Single-Handedly

High Up and Unstable

There is something, something thrilling, about standing very high up, on something very unstable; and looking down and knowing it is not only possible, but highly probable that I will fall, and that if I fall, I will die.

So there I stood, at the red edge of a precipice, looking down where the stone sides of the gorge lost themselves in a river of mist. Across the gap, the other shore of which was invisible with distance, looped a rope-and-plank bridge, or the worse half of one. Many boards were rotted, splitting, or hanging held by only one side of the bridge. There were no handrails.

A breeze creeps though the bridge, rattling two hanging shards of wood against each other. A board falls forever. As I step onto the first plank, a new breeze feels my face, and the chill warms me deep from the pit of my stomach.

One step, then another. My confidence builds with each stretch across a space of one or two boards. Finally, I reach the center. I look down; and the world beneath spins, with me as its center. Grasping up at me is an inexorable drawing, and I nearly pivot over the edge. I stand across two planks with an empty slot like a window to eternity between them; I stand bracing myself like a derrick, perched where even birds dare not fly.

The gentle, uncertain breeze becomes a gale whipping my uncertainty behind me along with my breath. My clothes are pressed to me, my hair lives, and every scrap of wind is gone from my lungs. I face the wind and spread my arms to embrace it. Boreas himself claws and snatches at me, but I do not waver.

It is a confidence — a sort of supreme assurance — that is in being very high up, and standing on something very unstable. There is a calm in looking down and seeing within death, and knowing him to be imminently possible and ever powerful; but knowing as well that if I fall, it will be because I fall. No one can push me, for no one else will dare stand very high up and unstable.

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