24-6-2007 Following the dream – Dealing with fear.
As I was going to be travelling through most of the night I decided to try and sleep for a few hours in the late afternoon and evening as some compensation. I had settled down for an hour or so when my mobile phone rang. It was Mirela the director of the school I teach at in Bucharest. She was in a very emotional state.
“Minna, are you alright?”
“Yes, thanks, just fine! How are you?”
“You’ve got to stop wandering about in the wild. Katy’s been killed!”
“ Who - Katy - John’s wife? How?”
“She was attacked by a bear in the mountains yesterday: You can’t keep on wandering around on your own!”
“But there’s nobody who wants to come with me!”
“You must come back to Bucharest. Look why don’t you come on holiday with me and Maria! We’re going to the seaside for a bit in a couple of weeks!”
I hate to admit that I was probably less than gracious about the offer of substituting my solo mountain adventure with a couple of weeks in a tent on a crowded beach. Poor Mirela, inevitably she felt in some sense responsible for me, the Englishwoman who had travelled out to Bucharest in order to take up a job at her school. She is a very nice and sincere woman, an excellent teacher and the offer was kind. John, an American, was a dear colleague of mine at school and Katy the sort of girl that everyone wants to sit next to. For my part, I felt doubly threatened. My worst fears had been visited on a close and dear friend and yet, on the other hand, with every breath of my being I wanted to continue with my journey across this country that meant so much to me. Giving up on my plans would be to give into fear which from then on would constrict every other decision I took. It would be to accept that realizing dreams was something only others might aspire to. I would have to do what was sensible and practical and goodness knows what that is in this mad world. I know too many people who have chosen the wrong path on the basis that it was the most sensible course to take.
I’m afraid that my first reaction once I’d put the phone down was to rush out and be sick in the hedge. I often feel guilty and sad about leaving that mess behind in return for the old lady’s kindness. Next I had some decisions to make. Luckily the next day or so was destined to be a pretty standard tourist experience, travelling on the railway between Oravita and Anina and making my way up towards Semenic. Was I going to go back to Bucharest for Katy’s memorial service? My immediate instinct was yes. John and Katy were good friends and I couldn’t just plough on regardless. Anyway, I felt viscerally involved in what had happened to Katy both as a friend and also because I so often venture into bear territory. Generally it is believed that bears are no real danger to walkers unless they are made to feel threatened by something. Normally a bear’s instinct if they meet a human is to run away. I needed to know why Katy had been attacked by this bear. What, if anything, might have saved her? What had we wanders in the wild to learn from this tragedy? All of this was practical information that I had to get my hands on.
As it happened I was due back in Bucharest fairly shortly in order to fly out to my middle child’s graduation. After that I was going to return in order to meet up with my old friend, Mihnea, who had agreed to accompany me across the Fagaraş range of mountains. Once again providence had arranged that for a chunk of this summer I wasn’t going to be out there on my own. Having completed Fagaraş I could then make a decision about whether, in the light of events, I had the courage to continue with this solo expedition.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that evening and set out early for the bus stop. All the way up through the village there was a cacophony of dogs, of which several were loose on the road. I was glad of my stout stick.
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