When organic matter, like trees or plants or dirt, fossilizes, what remains is described as “petrified,” which means to turn to stone, but when applied to humans means to become so afraid that one is unable to move. Fear becomes so grand that we become stony, stuck, like a piece of wood whose organic parts were replaced with minerals. The shell of what was there fills instead with something else. Something hard, something frozen. A petrified stem can maintain the original structure down to its microscopic parts. The earth too refuses life to leave easily, erecting its own memorials. And this new crystal structure is more delicate and prone to collapse than what came before: a mold preserves what once was a leaf, iron fills tree rings. So when we become petrified, what is it that our fear does to us?

To become un-petrified is to become unstuck. To become unfrozen, to release ourselves from fear, all we need to do is to move. With this, we refuse our own deadening, we are without fear.

Juliana Roth