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Way, way too close for comfort

This is, I believe, the place.

When I saw this video (below) on social media, I had an instant visceral reaction. Then I saw the location where the video was take — Twister Falls at Eagle Creek in Oregon — and I thought, “That’s the place! It has to be!”

Back in my early or mid-30s, my siblings and I went on our first siblings-only vacation. We chose the Pacific Northwest as our destination and had a jolly ol’ time traipsing about.

We hiked Mt. St. Helens recovering from a volcanic explosion a decade or so earlier. We gorged on blueberries the size of small grapes. We took a windsurfing class. (I almost died; another story for another day.) And we walked along Twister Falls in Eagle Creek.

It was beautiful. Stunning. Worth the trip. I know that. I remember that, though there’s one particular memory from that place, Twister Falls, that sticks out most clearly to me, for it was one of the more harrowing experiences I’ve ever had, brief as it was.

I was standing on this trail, facing and  talking to my siblings, when a couple coming up behind me decided to pass me — on the OUTSIDE edge of the trail — without announcing themselves. It never occurred to them to say, “Passing on your left,” or “Hey, coming up behind you,” or “Excuse us, we just need to scooch on by…”

I didn’t see them. They were behind me. I didn’t hear them. They weren’t talking. I didn’t know they were behind me and were about to pass me — on the OUTSIDE edge of this rather narrow trail dropping off to a deep, deep gorge below.

Then, right as they were passing me — on the OUTSIDE edge of the trail, no less — I had finished up what I was saying to my siblings and was starting to turn around, my backpack on my back making me bigger and bulkier, my arms flailing around as I was speaking. I nearly knocked one of them over!

Like OVER. Down. Dead.

Now, it didn’t happen. No one fell. I didn’t hit him, though he did have to flinch and move. He lived and presumably went on to live another day. Hopefully, a long and happy life.

But, OMGoodness! My heart! My adrenalin! For years, any time I’d think of them and that moment when I almost knocked him off balance and down, down, down to a near-certain death, my heart would start to race.

The visual memory I had of this moment: of me turning, unaware, not conserving how much space I was taking up, almost bumping him with my backpack or hitting him with my arms. The alarm I felt. Frightening!

riled … then not

Truth be told, I was angry at them, especially the guy in the lead. Legit, I could have knocked him over as I turned, unaware of his presence. I could have killed him. Manslaughter it would have been, for sure, but dead is dead. It may have been an unexpected emotional response (and one I have more power about now), but I felt vulnerable in the face of his decisions. I felt frightened for almost doing something I could never conceive myself of doing: causing someone’s death. I felt vulnerable in the face of his momentary lack of common of common sense and in the awareness that his life, my life, could have forever changed in that moment. I was shaken to my core.

Now, I can see more clearly the support, the guidance and the help Life provides us. It was a moment, yes. It was intense, yes. That guy didn’t, of course, wish to cause his death. It was a mistake, a momentary lapse he made. He was ok. I was ok. Nothing happened. Everyone was safe. Things happen. Not all bad things are bad things. For all I know, that moment with that guy made me walk more carefully on the rest of the trail and maybe helped me avoid some possible pitfall ahead. Maybe that moment made me more considerate about my own “Passing on your left” statements when out bicycling or scootering.

All our experiences add up to make us who we are.

Yet the old story of something — for me, and in this case, the feeling of vulnerability, fear, anger, fright — need not be the story told forever. Stories evolve because we evolve. Perspective changes as we change. I can see more now, about myself, others, the world. I have richly more experiences in life.

, some, I know, being the momentarily careless person and frightening someone else, or being the one not aware of others’ and their position and perspective; and causing harm in some way, shape or form. Other times being someone’s aid or inspiration. 

Experiences mix with other experiences and become even richer. They’re not simply cumulative. They’re exponentially expansive, each forming, informing and transforming what is happening now, what happened before and what may be assumed and expected by the experiencer going forth.

I can remember that moment on Twister Falls, when I turned abruptly, arms flailing as I spoke, my backpack making my body wider. I can remember the pure panic I felt as the guy had to move quickly to avoid me possibly knocking him over. And I can remember it all in rich full color, an intense physical sensation of hormones released and racing through my body; my heart and all systems at full and instant alert.

And I can remember that experience from a then and vulnerable perspective, or from a now and walking-in-my-power perspective.

Rewriting the stories of our lives is not about changing the facts, but about seeing the full picture of what was happening back then, of who we were and how we contributed to a situation, and how we were impacted by it; it’s about having an expanded perspective on our Then Lives from our Now Lives. From our Now Wisdom. And to see, in richer and richer detail, how every thread of our lives, every experience large and (especially) small, makes us, us.

To stand in appreciation for our life now, for a moment, for many moments, for anything in one’s life, includes embracing that all prior moments, stories and experiences–in their full and complete sum total–are exactly the circumstances that lead us to this exact moment of appreciation. Not a thread more, nor a thread less could have done so.

And, so, I rewrite this story of “Way, way too close for comfort” and my story of almost killing someone; perhaps, instead, I will write and tell a story of grace experienced and forgiveness granted for mistakes made; or as a reminder to myself about being attentive, safe and considerate, not just on narrow paths high above rocky gorges below, but maybe about life and people and being, overall.

Stories stuck in time and perspective become heavy to carry, like stones. Stories that evolve as we evolve, that shed light on how we became who we are through the tapestry of life–the innumerable threads of experiences and memories–these become treasures, not stones, Lights, which shine from within.




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