Last week I tried to describe Mount Rainier to a friend based on facts that I knew. My husband’s family has lived in the Seattle area for decades. They have told me about the mountain, and I’ve seen pictures. But I had never been to Seattle myself, so I had never actually seen it. I had heard that it was large, but I’ve been to the Alps, the Tetons, and the Rocky Mountains–I’ve seen tall mountains. In the back of my head, I really thought everyone was exaggerating just a little bit. I was sure it was big, and beautiful–but so are lots of other mountains.
Mount Rainier is so much more massive than anything I have seen. At 14,409 feet, it is the most prominent peak in the lower 48 states. I could see it from just about everywhere I went. It wasn’t like in North Carolina where you can see the distant mountains as blue bumps on the horizon. I could see the snow topped cone of the dormant volcano from 100 miles away, looming over the horizon.
We spent a day in the Mt. Rainier National Park. We threw snowballs in July–well, I threw snowballs–and we hiked a few miles into a mountain meadow area about a third of the way up the mountain. The heavy snows from last winter were still covering many parts of the paved trails. We took picture after picture because the beauty of the area is beyond words.
Being able to learn from books and videos is wonderful. The internet can take you to places you can’t access and can connect us to the world. But it doesn’t compare to getting out in the world and experiencing it for yourself. You have to just jump in.
The high diving board stood an impossible 10 feet above the pool. All summer I would watch friends line up to climb the ladder, then launch themselves into the air. Some would turn flips, entering the water gracefully with barely a splash. The boys would compete to see who could create the biggest splash. Cannon balls and jackknife dives were the tools they used as they attempted to empty the pool of its water each summer day.
All summer, I would watch from the safety of the shallow end of the pool. “It looks like so much fun,” I would think to myself, as I imagined the amazing flips and twists I would execute from that board. In my daydreams, I would break the surface of the water to the sounds of amazed applause. “How did you do that?” My friends would surround me and beg me to teach them my tricks.
Daydreams explode like the soap bubbles of our childhood without action behind them. Everyday as I gingerly sat on the blistering vinyl car seat leaving the pool, my soap bubble dreams popped.
Finally, I had enough of my daydreams. It was time for action. I was going to jump off of that board.
As I stood in the line, my confidence began to fade, as the doubts and fears tried to take over again. I watched friend after friend make the climb, dash to the end of the board, and fly into the air, landing with a happy splash. Then it was my turn.
Hand over hand, I climbed the ladder. Standing on the board so far above the pool deck, I could barely breath.
“Come on! Just jump in!”
My friends were becoming impatient for their turns as I stood there, frozen.
I inched my way to the end of the board until my toes were hanging off the edge. I looked down one last time, into the deep blue of the pool. I closed my eyes, and stepped off.