Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gaining Perspective in High Spaces

Not long ago, I hiked Lower Table Rock in southern Oregon. To my mind, the path was steep. Walking up was less difficult because the ground rose in front of me, making it easier to see. At the top, we walked the path to the edge of the mesa. I snapped this picture standing near the edge and looking over the valley as well as Upper Table Rock in the distance. I watched eagles gliding over the field below and laughed at the thought that we were standing above the soaring eagles.

Hiking back down was more difficult for me. I kept my head down and focused on the bright turquoise shoes of my daughter hiking down before me (purposefully close to me). I was grateful for the assistance. It calmed me so much that I hiked down the steeper part of the path beside her with my head up. A very different view!

The following week, I found myself ascending Mt. Evans, one of Colorado's Fourteens ~ over 14,000 feet ~ on the world's highest paved road. At one point, this was our view: no horizon to speak of, nothing ahead but fluffy white clouds on which to focus. From what we'd already driven, I knew we were coming to another hairpin turn. My heart was racing and I pulled my right side closer to the center of the vehicle ~ as if that would help!

At the top, we met a fellow traveler on a bicycle and a couple riding a motorcycle. Mountain goats with their lost, bleating kids wandered and nibbled at the sparse grass or relaxed at the side of the road. Yellow-bellied marmots dotted the landscape and chirruped as they chased across the rocks. Our view was vast, rocky and distant. We could truly see for miles and miles. Pike's Peak appeared through the clouds as well as the other FourteensThe view was breath-taking ~ as was being over 14.000 feet in the air! Hence the sign:
As I reflected on these trips, I realized how much perspective I gained on each of them. Although Lower Table Rock seemed an easy jaunt for most of the hikers, it was my perspective making it more difficult. Hiking next to my confident daughter afforded me the opportunity to notice that I felt safer when I limited my view. However, I did not feel better. Once I recognized that I was limiting the view, forcing a narrower perspective, I could lift my head and see the fullness of the wooded landscape I was traversing.

Mt. Evans, on the other hand, was a different sort of trek. We were in a car, driving up and up and up. The same what-if fear gripped me at times. I recognized more quickly that I could breathe deeply and enjoy the beauty of the heights or I could focus on the narrow space where the fear resided. Again, it was a matter of perspective. When I let it flow out in a wider circle, my fear dissipated. I felt the incredible awe of the adventure. I wondered about the First Peoples who traversed this mountain on foot and marveled at the people who created the paved road.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: "We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down." Being close to those cliffs physically, recognizing the ones I carry within, I have a new perspective on how and why I develop those wings. I am grateful for the journeys in such quick succession ~ as well as for those who accompanied me up those heights, and those who accompany me on the internal cliff jumping.

At what cliffs have you stood? How do you face them? How do you feel when you stand there? Has the fear ever overwhelmed you? What do you know of your perspective at those moments? How has your perspective changed over time?

No comments:

Post a Comment