I am a 60 year old woman who is
A) carrying too many pounds on her frame,
B) who has multiple sclerosis (fortunately well-controlled with medications at this time), and
C) who has, for her whole life, been afraid of heights.
The fear of heights has gotten somewhat worse over the past decade. Perhaps this has something to do with the MS, vis-a-vis balance and such, but it can be paralyzing.
Here's the problem: I love the outdoors. I love walking in nature, seeing God's providence in all of creation. But walking outdoors is rarely utterly flat and often involves - you guessed it - heights.
Still, I love the outdoors, and I'd rather keep moving if and while I can. So I have gone hiking in all sorts of beautiful places.
And I have been terrified on hikes in all sorts of beautiful places: the Cinque Terre in Italy (the upper photo), the Burren in Ireland (me climbing up to a holy well in this shot), parts of the Blue Ridge in Shenandoah National Park, and now, hiking up a gorge in western Virginia.
This photo of Hot Springs is courtesy of TripAdvisor
This wasn't me in the picture of the Gorge above - it was chilly enough that we wore layers - but it gives you a sense of the sort of terrain and the level of scary for someone like me. As we crossed this bridge, I could not look down, only up, and the litle voice in my head ran something like this : "OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG," interspersed with "Help me Jesus, help me Jesus, help me Jesus." That voice sounded like a cross between an over-caffeinated teenage girl and an overwrought Pentecostal preacher. Not pretty, friends.
And yet, in the midst of it, I could not help but notice the beauty : a trout lily, tiny as a fingertip, sprouting alongside the trail, the trees clinging to the rocks (how do they survive with no discernable dirt in which to root?), the moss and ferns in the cracks and crevices, the warming of the sun as the afternoon progressed.
We were fortunate to have a wonderful naturalist, Brian, guide us on the walk. He was a fount of knowledge and of jokes of varying quality, and somehow his humor helped me overcome the internal anxiety voice enough to truly enjoy the walk. That and the beauty of the place as well.
As much as anyone can enjoy a walk that is the equivalent of walking up a 37-story building, that is...
I think it's worth it to tolerate a little terror to see a little of heaven.