish

    I think those are M. Night Shyamalan moments (something just out of your view). I would have to carry something else for self-defense (a frying pan maybe).

  • A Circle of Quiet

    As sci-fi fans, was the alien arrival a fear, or was it an eagerly hoped for event? It would make such great fodder for a novel (-:

    I have to admit that I would start out at an undignified sprint from the get go — that dark has to house something creepy. Too many mysteries in my reading past to make that path safe for strolling.

    Happy New Year!


  • Christina in Kentucky

    Dear Mrs. Bauer,
    We are certainly excited about your next book. The first has been a tremendous help to us in our homeschooling efforts! I only hope it is completed before we finish the first:)
    Homeschool Mom of four.

  • Janice in NJ

    My mother tells a story of almost bumping into what sounded like a VERY large deer as she traveled from the barn to the house one dark night; now she seldom travels without a light. My father claims to enjoy the peace and quiet of the dark darkness. Even when I walk with someone, there is something that is just too dark about it for me. I don’t mind the dark that I’m walking toward; it’s the dark that’s behind me that seems too hollow and empty to be safe.

    Thumbs up to Christopher for realizing that safety is sometimes a matter of knowing! 🙂

    …and thanks for the chuckle.

  • Amy

    When my husband is out of town overnight, I let the kids sleep in my room. They think it’s so we can have a fun sleepover, but it’s really because I’m too scared to sleep alone. With the lights on all night. And the TV. I’m a dork.

  • Heather in Virginia

    I stand by the “this is not an irrational fear” camp on this issue. I have a fear of looking out of windows at night and seeing a face looking in. Well, not JUST a face, obviously, though that might be even more scary. We had a face level window in the basement door when I was a kid and I think my fear stems from my dad coming in unexpectedly.

    I always liked Sayers’ description although Harriet Vane always handles the panic with more aplomb!

  • Sahamamama

    Growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey left me completely unaware of how DARK it really does get at night in the country. Then I moved to Missouri, and lived out in the middle of a cow pasture (literally — there was a trailer out there with cows all around it). Anyway, I empathize with you about the darkness. One night early on in my Midwestern sojourn, I took a walk out to the back of the field. Then the sun went down. Who knew that it could set so QUICKLY, so COMPLETELY, so, so, so…? I froze. Just couldn’t move. What if something’s up ahead (like the 10 foot tall ground hog)? Can’t go back, what if something’s behind me? What if there’s hole in the ground? What if the ground hog is IN it? What if I step in a freshly deposited cow pie? Yick. Well, as you can see, I prayed and pushed through my fears and made it back to my little shack in the country, heart thumping all the way. After that, I made sure I headed home from wanderings in time to watch the sun set from my back porch.

  • kari jo

    that’s a hilarious mental picture;
    you sprinting up the hill.
    in the pitch dark.
    thinking the green glowing ghost
    (scooby-doo-ish) is close on your heels.

    glad you got the flash light.
    kari jo
    (a friend of tuck & stacy’s and
    a fan of your books, which i read
    to my four children)

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