The view from the top was glorious – straight out over the bush on the other side of the river, with a clear view of Mount Taranaki in the distance, towering, grand and green, seeming almost to preside over the province like a guardian. I take in the vista for a moment, and then look down at the river. Now that I’m on the cliff ledge, it seems much higher than when I was swimming in the water, staring up at it. I peer over the ledge and quickly step back again. I am very, very high up.
The water droplets on my skin start to make me shiver but that’s not enough to make me take the leap just yet, even though I know my friends must be getting restless down below, thinking I had to have made my way up there by now and I should just jump already.
“Come on, Kellie!” I hear Nigel yell from the water, giving me the courage to take a step forward again. My friends start cheering me on as they see me anxiously standing atop the cliff.
Okay, breathe Kellie. I think to myself. You’re going to do this. Nothing bad is going to happen. I picture myself jumping and splashing into the calm water with a smile on my face. You can do this, Kellie.
In fact, I had to do it – once you climbed up the cliff, pulled yourself up the steep, dirt “path” (if you could even call it that) using dry roots and grass as hand-holds, you really couldn’t get back down without taking an uncomfortable mudslide over the tussocks. And besides, everyone was waiting for me to jump, and I knew already that they thought I was a little bit fragile, no matter how many times I told them to treat me like they would anyone else. Sometimes people couldn’t see past the years of chemo.
No going back. I squint up at the clear blue sky and take another deep breath. This was no more difficult than the huge, crazy roller-coaster I went on in Auckland two weeks ago – once I was up there, about to drop, there was nothing to be done but try to enjoy the ride. This was no scarier than my first surgery when I was nine; than putting my life in the hands of someone else. This was doable. I’d just watched Nigel and Karen do it!
I remembered how good it felt to get off that roller-coaster and how I felt like I’d accomplished something that day. I’d faced a fear and nothing bad had happened.
I started a mental countdown.
“Just keep your body straight.” I remembered Karen instructing me before I climbed up. “Make sure you jump out at least a little so that you completely clear the cliff.”
I stepped forward again, curling my toes around the edge of the rock. My friends resumed their cheering.
This was the summer for taking chances, and living life. For first kisses, and long bike rides under the hot Taranaki sun.
No time like the present.