I lost the trail. It wound into boulders and the further I hiked the more mesermerized by the beauty I became. Cliff anemones and blue flax peaking out along the trail and little critters dodging under boulders. Butterflies, in yellow and lavender, and red elderberry growing between stone can keep the eye moving, forgetting where you are. I turned back to head home and, at first, thought I was taking the right route back. Funny, but all boulders, after a time, start to look the same. I realized, too late, I should’ve paid closer attention. The sun was setting and I knew this was not a place to be crawling around in the dark. Fear began to coil and rattle its tail in my belly. I hadn’t noticed the sweating so much before, but now I felt drenched. If the stone paths didn’t dead end into a cliff, the shrub was enough of a barrier to cry.
I could see where I needed to go. My sense of direction solid. I climbed higher, though that gave me more apprehension, but I needed to see if there was even the vaguest egress down. There was. The cliff face, which was less than ninety, but more than a sixty degree slide. Mostly rock face, but many shale slides along the way would have to be crossed.
Five. Yes, that’s likely it. Five was the last time I crawled, butt first, down anything. When you are five, you don’t think of consequences at all and you certainly don’t concern yourself with injuries. You fall down, you get back up. It’s a simple equation when you are that young and scars and scabs are badges of glory. At fifty-one, I can think of a lot of consequences. A staggering number, actually. Had the sun not begun to stroke the mountain ridge her loving goodnight, I’d have likely turned back to scrabble the boulders again. But time was not on my side, and so, butt down, I began to crawl.
Your body holds five, like it holds fifty. It never forgets any of the versions you have been. So even as my mind was racing on what could go wrong, within a few minutes, my body was crawling down that cliff like a school kid. The body, once it’s done something, never forgets it, much like a dog never forgets a sent. It’s catalogued somewhere. As soon as I started to move, the file was opened, muscle groups coordinated and down I went. I slid, fell and got a bit scruffed up, but each step brought increasing confidence and ease. The cuts and bruises I wish I could say I took like a five year old. I whined a bit… or maybe a lot. Still, for those fifteen minutes or so, I was five and fifty. In that position a thousand other hillsides crossed my mind I had descended in my youth. The river hill, at the bogwalk, at the Bartlett Arboretum. Scaling the backfence at the Stamford Museum. The boulders that ran along the ridge by my childhood home. Crawling under the fence at Laurel Resevoir. I hadn’t realized it till halfway down the cliff face, but I’ve dodged a lot of fences.
That’s the beauty of the body. It holds memories. Some bad, but a lot of them good. When you trust it, it knows what to do and it can show you, in images, that you have done it before. When you have no faith and nothing but fear, the body can show you, it remembers your courage.