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Fear of the dark (that’s not a metaphor)

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.