I grew up in a large, old Victorian house that my mother and her husband worked on renovating over the years. It was cold both in its temperature and its lack of heart. For many reasons, it was not a safe place. I was a latchkey kid from very early in life and spent most afternoons after school there by myself. The wind would screech through the attic and every room was irreparably dark. The spaces in between were terrible silence, as if the structure itself were waiting to devour me. Sunset was the worst because the outdoors was no longer an option to escape to. I eventually would stand in the front doorway for hours, with one foot inside and one foot

San Francisco dancer Anica Bottom

outside so that I could bolt in either direction, away from the bad thing that was coming. This made me morph from fearful to hyper-adrenalized. I was always in a state of preparedness and fight. When I finally saw the headlights of a car arriving home, I was at least free from unknown danger.

From this and other lessons, I learned to make my way in solitude and have developed a perspective of advanced self-reliance. I became a one-man army before my age was in the double-digits. That was what I did with the materials in front of me. I learned to count on only myself, but considered that as the plan for just the time being, that in the future, I would live in a safe place.

Today, I value being alone fiercely. If I’m with people for too long I start to feel like my clothes are too tight. Being on a road-trip with my dog feels so familiar and basic to me. And yet at the same time, I still can’t shake that adrenaline of danger and that I’m going to be swallowed up by and disappear into a place. I’m trying to make sense of the contradiction in both feeling comfortable by myself and the pain that is central to it. I’m not sure it’s a rip that will heal.

My dog is so happy to have my full attention and he is insanely fun to be in the wilderness with. He’s not scared of much and his first experience with sand and salt-water was pure comedy and primal joy. There’s a part of me that wants another human being to see and experience all of this with me. But I think that longing comes more from the unbridgeable chasm between all human beings and knowing that no one can ever truly be inside our skin and can never truly know us. Cobra helps ground me because all that he can know is the present moment. He’s not caught up in the filing and describing of and the memory of this gorgeous place; he’s just making skids in the sand.

1 Comment

  1. This is a beautiful tribute to your childhood and to the inner child that still lives and breathes behind that awesome structure of your adulthood. We never give up our ‘child’…but we do learn ways to augment our safety….you have Cobra and that is a great sign of ability to anticipate your greatest need! Instinctual safety!

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