A man died in our town this week. I didn’t know him but offer my condolences to his family, friends, and anybody that might be reading that did. To be honest, I don’t even know his name.
I know that he died falling from a cliff, if not the exact circumstances. It’s a cliff that has claimed other lives over the years, a several hundred foot drop overlooking a small lake, several miles into the woods. It’s the end point of a long, somewhat arduous trail in a state park nearby, a trail that my daughter and I walk often.
We usually stop and turn around when we reach the lake. Little feet get tired and I’ve been tricked before by an overly ambitious partner who wants to go “just a little bit further”, only to be carried the last quarter mile or so back to my truck.
A few weeks ago we went farther. It wasn’t my intention but we had merged into a larger group, little miss social deciding that we were walking with them now. Whether this was because of their stated intention to reach the peak or because they seemed amused by her endless prattle is unclear but they seemed pleasant, she was determined, and there was enough daylight left that I wasn’t too concerned with her stamina levels.
We reached the end and it was awesome, a magnificent view that was everything that’s great about hiking, everything that I hope for her to appreciate when we take these walks.
It also scared the shit out of me, mainly because she wasn’t. We saw several people, fully equipped, that had just finished climbing the cliff’s face and several more that were preparing to rappel down. She immediately asked if she could have a “climbing suit” for her birthday so that she could try it next time.
A quick look around, a few pictures, and an argument about how close she was allowed towards the edge and I was ready to start heading back.
I love how brave she is but fear that there is a degree of recklessness that needs to be addressed. She told me that she wasn’t afraid of falling to her death because that would just mean that she’d get to Heaven before me, but not to worry – she’d be sure to wait. I don’t want her paralyzed by fear or upset about the concept of death but I need her to respect it, need her to know to stay the hell away from the edge of a cliff that people have died falling from. I honestly don’t know how to find that balance.
In the meantime I think we will stop at the edge of the lake the next time we hike that trail. It also might be time to find some new ones, ones that don’t cause me as much anxiety. There are still plenty of places that we have yet to explore.
Judging by the condition she was in by the time we finally made our way back to the truck, I’m guessing that she may not argue with me about that.