FOREBODING: a strong inner feeling or notion of a future misfortune, evil, etc.


There’s just something spooky about that place.”

How many times have you said that or thought it?   It’s a common expression of anticipatory fear, stimulated by a setting, a smell, a sound, or a memory.   It tells you deep, down inside that there is something almost evil at play, and the hairs on your neck stand up to verify your thoughts.

I have a thing about abandoned factories in an unlighted, urban setting.   There have been times when we have taken a wrong turn and ended up in such a place.  It is, for all intents and purposes, foreboding.  It wreaks of something that is going to happen, and it’s not a positive thing.  My heart starts to pump harder.  My hands begin to shake.   And I panic in trying to get out of there.

I remember once driving through a city in the Carolinas that had been devastated by a massive flood.  More than half of the city had been abandoned.  As we drove around we entered a portion of the city that had been a very nice, up-scale,  suburban community prior to the flood.  But now all the houses were empty, products of the deadly waters that had overtaken them.  Some of the houses had huge “X”s painted on the front of them, signaling to rescue people that they had been searched and were, indeed, empty.

Others, however, had letters spray-painted on them signalling that an animal or human body had been removed from them.   There were no streetlights working, and it was becoming dusk.  On  streets where children had played just weeks ago, and where expensive cars should be returning home from a long day of work in the neighboring city, now we were the only ones, driving through   slowly  and feeling creepier and creepier as the sky darkened.   There was a foreboding feeling that said to us, “Let’s get out of here before it’s really dark.”   We did.

Foreboding is a 14th century Middle English word that indicates an “omen” or “shadow of that which is to come.”   The “fore” portion of the word means that it takes place prior to an event.  To “bode” is to happen.  thus, a foreboding is a warning or sense that something is going to happen.  It usually means something evil, or at least tragic.

One of my favorite little books is I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven.  It tells the story of a culture that is disappearing in British Columbia.   One of the native beliefs in the story is that when an owl calls in the night it is a foreboding sign that a death will occur.  Over the centuries there have been other such references in literature, sometimes a raven, an owl, or the howling of a wolf.  In current society, there is a belief that a cat or dog can sense a death coming, and will cuddle on the bed of a sick patient…a foreboding sign of imminence.

Much of that which is foreboding is emotional fantasy.  Some is based upon recent history.  Some is in response to ancient folklore.   But when economists read the signs and predict that the economy will fail, it is worth noting.   When a student senses a failure coming in a difficult course it calls for action.  When a little child shows signs of cruelty or flagrant misbehavior, it, too,  is foreboding.

This posting is a little creepy.  Go outside and soak up some sunshine.


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