As previously mentioned, I am not a fan of tight spaces. Low ceilings, caves, small openings, and even getting tangled in my blankets unnerves me (see “Hidden Beauty” from March 2012). Equally as worrisome to me is acrophobia. I have attempted on multiple occasions to overcome this affliction, including skydiving, but nonetheless, being at an extreme open height scares the dickens out of me. I have been to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and I found the view inspiring and the distance above the earth perfectly safe, yet a balcony on a low-story hotel makes me uneasy.
When crossing the Rio Grande River west of Taos, New Mexico, I worried about the possibility of my camera falling to its demise, but fretted for my own security any time a truck would pass and the entire span would bounce. As a child me parents took freakish delight in my apprehension about crossing the suspension bridge transversing Royal Gorge, more than a thousand feet above the Arkansas River in central Colorado. In my humble opinion, bridges should not allow anyone crossing it to peer between wooden slats that make up the crossing surface and view the jagged earth beneath it. Bridges should be solid structures, with high sides preventing any confusion about which side I and my personal property belong and securely shall remain.
Crossing The Rubicon (And The Bridge Over It)
There comes a time when fear must be conquered, when it is time to face the nemesis of our mind, or in my case, the extremely physical barrier between an open bridge and the possibility of what may or may not be my demise beneath it. The time to embrace my phobia came with a simple logic, “Did I come all this way to see this and then I am not going to enjoy it simply because it terrifies me?” In the past, I might have easily answered my own question affirmatively, but here in the Kootenai National Forest, stretched across the identically named river and its cascading waterfalls, also so named, no one would know if I braved the crossing or merely looked at the scenery from the safety of the river’s bank. The only way to know if I successfully cross this narrow, shaky span would be if I document the moment and prove I am embracing my inner crazy.
As I approach, a young couple who appears far less concerned about the height and stability of the crossing receives a warm invitation to precede me across the bridge. With only a few narrow boards of width, should I abandon the safe harbor of the river bank out towards its center, the two would have no ability to return to their starting point if I hesitate in my journey from the left bank to the right. I eventually release my grip and venture out beyond a secure distance, so if they do reappear, I must rush forward or retreat. As I progress on my uneasy crossing, I find my eagerness barely nudging me ahead, yet off they go, leaving the span bouncing over the cold rapids, and me to face my phobia. I know somewhere inside I have the courage to ease my way away from the bank’s safe edge, and I eventually swallow and walk boldly to the center without stopping. The young couple have long since left me alone on the wooden planks and I reach into my pocket and withdraw my camera (its strap clasped tightly around my wrist) to document and prove to the world what I have already proven to myself: I triumph over acrophobia.