(Had I ever been up a mountain? Well, no, unless you count sitting in my parents' car on the Mount Washington Auto Road.)
Youth is a wonderful thing.
It was about thirty years ago, in my college days, when I heard about the group trip to climb Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. I jumped aboard the bus and set off for adventure.
The early part of the hike seemed pretty tame -- a reasonable ascent, not too steep. I was climbing with one or two others, clutching my paper-bagged lunch. (Looking back at this day, my lack of a backpack, bottled water, bug spray and other necessities was a clear indication I didn't know what the hell I was doing and should have stayed in my dorm room. By nightfall, I wished I had.)
The good news for this newbie hiker was that I was carrying much less weight in those days. The bad news was that I was about as out of shape as I am today.
So it wasn't too long before my trail partners raced ahead (after assuring me my discarded orange peels were biodegradable), and I was left to trudge my way up alone. This should have worried me more than it did. Somehow I thought it would be easy to follow their trail.
By now, there was no one in view or earshot. I plodded on.
I found myself clambering up large rocks, seeking increasingly tricky handholds and footholds. Let me mention I was wearing regular gym sneakers with poor traction, since at the time I had never heard of any other kind.
Finally came the moment when I was clinging to the mountainside, sneakered feet dug in desperately, as I realized the following: To continue, I was going to have to make a huge, highly risky leap upward and hope to grasp my next safe haven. My only alternative was to let myself slide downward, likely into a bumpy fall down the rock face that would break my legs or worse.
One or the other.
No one to ask, no one to help.
I looked up, looked down, and made my decision. I don't know if I prayed, or left it open to the universe, or if my mind blanked out completely.
Next thing I knew, I had reached that next higher place of safety. From there, I was able to pick my way up to the summit, where I looked out at the vista, snapped a few pictures, then hastily began making my way down because I was the only one up there and I needed to make sure my bus hadn't left New Hampshire without me.
The route down was uneventful, although it turned out I had come down to the highway on the other side of the mountain from the bus, and the driver and passengers had to wait an embarrassingly long time for me. Thankfully, they were focusing more on the fact that I wasn't dead.
All these years later, that big leap continues to fascinate me. I did it then -- why don't I do it now? I think about the writing I keep saying I want to do, yet don't.
Why don't I leap?
What leaps have you made in your life? What leaps are you still waiting to make?
What will be the moment that makes us leap?
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