I have a fear of heights.
Well, not really a fear of heights, but I do fear jumping off of them.
When I was young and foolish, I went canyoning one time in Switzerland. On the bus up the mountain, after I’d put on all the gear, I learned that the reason you can’t “canyon” in the United States is because the liability insurance is too high. In other words, I had stuffed my body into a size too small wet suit for a very dangerous activity. And the likelihood of my being injured or killed was so high that Texas, a state that allows practically anyone to walk into a movie theater with a pistol tucked under his sportsjacket, and anyone to jump off of a platform suspened over a Wal-Mart parking lot with a rubber band around their ankles, won’t allow it.
To Canyon I wore rafting gear. I wore a wet suit, a life jacket, a helmet, old shoes. The only thing missing was the raft. In fact, that is what canyoning is--you go down a river or stream without a raft. I guess that is as good a name as any. I mean if you take away the raft from rafting what are you in? Well, the canyon.
I did pretty well. I kept up. Mainly because once you were in the gorge there wasn't really any other way out than through the river. On the parts where I had to jump into small crevices and go under water, if I hesitated, they just pushed me in to keep the line moving. "They" were a bunch of Swiss locals whose pay must have been based on the number of people they could squeeze through the gorge in a certain amount of time. After several attempts at repelling down a rock wall, I was finally lowered head first and heels last down to the ground, where I laid eyes on the Tevas of a cute blonde headed, blue-eyed Swiss with a beguiling accent. He untangled me from the rope, pulled on a few straps to make sure I hadn't messed up the equipment, and wiped the mud from the left side of my face. He could have given a little more effort towards wiping the smirk from his.
Finally I was thrust down the last God made tube chute without a tube and I landed in a pool of calm, blue green water. We were all at the end of the journey. I got out and lit a small fire by the side of the water with two sticks I'd rubbed together and was looking for a small animal to sacrifice in order to give thanks to God for allowing me to live another day when Teva guy announced from a far up and away outcropping of rock that we could, if we wanted, jump from it into the water. Teva guy then leapt up in the air, corkscrewed, and splashed into the placid pool below.
I don't have to do this. I'm closer to the van than that rock. I've done my time. Thou shalt not test the Lord your God, I thought. Jesus probably wouldn't do this. Hadn't I already stretched the bounds of nature anyway?
Then like a bunch of bleating sheep everyone scampered up the rock to where he had stood.
I was third in line.
With just enough time to recall a conversation with my father. Leslie, if everyone were driving off of a cliff, would you follow them then. Well, now I had my answer, and on that thought, I jumped.