The bridge she did not cross


The snow muted all sound except the crunch beneath her feet and her escalating breath. Her destination was the top of a ridge across a small, icy river. Looking for a way to cross the water and scale the ridge, she happened across a snow-covered bridge, a delicate arch of dark red wood, slim boards, no railings. A few steps across and she heard it creak and crack with the ice and cold, felt it wobble and sway beneath her. She hesitated and listened with all senses. Is it safe? She spent several moments debating. There was another set of tracks that started across and turned back. Whoever came before her had the same second thoughts – the pristine snow ahead was the evidence of their decision.

But it’s a bridge, surely if it wasn’t safe there would be a sign or a rope slung across the entry. She didn’t know much about bridges and structure and what was sound or not, but aren’t some bridges meant to feel that flimsy, that shaky and uncertain underfoot? Those types of bridges that when you make it to the other side, you feel even more accomplished for being so brave and bold in the face of potential harm.

She wanted that feeling badly. She wanted to prove she was bold and brave and could stand in the face of uncertainty and was successful in getting what she wanted. She wanted to get to the other side. She had a deep curiosity about the ridge on the other side, felt the climb calling her, wanted to see what was at the top, how it felt and looked up there.

Looking up and down the river, she didn’t see any other crossings. The water was rushing over rocks and frozen in the eddies. What if this was the only way for her to get want she ultimately wanted? She decided this was the only way, and thought maybe if she walked very slowly with a lot of presence and poise, that she would get to the other side unharmed, triumphant, stronger, and having proven something to herself and anyone who was watching (no one was watching).

She started to walk, slowly, deliberately, like a cat on a tree branch. Three steps and a crack and a creak underfoot. She froze; the fear cropped up, her body alert with all imminent danger. Not safe, her body screamed. She retreated and stood at the bridge’s mouth for several more moments. How would she get across? Why was she letting a little bit of fear get in the way of what she wanted? Was she really the person who gave up and succumbed to mediocrity?

That could not be the story of her. That was not the story of her. And yet, this fear was real. She could not deny the “no” running through her system. She sighed and looked downstream. Off in the distance the water flowed over rocks, the tops covered with snow or slick with water. With regret she turned from the bridge, returning the way she came.

Several yards later the protest welled up in her. There had to be another way. She found her legs carrying her closer to the creek’s edge, until she found a potential crossing. She found her animal come alive as she engaged the task of crossing. Eyes calculating distance between rocks, potential foot holds and hand holds, muscles twitching in readiness, ears pricked to gauge the rush of the water. Foot falls on solid rock, hands grasping at firmly rooted brush. She was all limbs and senses, all breath and rhythm with the water and stone and wood around her.

More than halfway across she got stuck, legs sprawled between two rocks in a warrior stance, no brush to grasp for leverage, a one-footed maneuver her only way to more forward. She stood there feeling her legs, rallying her grace and balance. But unlike on the bridge behind her, she did not feel fear, she felt poise. This was on her terms, if she fell, it was her own loss of balance, and that was somehow comforting. And besides, the water was closer, the cleansing sooner, and the potential danger of real harm much smaller. She could manage a spill here. Either way, whether she fell or crossed successfully, she would be safe, and okay. With all her faculties centered, breathing into this next leap of faith, she commanded her muscles and structure to move her forward. And in the next moment she was across, breathing heavy and laughing with relief, scrambling up the brush-bound bank.

She scaled the ridge with a new found confidence and the swiftness of a fox. At the top, she looked out, saw her tracks up and down the river, the house she came from, the mountains in the distance, and the bridge she chose not to cross.


december 2, 2015

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