I must admit, when my mother first pitched the idea of zip lining through the trees in the beautiful forests of Alaska, I was nervous, my mind instantly filled with questions and concerns. What if I don’t like it? What if I mess up? And worst of all: What if I fall?
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Now, standing on my first platform 75 feet in the air, tightly gripping my harness, I feel my palms begin to sweat. Looking at the heavily forested landscape sprawled out in front of me I am confronted with the vastness of the Earth and the smallness of myself. The tour guide’s words blur past my ears as the only thing I can focus on is the line of people in front of me inching towards the edge. Soon enough, it’s my turn. As my feet leave the ledge, my body tenses. I remember the guide’s concise instructions and quickly cross and extend my legs out in front of me, place my right hand firmly on the brake, and keep my eye out for the next platform. When the time is right, I tighten my grip on the brake- slowing my momentum- and glide into the next base.
“Ok everyone, this next line is the longest of the trip,” our guide tells us, “you’ll be in the air for over a minute!”
Gathering my courage, I step up to the edge. With my harness snapped onto the next zip line, I am ready to go. This time, however, I force myself to truly see all that is around me. I leave behind the urge to focus on the technique of my hands on the brake or the form of my body and simply let myself enjoy the experience. No longer overcome by fear or restrained by worries, I feel myself fly. As the wind screams in my ears, I am overcome by the beauty that my fearful eyes had first missed. I now notice the way the sunlight fliters through the vibrant green needles of the Sitka spruces and assorted Hemlocks. The various shades of green and rich, earthy browns that form the summer Alaskan forest, the pops of yellow and red from the flowers on the forest floor, and the brilliant blue of the sky overwhelms my senses.
Time seems to slow down and as I am in the air I can’t help but think with a smile that this must be what it’s like to be a bird. Soaring through the air from treetop to treetop, I can imagine that this is the same view that the famous bald eagle must encounter each day as it glides over its native Alaskan land. I am soaring on wings like eagles and experiencing what I thought I knew in a completely different way.
And maybe that’s just it. Living life on the ground is about choosing to find the interesting, inspiring, and beautiful pieces of life in the places that you thought you knew. It’s about deciding to take a double-take and finding the exotic hiding within the ordinary. It’s about choosing to look at the world around you in a different perspective and finding what you would have never expected. For me, at the end of that day, when I had taken off the harness and resumed my life on the ground, I decided to live my life looking for those pops of reds and yellows in the forest, to embrace the freedom of flying, and to look at life with an eagle’s eye.
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