Friday, August 15, 2014

Mom, I'm Running Away to Join the Circus

The first time I ever tried to do a zip line, I was in high school and acrophobia was not part of my vocabulary.  I'd been on the tops of mountains and ski lifts and tall buildings, crossed bridges, peered over cliffs, flown in planes, and none of it ever bothered me.  Until now, when I was securely seated on the T-bar with my legs over the edge of the platform, completely incapable of shoving myself off into the air.  I looked back over my shoulder and asked, 'Can someone please push me?'  Someone did and I zipped the line and it was fun!  But what the heck!

A few years later, I'm standing on the platform at Kawarau Bridge outside Queenstown.  My ankles are trussed together and I'm peering down at a frothy river over 100 feet below.  I'm a shade nervous, naturally, but then that darn zip line pops into my head and suddenly I'm terrified that someone is going to have to shove me off the platform because experience has proven that I won't be able to make the leap myself.  Of course then I get annoyed and even though it's shaky, my own muscles propel me into open air and I'm bungy jumping in New Zealand.

So I'm obviously not afraid of heights.  I'm not keen on falling from heights, which comes into play sometimes with things like obstacle courses, but that's not a show-stopper, nor is it an unusual fear.  This fear that I've convinced myself I have is specifically fear of flinging myself into space.  Is there a word for that?  There should be.  (Ready, go.)  It's okay when someone else is responsible for the flinging into space, which is why I have zero problems with skydiving.  But YIKES when I have to rely on my own muscles, my brain gets way too involved.

All of these things are zinging around in my head as I'm climbing the stairs to the top level of the trapeze platform, trying to make myself believe the coach's instructions.  Just follow my commands, he says.  Just bend your knees and jump forward, he says.  Point your toes and keep your body tight, he says.  It'll be easy, he says.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quest to El Mirador de Las Torres

I hadn't even set foot on the trail, and already the odds were stacked against me.

About ten days prior to my arrival in the remote, beautiful Patagonian wilderness of Torres del Paine National Park, I ran a marathon.  My knee was pretty upset about this marathon, and even though its complaining had subsided, I expected it to flare up as soon as I started to hike.

Also, because of a string of uncontrollable circumstances, I arrived at the trailhead around one o'clock in the afternoon.  The only map in my possession was the one provided at the entrance to the park, which naturally provided excruciating detail of the walking paths (not).  I wasn't entirely sure how long the hike was supposed to take, since ten kilometers means a lot of different things when you're in the mountains.  And I definitely needed to be back to civilization before dark.

Also, it wasn't exactly a gorgeous sunny clear spring day.  It was crazy windy.  There were ominous grey clouds sitting back on the mountains.  The odds were good that even IF I made it to the end, there would be no view whatsoever.

But, this was my only opportunity.  Foul weather had forced a change to my plans to take a liesurely week and hike the path known as the W.  Now I had only 24 hours in Torres del Paine and not a moment more.  And I absolutely could not miss my bus in the morning, which meant it was now or never to find the famous stone towers for which the park is named.  Weather be damned.  Lack of directions be damned.  Knee be damned.  At least I'd remembered a water bottle!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The CZ Book Club: 2014 Part I

The first time someone ever made fun of me because I love to read, I was in preschool.  I was maybe four years old?  Five?  I remember the taunt because I actually thought that it was directed at how I was wearing my hair that day (side ponytail of course, all the rage in the 80s), and I could not for the life of me figure out the relationship between my stylin' hairdo and my propensity for reading.  Sorry, preschool bully, you didn't make me cry, but you sure did confuse me!

Fast forward 25 years.  I'm wandering around Europe with my best friend and her cousin for a few months, getting my first taste of toting a backpack and sleeping in hostels.  In addition to my trusty red backpack, I carried a second, smaller messenger bag.  It was the library.  No joke, that poor cloth bag contained nothing but books that we picked up along the way.  When we finished one, we'd swap it out for something new from a hostel bookshelf.

Although I've been reading since before I can remember, that summer of backpacking was the first time I really branched out from my usual categories of books-assigned-for-English-class and books about horses.  Hostel bookshelves contain very eclectic reading selections, and it was really fun to grab something I'd never heard of before and dive in just for the fun of it.  We've all heard the saying about judging a book by its cover, but you should actually try it some time.  Grab one that strikes you simply because of its title, or the pretty cover art, or because its the perfect size to hold in your hands, and you may be remarkably pleasantly surprised!

Enter 2014.  Still reading like crazy.  Still getting teased about it, but usually in a good-natured way these days.  Still carrying books when I travel and leaving them along the way as I finish.  In addition to heaps of Nietzsche reading for class, here are a handful of the other books I've enjoyed in the first half of this year.