Standing on the edge of any unrestrained height over gives me a shaky, gut-churning feeling. It’s not so much the height that bothers me (I love roller coasters); it’s the fear of falling. My legs freeze up, and I think, go back to safety!
My pesky fear of falling has prevented me from experiencing some amazing hikes: I only made it halfway up Camelback Mountain in Arizona and watched in embarrassment as a little girl in flip flops casually descended the mountain. During a European backpacking trip, I spent the day shopping and gelato-eating in Florence instead of day-tripping with friends to Italy’s famed cliff-side town, Cinque Terra. But it’s getting better…
Over the last year, I’ve watched Ben walk up to many a cliff edge like he’s approaching an old friend. He did this on Sunday while we were hiking the Cliff Trail at Clark Reservation in Jamesville near Syracuse (read about an earlier winter stroll, here). I stayed back with the dogs (another Ringo and Rufus adventure) while he looked down at the deep, murky Glacier Lake about 200 feet below and up at the cloudless sky. He always stands in silence while I look on with a mix of envy, what am I missing?, and relief, at least I’m safe. The problem with the Cliff Trail is that there is a risk of falling every few feet, thanks to the natural crevices that pepper the cedar-lined, limestone rim. The dogs don’t mind, agilely hopping over them; but I do.
Ever the supportive companion, Ben has created a little game when we visit Clark Reservation. We’ll call it “feel the fear and do it anyway.” He finds a crevice just wide enough that it forces me to jump, and deep enough that there’s a slight risk of bodily harm. We’re talking fall from the monkey bars, not imminent death. The first time we visited Clark Reservation last spring, Ben suggested I try a little jump. I approached the ledge and looked down into the dark vertical cave, feeling the cool air on my face. Then I stared ahead at the other side of the fissure but I just couldn’t jump: My thighs felt like cinder blocks, my feet were magnetized to the ground, and my mind was paralyzed into inaction. I wasn’t ready.
This past Sunday, when Ben and I approached a menacing crevice, I definitely experienced the weird leg sensations and don’t do it thoughts. But for some reason the thought of being a kid popped into my mind – and I made the leap. Ben’s 9-year old niece, Julia, and 6-year old nephew, Nick, are always climbing high trees in their grandma’s backyard. I thought about how they love visiting Clark Reservation, bounding over the limestone cracks with ease and ignoring the huge drop-off lurking nearby. If they have a fear of falling, they just ignore it as they make their little leaps of faith.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m currently exploring the path of entrepreneurship as a freelance writer. I’ve already felt the ground-grabbing fear; but I’ve been channeling my inner adventurous child and making small leaps forward each day. Ben is a great trail companion as he has started three businesses. He reminds me to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Maybe someday I’ll be able to fearlessly join him out on a cliff’s precarious edge, being at peace with the risk, but for now I’m just focused on getting past the relatively minor cracks in my path.
Clark Reservation IS Open! Hopefully For Good…
Has our governor finally gotten the message that closing 55+ NY State Parks and Historic Sites doesn’t make sense? That’s the latest news. An earlier Trailing Thought focused on the possibility that Clark Reservation might close; read it and weep (that’s what I felt like doing at the time).
One Small Step For the Fearless, One Giant Leap for the Risk-Averse.
Where I Was