Posts Tagged With: fear of heights

Pay Attention to the Signs: or My Grand Grand Adventure

Grand doesn't begin to describe it.

Grand doesn’t begin to describe it.

It’s Gratituesday! I found out that you CAN go home again, after a fashion, and I’m thankful for that.

At thirteen years old I experienced the grandeur that is Grand Canyon. At the time I had two less siblings than I do now. So Mom and Dad only had five of us to keep track of. It’s a good thing back then that my Momfear genes hadn’t kicked in gear yet or I’d have been a total wreck.

We visited the North Rim, the less traveled and higher side. Ponderosa Pines line the roads all the way in to the edge. I love, love, loved my experiences there. Sunrise and sunset at the canyon invites heavenly choirs and every other supernal hyperbole one can imagine.

And then I never went back.

Why? Fear of heights kicked in for one thing. And living on the other side of the country presented obstacles for a while. But for the past eighteen years, living a mere three or four-hour drive away, I had no good excuse. Except I didn’t think I could survive having my children standing on a precipice with a mile drop off. Nope. I’m pretty sure I’d have died of a heart attack or anxiety attack or both.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

Dad and Mom, spring chickens on an adventure.

During Dad and Mom’s visit here in November they decided they wanted to take me to the Grand Canyon. “Of course!” I said. “What am I thinking? I must be nuts!” I thought to myself. I can’t say no to my parents. (Oddly, it wasn’t a problem when I was a kid.)

I found it a bit ironic that the first time I visited the Grand Canyon and the only other time I visited a few decades later involved my parents taking me there. I am a grownup, after all.

I didn’t feel so very grownup next to the edge of that massive, gaping fissure in the earth. Even with fences and railings my legs turned to jelly and my stomach did this rollercoaster thingy. That’s a perfectly legitimate guttural response to danger.

Do you see this sign?

Important sign.

Important sign.

Here, look closer!

Important sign.

Very Important sign.

Yes. This sign. It’s in multiple languages! For good reason! This is an important sign. (Oddly it’s only about twelve inches wide and sits low to the ground. You’d think it’d be the size of a billboard with flashing lights at eye level. Government operating at it’s best there, folks.)

And yet millions of visitors go hang out on the edge every single year. Why? Because this place defies AMAZING! And logic seems to vacate brains in the face of such wonders.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

White-knuckling it even with a fence and railing to keep me safe.

A couple of people there had brought their dogs on a leash, and the dogs, bless their little palpitating hearts, did not want to go anywhere near the edge of the canyon. Smart animals!

One of my coping mechanisms of dealing with the terror I felt involved noticing the people around me. I can’t tell you how many different languages I heard spoken. And this wasn’t even during tourist season. We’re talking a Monday in November! And still the place teamed with humans from all over the planet. This made me feel really silly for not taking advantage of this stunning world wonder in my backyard. People fly from Tibet and Russia and Argentina and literally everywhere across the globe to my little desert state to visit this hole in the ground.

Layers and colors galore.

Layers and colors galore.

It’s a bit more than a hole. It’s epic. It’s Grand. It’s stunning.

The Grand Canyon defies description. I know people have tried. I’ve read some of the attempts. The place boggles my brain. How did something like this come to be? Was it really some gradual etching away by a tiny river? I have a hard time believing that. Seems like some massive flood of an interior sea had to have carved out such intensity. Or perhaps a cataclysmic earthquake pulling and pushing from the very center of the earth birthed such a wonder and then, rain and wind and erosion worked its slow magic on the fissure.

Crayola has nothing on the color spectrum that Grand Canyon provides. Every hue of red, orange, tan, green, gray, brown, gold, black, white and yes, even blue and purple began its life there. I could spend a week or more in that place and not get saturated with all it offers in color, sight, sound and smell.

Look close and you can see the virga.

Look close and you can see the virga.

While we were there a thin veil of clouds hovered at eye level between the south side, where we were, and the north side. The cloud released raindrops that evaporated before falling very far. Meteorologists call that virga, I call it art. An hour later the temperatures had dropped enough that the virga turned to tiny pellets of snow dusting the heads of visitors while the sun shone bright through the thin clouds. It felt like a moment of magic.

That's MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

That’s MSH in the bright orange sweatshirt on the edge, no railing whatsoever.

Then, breaking the spell, MSH wandered out past the danger sign on to a ledge with a few other foolish souls. I told him I’d kill him if he fell. He had previously been saying how jealous he was of the birds who could fly out over the edge, swooping around, riding the columns of air. So I was more than your average nervous at this point. I couldn’t breathe while he stood out there, no fence to stop him or others from oopsing off the edge.

Getting me a bit sidetracked, Dad took up a conversation with a small group who spoke something Spanish sounding. Nope, he doesn’t speak Spanish, but they managed to communicate nonetheless. One of them pointed to herself and said, “Machu Pichu.” We understood that to mean she’s from Peru! Dad also overheard someone talking in a Russian dialect and yes, he does know a little Russian, so he chatted briefly with them. Boy were they surprised that an American could do that!

Finally after what felt like hours, MSH wandered back from the edge of death-by-falling-four-thousand-feet and I could start breathing again. He joked that it wasn’t the fall that kills you, but the landing that does you in. Not funny in the least.

Elk are big animals.

Elk are big animals.

We almost literally ran into a herd of elk. I, of course, jumped out of the car and ran across the road to take a closer picture. Those critters stand really, really tall, and foolish me stood only ten feet away. I’m sure they had a conversation among themselves that involved the words, stupid, human, squash and extinct. But I don’t speak Elk so I didn’t worry too much. I did get some great photos of these magnificent creatures.

In my younger years a part of me wanted to hike the canyon to give me a different perspective. I had set what seemed like a reasonable goal date, which has sadly come and gone. Part of me knew I was crazy and being unrealistic. Part of me still wants the experience. Visiting there renewed that desire.

I plan on going back again soon and staying longer, exploring more. Wouldn’t a Colorado River trip give The Canyon a whole different feel? Sounds fun to me. No potential falls involved.

Thank you Dad and Mom for helping me experience the Grand Canyon, both times. I loved sharing something so spectacular with two of my favorite people!

 

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“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.” ~ John Wesley Powell

 

 

Categories: Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Who Me? Afraid of the Dark?

Another Friday Letter to my Kids

 

Dear J, J, L and L,

You all know I’m a bit afraid of the dark. And tight spaces. And heights.

You also ought to know that wasn’t always the case.

I’m the one who introduced your Dad to rock-climbing and let him haul you kids around on ropes and figure eights yelling, “on belay!” in your webbing knotted seat harnesses.

Now I Shake My Head at myself for letting such stuff happen. What a strange mother you had back then. I didn’t become afraid of heights until a hysterectomy happened. Massive hormone changes, no more testosterone, no more risky behavior from me. (Part of why we never visited the Grand Canyon, only a five-hour drive from here. Sorry, just couldn’t risk it.)

The tight spaces and dark neurosis I earned through childhood trauma.

The first house I ever lived in had a cellar. Basically a small cement encased room with a steep staircase and one dusty swinging light bulb with a tenuous barely reachable string hanging from it.

Not quite an actual photo of my childhood cellar stairs.

Not quite an actual photo of my childhood cellar stairs.

In order to have light on to find a quart of peaches or a pint of green beans I had to walk down into the darkness, reach up and find the string somewhere above me and pull hard to get it to turn on. Poorly lit at best, distinguishing between peaches, cherries, raspberries, beans, beets and jellies was a crapshoot.

I’d grab a couple of jars as fast as I could, before the infamous creature of the dark grabbed me and pulled me back in underneath the shelves forever. Then I’d run to the stairs. With one foot on the bottom step, an arm reaching for the string to turn the light off, and another foot ready to launch, I pulled the string then ran as hard and as fast as I could manage.

It’s a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack before the scary thing that loves the darkness grabbed me.

Then there was the second house we moved to. Sure it had another bedroom, but a vastly different kind of storage area.

My crawl space was darker and not so luxurious as this one.

My crawl space was darker and not so luxurious as this one.

Do any of you remember the crawl space under Grandpa and Grandma M’s house? It looked like any ordinary door to another room in the basement, but on opening the door one saw that it quickly squeezed down into a very small space, literally only high enough to crawl around in. The heater for the house was in that area. So were the jars of bottled fruit and veggies Mom had squirreled away from the previous summer, along with bunch of small storage items.

Grandpa M had a “path” of plywood that reached all across the length of the house and various items on either side of the path. He had a mental map, and probably a physical one, of what was where along that stretch of precious storage space. (Seven kids, three bedrooms, remember?)

Sure, there was a pull string light bulb a few steps into the dark space and a drop light somewhere halfway back, but that was all.

Felt like I got nominated more often than not to be the one to shimmy on my stomach to get some needed item from under there. Sure I got directions, “it’s probably on the right side three-fourths of the way back.” Aside from the very real possibility of snakes, mice and spiders, under there, I was sure I would die by being crushed from the house above me. Or worse yet, I knew the boogeyman was going to reach over from the rest of the unlit dark recesses and carry me off never to see sunlight or my family again.

Obviously, I survived and lived to marry and have children. But the scars remain. Dark spaces and tiny places all but suffocate and terrify me to this day.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t force any of you to go through such trauma. No cellars, no crawl spaces, no attics. Lucky you.

There was, however, that one time that still makes me chuckle and probably makes Little J still nearly jump out of her skin.

What potential this view affords.

What potential this view affords.

Back in Oklahoma, Little J liked to hang her leg over the side of the bed and let it swing as she read. Relaxing, chilling, totally into the book.

Big J spent a good hour or two hiding under little J’s bed while she was reading, probably a mystery, I forget now. (Maybe one of you can fill me in on details.) I’d never heard of a prank requiring so much patience. He may have even fallen asleep under the bed he waited so long.

And then, with no warning a hand reaches out and grabs her foot while simultaneously roaring a bone-chilling sound of doom.

It’s a wonder big J lived to tell the tale.

Poor little J. Do you still peek under your bed before getting in at night or before getting out in the morning? I hope you’ve moved beyond that. If you need therapy you should send the bill to your big brother.

At least it only happened once. But I suppose once, is all it takes, if it’s done right, to cement a phobia solidly in place.

Life is full of fears and surprises. I hope most of yours are good surprises and that all of your fears are unfounded and needless. (No I didn’t say needles, little L.)

I sure do love you all.

 

Neurotically yours,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

“Lucy: Do you think you have Pantophobia, Charlie Brown?

Charlie: I don’t know, what is pantophobia?

Lucy: The fear of Everything.

Charlie: THAT’S IT!!!” ~ Charles M Schulz

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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