So I fell off a cliff the other day. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind for a Thursday, but sometimes life throws you curve balls or in this case off a cliff.
It was one of those days where you question how such beauty could be brought upon you. Seventy-eight and sunny, the puffy clouds told stories in the sky, and the silt beneath my feet soaked into my toes as if the earth was inviting me to come have a drink. Oh and the view. We could see the water through the trees, the glowing eyes of an owl staring back at us through the branches and the leaves. If my roommate had never saw it land it would have gone unbothered by my gaze, as it blended with the branches like brandy in a cup of coffee.
Even when mother nature is glorious, she is never without danger. I had no sense of what was coming, only satisfaction of sitting in a cave looking out upon the land. The limestone above my eyes, the spring green of the leaves… the 50-foot climb was always worth the concentration to get there.
I suppose that’s when we’re most vulnerable; after we’ve already arrived. Calmed by the serenity of the day I slowly led the way back down, my roommate close behind. I hadn’t gotten far and I almost went the easy way around. I knew I should have gone that way, and I can’t concoct an explanation for why I chose an alternate route. I simply thought it safe.
I stepped on the leaves and my foot began to slide. I had held onto a branch which seemed sturdy but snapped in accordance with the slip. Suddenly I was on my ass and there was no going back. I’m at the mercy of gravity and I can only hope to be stopped sooner rather than later. I’m flying down the steep terrain like a boy in a sled, but there’s no fun to be had in these harrowing moments.
I felt no fear while it was happening. I can’t explain why, and I know it was scarier for my roommate to watch than for me to experience at the time. There was something about being at the mercy of the earth that I can’t find a way to explain in words. Sometimes I try to control my life to such a degree, and maybe this was a reminder that most of what happens in this life is out of our hands. Here, sliding down the hillside between the rocks and the trees, control was gone with the wind, as they say.
I thought I was going to stop. I really did. Maybe that’s why I was so calm. I never even saw the cliff’s edge. But as fast as I had fallen I was suddenly launched off a 15 foot drop. Even faster, I was on the ground. Flat ground. Thank God. I was alive.
“Jason! Are you okay!?” my roommate screamed. “Yeah, I’m good.” I replied. I wasn’t, but I hadn’t broken my legs or snapped my neck and that was good enough for me. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had the tendency to tell people I’m fine. In college I completely shredded my ankle, tearing three ligaments, and I should have yelled or screamed but instead I got up quietly and walked all the way home on the leg I had left. Another time a giant water balloon launcher snapped and went half way through my hand and though you could see the bone I insisted I was fine.
Something about people feeling sorry for me makes me want to crawl into a cabinet, but that’s neither here nor there. The only thing on my mind after the fall was getting back to the water. I knew my arm was fucked but I just needed to sit in the cold water for a minute and I knew everything would be okay.
I was lucky to fall ass first and land on my bottom, for the most part. Naturally, I stuck out my right arm as I hit the ground and from 15 feet that’s gonna do some damage. Somehow it didn’t break but I’ve sprained both my elbow and shoulder pretty bad, and the pain soaked in when the adrenaline and shock subsided. My arms and legs got cut up a fair bit, but nothing major. How my back sustained no damage at all is inexplicable but relieving beyond belief. Everything hurt to some degree at some point that day and the next morning, but it all faded fairly quickly. Either that or the intensity of the pain in my arm has masked my other wounds.
The pain doesn’t bother me so much. I suppose it’s the embarrassment I’ve been struggling with. I feel like a fool. I’ve gone through stages of untrusting myself over the past few days. Sometimes I lose concentration in crucial moments and I have no explanation for how or why. I always seek a reason and when I can’t find one my mind begins to wiggle and wave.
I’ve been oscillating between gratitude and pain. I feel like I’m playing with house money, given a second chance to live a life worth living. It’s a beautiful feeling, to escape the grips of death and find joy in simply existing. At the same time, whether it’s a car accident or disease, I’ve been here before. I don’t know if I’d describe myself as a religious man, but I’ve always had the sense that someone is looking after me.
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3 thoughts on “How I Fell off a Cliff and Survived”
How surreal, glad you are ok!
Jason, Glad you didn’t break your lease, let alone your back, limbs, and neck. And you got a valuable story out of it, well told. Wouldn’t mind a part two, detailing your return to civilization.And a continuation of the life lessons. Welcome back.
Thanks Hal! The life lessons never cease, I shall be updating soon!