notes from the road

What would Fox say?

One of the last times Ryan and I went slacklining, we met a character that has had a profund effect on my actions. His name was Fox. He is a heavy set lad around my age with shoulder length black dread locks and tatoos. For the last couple of months he has been traveling around America in a van with his friend Zoe. They don’t have much in the way of money and just get offered food from people. He’s also done a fair bit of hitch hiking and I asked him wheather he was ever worried about having some bad experiences. He said that if bad things happen, then they happen – there’s no use fearing them. We then began talking about slacklining tricks, and he mentioned the same thing again – about how fear is not an excuse for not trying a trick. And he then demonstrated it by doing a backflip on the ground. He’d never done one by himself before, just with other people spotting him. The condition was though, that if he did a backflip, I had to do a front flip. So I lined up and just before I jumped in the air he yelled ‘you gooooot it’ in his American accent. And I did. So we both did it a couple more times, and each time just as I was about to leave the ground he yelled the same thing again.

We exchanged numbers and later when I was in San Fransisco I called him to see if he was in the district, but he had already moved on to Oregan. But that is not the last time I connected with Fox.

Ryan, Devika, Claire and I went camping at the Redwoods about five hours north of San Fran in a a very picturesque place. There were amazingly tall and wide trees that created a canopy over Ryan’s families little cabins. And there was also a river. This river meandered down past some cliffs, which according to Ryan, are great for jumping off. At the base of the cliff is a ledge that rises at a diagonal up to around forty feet (13 m) and  being adventurous we all climbed up to the top. Ryan jumped first and landed in the river without a problem. I was next and was very scared. I knew I could do it, but was struggling to through myself over the edge. But thanks to Claire I was given the impetus I needed. She asked me how I was feeling, and I knew that if I had a response, and then jumped, then I would look cool. I responded ‘I’m terrified’ and leaped off the edge. That was the plan anyway, but instead I willed myself to lean forward but my feet didn’t exactly follow willingly, so when I landed in the water I was leaning a little too far forward and slapped myself mildly.

I felt some what triumphant at jumping off this ledge but that feeling quickly diminished as I remembered that this was actually only the baby ledge. Higher up at the top of the cliff is a 70 foot (23m) drop, one that Ryan had been talking up for some time. As I lay on the bank contemplating it all I felt trapped. I was very scared at the 40 foot drop, so 70 foot must be terrifying, and in order to do the 70 foot one, I would have to do the 40 foot again to perfect my fall and I just didn’t want to do it. But what I didn’t want more was to drink the cocktail of failure and regret.  I felt like I was trapped.

But  just like the squirel in the White Stripes song, I broke it down into sizable chunks. I swam through the cold water to the cliff (this was actually the first thing I dreaded) and I climbed to the top of the 40 foot ledge. And looking out towards my mates sitting on the bank I found my impetus to jump. The first time I did it, I swore very badly, so I thought I should rectify it. Just as I leapt off I yelled ‘LOVE’ and landed beautifully in the water nice and vertically, brushing the sandy bottom with my feet ever so slightly.

With that out of the way Ryan and I trekked to the top of the cliff, and upon looking over the edge for the first time I knew that I wasn’t going to do it. In fact my first words were ‘there’s no flippen way’. As Ryan was preparing though I crept forward and perched near the edge and just focussed on the water and how much of it was there to catch me. I then tried to draw comparisons between it and a large pillow – which was actually easy enough to do. Then Ryan after a few deep breaths leapt off and  it was just me. I’ve alwasy wanted to try bungee jumping to see if I could really get mind over matter and force myself to do something that I really did’nt want to do. What I didn’t think about was just how scary and uncomfortable it would be. I then started to think about what would happen if I just passed out with fear on the way down – I realised that this was a silly thought and that I just had to do it as my thoughts were holding me back. And it was here that I felt the most fear. It was the transition from knowing that I would do it at sometime, to knowing that the time to do it was now. And I really don’t look back fondly on this moment. I needed a catalyst, some cause to act. And I found it.

“Hey Ryan”

“Yeah”

“Wha.. What would Fox say?”

“You goooot it!”

And I jumped, landed with a splash and felt like a King.

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