For thousands of years, people panicked when the skies darkened in the middle of the day. While this scientific phenomenon is understood now, there is something about impending darkness that causes anxiety across every age-group and demographic. There can be a physical darkness – such as the shadow of the moon passing in front of the sun, a moonless night on an empty road, or an unexpected power outage.
Sometimes the darkness can be almost palpable. A few years ago, I was on a tour of Linville Caverns in North Carolina. We were 2500 feet under Humpback Mountain when the Guide cut the lights. My heart fell in fear, and every hair on my neck, arms, and back stood up as if grasping for a way to sense my surroundings. Without illumination I was practically paralyzed. It brought me back to my childhood when I was afraid to dash down the hallway to my bedroom at night. Darkness causes a physiological, emotional, and mental alteration summed up in my girlhood mind as “the creeps!”
Darkness can also be abstract and take other forms – grief, loss, the unknown. Something has changed or is about to change, and now the path ahead is lightless and frightening. Change takes a person from a familiar environment, lifestyle, or routine and requires a decision to choose a different path. Have you been there? Have you agonized and wrestled with a decision, weighing the various consequences and trying to imagine where the end of a particular road will take you? Eventually, one must move forward and venture down the path they feel is best despite the “creepiness” of the unknown.
Last year I struggled with a major decision knowing it would take a lot of my time, energy, and focus. I didn’t know how I would manage it because my new business as an innkeeper required an equal or greater amount of my attention. In my deliberations, I would take my dog for long walks down the rail trails in northern New Hampshire and Vermont.
It was on one of those walks that I observed a parallel to my predicament. My fluffy comrade, Echo, and I encountered an ominous tunnel. We were alone, and I paused – imagining all the negative things that could happen if I pressed forward. It stood before me – large and imposing, like a giant mouth that threatened to swallow us up in blackness if we dared to continue.
Fortunately, my reason took note of the fact that there were many footprints (and pawprints) that evidently had taken that path quite recently. The doubts in my mind whispered “Yes, and those same prints could mean someone is in there who could harm you.” Then the philosopher in me said, “This is how you feel about your choice. It’s dark. Unknown. Frightening.”
Finally, the Spirit of Faith urged me on. “Draw nearer,” it said. I was still apprehensive. Ice and melting snow created a slippery surface, and I now had a new fear that I’d slip inside, break a bone, and no one would be able to see me to help. Luckily, my NexGrip boots had built-in spikes, so I flipped them out, gripped Echo’s leash tightly, and walked closer. That’s when I had a revelation. As I approached the inky gulf there was a faint glimmer of light.
From a distance the unknown was frightening, but when I finally garnered the courage to go through with it, the choice wasn’t so bad after all. I instantly saw the application to the dark fears I had been facing. I made up my mind. There was no sense worrying and pondering about what could happen or how I could possibly handle all the responsibilities. After counsel and prayer, I was persuaded not to stand still and not to run away, but to press forward. How everything would fall into place would eventually be revealed – just like the growing light at the end of the tunnel.
Another year has passed, and I am glad I made the decision – which was to classically tutor a group of high school students throughout the year. The weekly classes will finish soon, and I am grateful for the friendships, discussions, and growth of these teens. I couldn’t give them 100%, nor could I give The Inn at OxBow Acres 100%. But I did what I could.
And now, another dark, scary tunnel looms immediately before us – Expansion. We are planning to convert the barn into a beautiful event venue and are adding a large suite, so we can offer a pet-friendly space at the inn. If time, money, and resources were abundant, this wouldn’t be a hard decision. But it’s going to take a business loan and require even more of my time, attention, and focus to create a space that will serve others well. With the help and encouragement of my SBA Advisor, I am moving forward – one step at a time, and preparing a package to present to the bank. As we draw closer, I envision the end of the tunnel – friendships, discussions, and memories with people who are celebrating life together (our own family included!)