In October 2010, I flew to Seattle with my stepmother, Janet, to see her sister Kathy. Seattle is gorgeous. Living just outside of Minneapolis, I'm definitely a city girl, but what I particularly love about Seattle is that it's an amazing urban jungle surrounded by majestic mountains and the ocean. So, one day during this vacation the three of us hiked one of those mountains. Part of the trek included actually climbing a cliff about 100-200 feet high with our hands and feet, no safety equipment whatsoever. Below is my story from when we had reached the summit of the mountain (1495 feet) to when we returned to the bottom:
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Sometimes, you realize how small you are in the world. Sometimes you realize just how huge everything else is; you realize you’re not much of a big deal after all. As I sat on top of that mountain, the world beneath my feet, I marveled in wonder. I had just come the closest I’d ever been to death — and was still there. I could still fall. I could still die or suffer a terrible injury. But I was there — I was breathing in air so few had the heart to reach for. The sun was high and clear, the world was everywhere, and in the distance, I could see the faint smudge that was Seattle. This perfect splendor, rugged, natural, and effortless; dark, rich brown, clear azure, and emerald green.
Then — of course — we made the dangerous descent. I had thought this part would be easier then climbing up. It wasn’t. It was much, much more difficult, mainly because I was constantly looking down, and instead of pushing against the force of gravity, I was bracing myself against it. I clung to the ledges for dear life, every one of my steps was over-considered and tentative, and I had to quell the rising panic inside my chest. Finally, we made it to the bottom. I jumped down and just stood a minute, relishing the security of solidity. Kathy and Janet laughed at me, but I didn’t care. I knew they felt the same as I did.
Then the hard part was over, and this was the easy, simple part. We had hiked four miles up, and now we got do it again — down, this time. Kathy mentioned we should run to return to the car faster. I thought this would be more strenuous than walking, but again, I was wrong. Running actually felt easier. Kathy and Janet, who weren’t used to so much hard exercise at once, stopped after a little bit. I didn’t. Running is one of my pleasurable pastimes when I’m at home, and then I just felt so, so free, so at peace, as if I were flying down that mountain. I was focusing on the rocks and the satisfaction of planning my steps perfectly. I flowed easily with the winding curves and turns of the downward slope. The sun was setting, glinting gold and dusky through the treetops; the leaves blurred into a myriad of green and fire, colors of the in-between of summer and autumn. The air was exhilarating and refreshing; the forest was still muffled and silent. I don’t think I’d ever felt so light and relaxed in my life. This trip really had opened my eyes to the beauty of nature and the simple joy of being alive. I love Seattle because, while it is an amazing, man-made city, just a short drive away you can find refuge in the mountains and appreciate just how wonderful the world is.
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