Saturday, April 30, 2011

"I value my life!" I shouted...

A much younger me looking "over the edge"
When I think of life on the edge, I imagine a person teetering on the end of a cliff, arms swimming in the air trying to prevent a fall. Maybe he (or she) is on the brink of insanity, sinking into depression or drowning in addiction. Perhaps he is living in a war zone or among riotous upheaval where no peace can be found. No matter what the circumstances are, he is probably experiencing extreme fear and anxiety. I wonder if this person's life flashes before him? Is he praying? Or is he so into the moment and deep in concentration that he doesn't even think at all?

I can remember when I was on the edge of a cliff hanging on for dear life. Well, it was really the periphery of a steep mountain... and I was in a Jeep... but I was scared to death. All I could think was, "Please don't let me die!" Thinking back I can now see that I was very much in the moment. I prayed. My short adventurous life (sort of) flashed before me. But I also learned a little about myself. I survived.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
It was back in my single days, when I was in my 20s. I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for my birthday. My friend decided to rent a Jeep for the day and take me on a tour of the mountains. I really just wanted to lay on the beach and do something adventuresome like parasailing, but this well-traveled person was determined to show me all around the place. It sounded boring, but I finally relented. Little did I know that this excursion would be more thrilling than anything I could have ever dreamed up.

First of all, the dirt path up the mountain was extremely narrow. There was only enough room for the Jeep. When half-naked people on horseback came by, we were able to stop and let them get around us. It was a tight squeeze, though. After I recovered from the reality shock, I found myself wondering what would happen if a vehicle tried to pass.

The mystery Jeep (minus the driver)
"Umm, what are we going to do if another car is coming down this mountain? We wouldn't have any warning. How would it get by?"

Big smile. "Let's just hope that doesn't happen."

Roll of my eyes. "You know, I value my life!" I shouted. I was white-knuckling it as I held on for dear life. My carefully manicured fingernails were leaving half-moon indentions in my palms.

Fits of laughter. "Me, too."

The beach suits me fine, thank you very much
As we wound around the circular path, I found myself looking at the beautiful ocean below. Isn't that why I came to Mexico; to see my toes through the clear water and body surf to my heart's content? My eyes drifted back to the scene before me, growing bigger as I made a frightening discovery. Hoping to prove my theory wrong, I scanned the side of the mountain. I followed it from the front of the car to behind it. There was no railing. We were climbing higher and higher, driving faster and faster. If we made a mistake, there would be nothing to stop us from careening over the side. Yes- that is life on the edge. God, please help me.

Suddenly I had a flashback to the time my wild and crazy cousin picked me up from the Bush International Airport in Houston. He had parked at the top of a parking garage. The only way down was a spiral exit ramp. It reminded me of sliding down a fire pole. My cousin was a fireman, but this was no pole. Yet he was driving down the ramp as if rushing to get to a four-alarm fire in time. He was looking at me out of the corner of his eyes, laughing the same way my friend in the Jeep laughed. Up, down, all around- my mind was a top. Was I losing it? Was my life starting to flash before me? HELP!

Suddenly I was wakened from my reverie when the Jeep came to a screeching halt. We had arrived at the chosen destination in the mountainous jungle outside of Puerto Vallarta. With the wobbly legs of a newborn calf, I stepped out of the Jeep and said a silent prayer of thanks. I was on solid ground at last.

I wanted to nap like this guy
I took in the beauty of Mexico with a new heightened awareness. The greens were greener. The wind was wispier. The air was muskier. I breathed in the glorious smell of approaching afternoon rain. My fear was replaced with awe.

I guess that's what happens when you are living on the edge, push through and come out the other side. There is not much time for thinking of anything other than the situation. You have racing thoughts from the past. You pray like there's no tomorrow. When you make it through, gratitude runs through your body like a wave of ecstasy. A childlike innocence returns because you survived the roller coaster ride.

A local (to the right) near the river
I watched in amazement as natives washed their clothes in a river. Children of all ages swung into the water from tree branches and tire swings. They were all happy with life as they knew it.

I reveled in the simple gift of leisure walking. We hiked and explored until we reached a resting place. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the collection of palm fronds and abundance of straw was a thatched roof jungle bar. Although it appeared abandoned at first, someone soon showed up ready to offer refreshments. I later found out the restaurant was called El Eden. A tour of the grounds revealed the helicopter that was used during the movie Predator.

Our little "oasis" in the midst of it all

Movie prop from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator
For some reason, when we left hours later, going down the mountain was much easier.


Published here on 9/25/11 for language/place carnival, issue #10 hosted by Sheree Mack at Everyday Creativity 3


MJDills said...

As you know, Laurie, Vallarta is where I moved from a year and a half ago, after living there for several years. I do plan to go back as soon as economically possible. My book takes place in Vallarta and surrounding areas.
I love your story; it's like many of those who discover the beauty of my chosen home. The fear of the unknown and the dangers that live in our minds are usually replaced by what can often be the comfort of reality. Hugs to you, J

LKHarris-Kolp said...

Jodi~ Thank you. I knew you would appreciate this. PV is so beautiful. I can't wait to read your book.

Sylvia Ney said...

Beautiful pics - thanks or sharing!

Jeni said...

What wonderful memories and a great topic to post! I love the pictures too :).
I have MANY "living on the edge" moments I can remember. One in particular where I wasn't expecting the edge to be there. In a small fishing boat 3 hours into the Gulf of Mexico (dumb friends boyfriend at the time didn't tell us we were going that far), a storm came out of nowhere. 8 foot swells and rain everywhere. Took us 3 1/2 hours to get back. God (and the dolphins) were with us then. I will never forget those moments of surrender to God & speaking to my dad & comforting my friend who didn't know how to swim!
thanks for bringing up the memories :)xoxo

Laurie Kolp said...

That had to be a horrifying experience, Jeni. You should write it down... you never know!

roseh400 said...

Too funny - Puerto Vallarta is my hometown! :) I got a surprise when this came up (in the the blog carnival). So good to see PV. You should see the Malecon at the moment - it's all ripped up.... How long ago was the pic taken? :)

Laurie Kolp said...

Rose~ Probably around 15 years ago... (wow, I can't believe it's been that long).

toomuchaugust said...

my favorite sort of road: one way with two way traffic! or three-point hairpins. one way to develop another sense of trust :)

sherry o'keefe

Dorothee Lang said...

so glad you went for that drive back then, and brought back this memory and story.

Linda said...

What an adventure! I loved the way you described both PV and the way you stretched and grew. Gorgeous pics -- I feel like I've vacationed myself. Peace...