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  • Shari Goddard Shambaugh

While I Still Can

A couple of years ago my husband and I decided to go camping in Baxter State Park, in northern Maine. We'd always wanted to explore it, and found an empty spot for a night (and another spot for the second night, which meant picking up and moving everything the second morning, just a few campsites away. Such is the flexibility needed for last-minute reservations).

While there we took a canoe and paddled South Branch Pond to the end, portaged to Upper South Branch Pond, and there saw a wonderful thing. Cliff jumping. A ranger had told us

that, yes, it was deep enough for jumping. As each person leapt exuberantly into the air, a cheer went up from the others. After enjoying the show, we paddled on to the end of the pond. On our return we decided to pull in and at least check it out.

There were various ledges - a low one of about 8 feet, a mid one of about 15 feet, and a tall one of 20 feet or so. We climbed to the middle one. My husband jumped right away, and loved it. I stood at the edge and tried to make myself fight the rising panic to take the plunge. I'm a good swimmer. I'm not afraid of heights. But every time I started to jump, terror pulled me back. In my head I held a pep-talk: admonishing, encouraging, questioning, coaxing, trying to visualize myself jumping.

Finally I faced the idea that I was getting older, and these chances to embrace risk and try something new and exciting only come so often. Was I ready for this to be the end of that? And I jumped. It was amazing.

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