The rock’s sharp fangs dug deep into the tips of my toes.
I couldn’t tell if my feet were simply wet, or if they were seeping with blood.
Why am I on this cliff?
If I slip, it will be a terribly gory death. In front of a cache of friends, and most of all, the love of my life.
The only answer to that question is quite simple:
Because I’ve always wanted to be on this cliff.
When I was a young boy, I think maybe 4th grade, I saw a picture of this amazing Hawaii waterfall. So serene, tranquil, and beautiful. But the only thought pacing through my head was, “I want to jump off that thing.”
A beacon to be hunted.
It wasn’t until my 31st year that I actually found myself in Hawaii. Two great friends decided to get married there. And the weird part is, it didn’t even occur to me to go searching for a cliff once we arrived in Honolulu. Then one day our hosts took us on a hike.
Up into a valley. Deep into a rainforrest. First on a trail. Then off path. Descending into a ravine. Hanging on a rope to avoid slipping down the muddy vertical slope. Before I knew it, we stood at the base of a pool of water. Maybe the size of a backyard swimming pool.
It’s funny how life presents to you what you envision. In all my years of jumping off cliffs into bodies of water, I had yet to see a more majestic opening. Waterfall, check. Reasonably deep pool of water, check. Cliff, triple check.
Did you know that you only need about 5 feet of water for every 20 feet of vertical you jump? It’s a good rule of thumb to have in your back pocket.
So straight ahead was the waterfall. To the right was a cliff face. A bunch of young adrenaline junkies were climbing up about half way and making a jump of it. One kid backflips. I could see the cliff face went up higher but wasn’t really accessible. My gaze focused to the top. No one was jumping from the top.
It was here I placed my beacon.
I decided to climb my way up the waterfall to see if I could get a better vantage point. Just getting up the waterfall was heart wrenching. Slippery. Jagged. Porous and sharp.
“This is a bad idea.”
At the top of the waterfall was another pool of water. For a few seconds I felt like this was it. Maybe I could just move my beacon to this waterfall, get a good jump in and call it a day.
But beacons don’t move. Once placed, they will always stay. Calling your name. Reminding you they were left behind.
One of the locals caught my attention. His tatto-covered back facing me, head turned my direction, “you coming?”
It was time. This guy was going to show me the way up the back of the waterfall to my final destination. Deeper through the forest. Barely a trail to follow. Long out of sight from anyone down below.
The cliff ledge was upon us.
He explained to me that this was probably not a good idea. The pool of water I needed to jump into appeared large, but the spot deep enough was only about three feet in diameter. From here it was the size of a quarter.
I think he said, “Jump right where the waterfall hits the pool. That’s the deep spot. Anything else would be bad.”
But, it was hard to hear him over my heartbeat. A large organ, maybe my stomach, had made its way into my esophagus.
The platform to jump from was about one square foot. Covered in slick moss. Wet. Only room for one foot to push from. About 60-70 feet from the water below. Maybe 10 feet out from the deep spot in the pool. Somehow I’m picturing a free body diagram from a high school physics class. Still thinking, “If it wasn’t for that damn picture in 4th grade and stupid beacon, I’d be wading around in the pool below thinking about where we were headed for lunch.”
Time to get down to business. Got the best footing I could muster. The rocks cut into my feet. I couldn’t hesitate. Even a moment of regret would cause me to slip and collapse to the cliff wall. Ending in sure death.
From below I heard a local mutter, “That Haole ain’t gonna jump.”
Ready. Aim. Fire.
Everything went blank. The universe slipped from my mind’s grasp. Seconds felt like minutes. Minutes like years. In the moment I had deep regrets. This was stupid. Wrong. A bad idea.
But there was no turning back. When in free fall, there is no brake pedal. No slowing down. No “on second thought.”
It just is.
Arms circling for balance. Air rushing over me. The earth clamouring back to my body.
My feet hit the water.
Right on target.
Swallowed into the cold envelope of the pool. Deeper into the darkness. I was safe. Deeper I went. Safer. And then some more.
With squinting eyes I looked up to the surface. I had covered a great distance for being pulled to the depths with gravity alone. Continuing to sink.
Slowing down… my toes finally touch the bottom. The rocky end.
“Glad to meet you.”
I’m not staying longer than a moment, but I will keep you in my memories until the end of my time.
For I have hit rock bottom on a few occasions in life. Usually painful. Can only go up from here.
But these rocks were no foes on my toes. Just playful and sweet.
As my body accumulated at the base of the pool, I relaxed. Gazed more at the shiny-lit surface. Glimmering. Bubbly silence. Peace.
Beacon conquered. Put to rest.
I corked myself like a spring. Popped into action with my arms stretched above like The Man of Steal. Rushing back to the real world. Air bubbles flowing from my lungs into the abyss. Leaving them behind for another.
There is no time like the present. The canvas to paint our dreams.
The future we envision becomes reality.
The reality our memories. Our character. The collection of beacons we celebrate. Stories for our future selves to relish.
I will never hunt that beacon again. A degree different and I wouldn’t be here. No regrets. But what is done is history and will live in me for eternity.
On to new beacons. Adventures. Life.