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FEAR: COME TO THE EDGE by Catrin Clark

‘Come to the edge,’ he said.

‘We can’t, we’re afraid!’ they responded.

‘Come to the edge,’ he said.

‘We can’t, we will fall!’ they responded.

‘Come to the edge,’ he said.

And so they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire.

When I was a child I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of the night-time, its ticking and creaking, its indistinct dark masses. I was afraid of the day-time, of whispering girls and their scathing glances, of the scabby-kneed boys who chased me. I was afraid of the adults who towered over me with their cavernous nostrils, their rages and their secrets. I asked my mother, are adults afraid, and she told me yes and I thought I couldn’t bear it, to live my life with this gulf of fear always inside me.

During our research visit to North Wales we visited a playground called The Land that was nothing like the manicured playgrounds that sit in the corner of every park, where bored parents scroll through their phones while their child rocks listlessly on a health-and-safety assessed plastic see-saw. The Land was a piece of reclaimed wasteland with a stream running through it. Graffitied fences cut it off from the outside world, and within its walls the children built dens out of rubbish, and lit fires, and leapt and climbed and ran in a disordered and wild world they had created for themselves. My adult self found it messy; it looked like a rubbish dump and I wanted to tidy it, to tame it. But as I stood there and watched the children play I saw how absorbed they were in this place that was theirs, and I remembered days spent outside and the childhood smell of earth, dirt under my fingernails and my hair tangled as thistles, a time when the world was mine and everything was possible. Because even though I was afraid I went out into the world and made dens and climbed trees and came home at dusk, tired and hungry and with magic in my soul, because in those days that was what all children did.

I watched a tiny boy clambering up a tower of wooden pallets and tentatively approach the edge. Down below was an old mattress. He stared, afraid, at the vast space between him and the ground. He wanted to climb back down the way he had come but he wanted, too, to see what it was like to jump.

I’m still afraid, but I have also been brave. I’ve been a homeless single mother with three children. I’ve run marathons and climbed mountains. I’ve written things I was afraid of people reading and sent them out into the world to be read.

I watched the little boy standing on the edge looking down and I thought, to be afraid is to be alive, as long as you search for what is on the other side. Fear can be wonderful, if you reach out to find out what’s on the other side of it. If you leap.

The little boy leapt. He tumbled through the air and landed on the damp mattress. He stood up, his eyes shining. He had discovered what lies on the other side of fear.


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