Nightmare

I had a nightmare this morning.  I was in some kind of personal helicopter contraption, zooming around a city that had these unbelievably large trees — probably 200+ ft, but not redwoods; more like maples and elms.  I was tooling around in the midst of the cavernous spaces within the upper branches of one of these trees, admiring an enormous dead-leaf-covered shelf created where a number of giant limbs all radiated out — when I found myself sitting  (no more personal helicopter) on one of those limbs, way out where it was only about a foot thick.  Even though it was obviously sturdy, I was faced with the terrifying prospect of inching down to the relative safety of the shelf, or perhaps trying to turn around onto my belly so I could cling with my arms and legs and scoot down backwards.  I’m not the best with heights, and the adrenaline surge woke me up.

I can only imagine how stronger that adrenaline surge must be when, in reality, a lovely encounter with nature turns terrifying

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8 Responses

  1. Your dream reminds me of a tree-height experience of my own.

    In middle school my brother and our friends would climb this cement water tower built into a ridge. It was about sixty feet high, with rungs that brought us up one vertical face. The tower was built into the cliff, with the sides sweeping up and around it toward the back. Picture the top sixty feet above the ground in front, thirty feet above on the sides, and about even with the ground in back.

    Carved between the water tower and the ridge was a trench ten feet wide. This led to an unusual experience: climb the rungs in front, cross the top toward the back, and you could look at low-growing ferns and tree trunks just there, mere feet away … with a sixty-foot chasm in between.

    Imagine the tingles, looking down from the exact precipice. The smooth cement wall plummeting beneath your toes. The jagged, craggy, tree-rooted gash of the ridge, deceptively close. And sandwiched between, the puny leaves and stones of the chasm floor, impossibly distant.

    A flying Indiana Jones-style leap might have succeeded in reaching safe ground ten feet away. None of us were crazy enough for that.

    But if you look at that aerial photo again, you’ll notice foliage covering the top right side of the water tower. I’m glad it shows up in Google Maps, because I remember it well.

    Ten feet was no obstacle for tree branches to overcome. Trees rose from the ridge and spread their arms above and toward us. And since this was Puerto Rico, their branches were wrapped in vines.

    One column of vines, thick as a telephone pole, extended the entire sixty feet down to the chasm floor.

    These vines weren’t far. Midway between tower and ridge. Barely five feet away.

    Stand up. Lean forward as far as you can. You can almost reach five feet before your weight tilts. Almost.

    Now imagine my brother and our friends taking turns, one by one, perching on the edge, leaning forward as far as possible, vines dangling just beyond our fingertips.

    Whoever jumped out and descended the entire column would be a Hero Forever. It didn’t even require a jump, really — just a little lean, then a lot of shimmying. The column of vines would support our weight: it was the thickest any of us had ever seen, and we swung on vines all the time.

    Every few months, older and bolder, we’d return to the water tower and dare each other all over again to do it.

    No one ever did.

    To this day, if I mentally place myself at that peak, I get the same spine jeebies. The height’s only part of it. At the tops of buildings or cliffs I have felt an utterly irrational impulse to jump — cast myself over the brink. Something about the sheer possibility of doing so inspires a small, and absolutely insane, degree of desire. I could jump. Just a simple jump. Like so. What would it feel like? My legs wilt; I back away, less apprehensive of the fall, perhaps, than of my own will.

    And so when I visualize that water tower and the vine, I’m most unnerved by a thirteen-year-old heart would lean, lean … weight tilting past balance … almost there …

  2. Jackie Chan woulda done it

  3. […] (Inspired by RubeRad’s post Nightmare.) […]

  4. Rube, I’m sure you’ve been to the top of mount woodson and stood on potato chip rock. Did it feel anything like that?

    I don’t know if any of you have ever been skydiving, but foresters description reminded me a lot of that experience.

    sooo much fun.

  5. I have bungy-jumped three times. That experience is both terrifying and exhilarating…mental floss.

    I remember feeling the weird “legs go wobbly” sensation several times in life…At the edge of the Grand Canyon, at the Sears Tower observation deck, and at the altar during my wedding.

  6. Must have been my violin-playing, although usually it only makes women swoon!

    Actually, dbalc, I never have hiked Woodson. But I can imagine!

    For some reason, I can visualize myself hangliding, or even skydiving, before I would go bungie-jumping.

  7. Don’t you remember what happened, Rube? I fainted, and you dove down and administered mouth-to-mouth CPR, which caused the entire wedding party to lose their lunch.

  8. I must have blocked that out, for obvious reasons. Thanks so much for bringing it back!

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