Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Road Babe Dispatch From Smith Rock

After reading about the dark depths of Lyn’s fears in his book, I felt compelled to write about my own and when I was forced to confront them. While he conquered the waters of British Columbia, I attempted to overcome the “diving board” at Smith Rock, Oregon. I’m no scaredy-cat and (as Lyn so astutely pointed out) innocence in the sense of fearlessness can work for you. Travel writer Laurie Gough once told me, "If you don’t think bad things will happen to you, they won’t.” This is just the kind of naïveté that has gotten me happily where I am today.

However, I would argue with Lyn, because innocence is a paradox. The less we know, or fear in this case, the more space the mind has to play. The playground isn’t always full of sunshine, either. In my case, I’m a die-hard hiker and camper, as long as my feet are on the ground and the dirt is covering some enormous (and therefore stable) topographical feature.

My brother and I rolled out in his VW bus (dubbed Gus) and cruised around hunting adventure and locally-brewed dark beer. Chuck was stoked to get to the climber's mecca Smith Rock, because he deeply enjoys letting his toes dangle immense distances from the ground. He decided that today was the day for me to get over my silly issue with heights. Right.

After a volley of less than cordial words, my brother conceded. I’d hike up Monkey Face solo and he’d take photos from the bottom to give scale. “Follow the trail around the back,” he said, “and I’ll see you up there.” He pointed to an extension of rock, hanging over hundreds of feet of air, aimed right at the monkey’s mouth. “What’s that?” I asked, glancing up nervously at the towering head. “The diving board.”

A short hike through juniper bushes dotted with withered indigo berries landed me at the aforementioned and recklessly-placed rock. Close up, the giant stone looked less simian and more demonic. I saw Chuck at the bottom waving me onto the diving board. From this vantage point, it was clear why it was so named. Stepping on it was walking the plank with certain death at the end.

As my right foot graced the narrow stone beam, my legs began to shake like a heroin addict trying to kick the stuff. Next came my left, wobblier than the first. My body waved over the empty space and vertigo set in. Below me, Chuck pushed the air over his head, signaling me to get out there. One more step and I jumped back, bear hugging the closest tree. Needless to say, my brother was less than pleased. He soon walked out on the terrifying precipice as if it were a balancing beam in a school yard. Little did he know, it actually was the playground of my innocent mind.

Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.

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