I brush the hair from my mouth and eyes, pull hands up into sweatshirt sleeves, and lean into the wind as we trudge up the path. We gather under the pavilion to struggle into harnesses, clip heavy ropes to anchor loops, tighten helmets. I feel much less brave than I did when I signed up for this little Nebraska adventure. It was just a momentary lapse in judgment. I’ve never dreamed of doing this. Not really.
We dodge piles of deer doo in the field as we make our way to the platform. The platform that towers to the heavens—at least 12 times my height. And there’s only one way up.
What on earth do I think I’m doing? I should turn back now. I should be chatting with friends in front of the fireplace. Or taking a nap. Or sipping some hot cocoa. Or seeing something deep. I’m too old for this.
Laura and I, we stand in front of the cargo net wall as they tie us to lines, and we climb this Jacob’s ladder hand over hand, step by step, as the cloud of witnesses cheers us on.
It’s so high, and I don’t know if I have the strength. I rock on the ropey rungs, sway, but press on.
Dear God, don’t let me fall. I mean, I know the ropes will hold, but still…
My fingers reach the platform floor, but I don’t know how I can haul myself up.
I can’t do it.
“Use the staples now,” he says.
I grab at giant iron loops. They seem sturdy in the post. I tug and scramble and finally my whole self reaches the top, and every muscle quivers.
But I’m not done. I need to go up yet another level, through the center of a net sleeve. So again I do the pull-step, but I’m tilting on my back in the tube until someone says to try one foot in front and one foot behind. And it works.
One step forwards and one step backwards makes rocking slow progress but brings me finally to the top. I haul myself up on my stomach, flop over, stretch out on the wood, try to catch my breath. When I stand, they unhook me from one line and clip me to another.
The brave one on the edge, she shouts, “Zipping!” And the whole tower sways, and my legs feel weak.
“You may have to push me,” I tell them.
They say they won’t, but it will be fun. They promise.
“How old was the oldest person who did this?” I ask.
They shrug. “Maybe mid-70s?”
I’m getting awfully close, but if he can jump out of a plane at 85, I can do this. I can!
I’m all hooked up now. I sit on the edge of the platform, and grasp the rope. Tight. My legs dangle, and it’s a long way across and a long way down.
I yell into the wind, “Landing crew ready?” Or something like that. Then I turn and say, “I don’t think they heard me.”
“Once a nurse, always a nurse,” they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I’m a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” That’s how I want to live. And I’m still learning how to be. Still.