I was so thrilled to be going to a wedding on Catalina Island this Fall – I knew it’d be a blast! Ferry ride on the ocean. Welcoming party. Zip lining. Outdoor ceremony. Country club reception. Naturally, I’d have been honored to see dear Ms. Peden tie the knot anywhere but, you know, Catalina would be especially nice and – wait, what? Zip lining?
Zip lining? Of all the delightful activities on tap, I have to say I wasn’t 100% sold on that one – but I also didn’t want to miss out on anything.
So on that gorgeous weekend in September, I’d had a relaxing ferry trip from Long Beach (complete with champagne and a dolphin sighting) and settled into a comfy hotel. Now it was the morning before Peden and Greg’s big day and I was blissfully strolling the city of Avalon’s main street which was currently lined with booths of people selling arts and crafts. The weather was cool and pleasant. The water in the bay looked clear and sparkly. What a day to try zip lining for the first time!
I walked through town along the water’s edge past the impressive Casino building and a beachfront club that looked really inviting. The base of the canyon where we were to meet up was just beyond and – wait a second! I suddenly realized my mind and my heartbeat were kind of starting to do flip-flops…
Out of nowhere, I began thinking why did Peden have to pick zip lining as an activity the day before her wedding? What was wrong with ordering fancy drinks and toasting to bright futures right here at this club? Or having a mellow afternoon tea? Or a mani-pedi? I mean, that’s not unheard of, right?
Then again (flip), good for Peden if that’s what she wants! How brave is she?! How fantastic is she?! I should support her, and hey – Peden will be there to support me too! Except (flop) I arrived to find that the bride and groom were in the group ahead of mine so I’d be zipping in a group on my own. Ah well (flip) – I’d just have to get a grip and make the best of it.
So I cheerily waved as Peden and Greg went on ahead, and joined my own group to get outfitted for our adventure. The first task was to step into these harnesses complete with large (and heavy) metal claspy things for connecting to the lines we’d zip along. From here on out, I’d have to lug this thing around like a ball and chain but, given its importance, I cradled it like a big bouquet of Miss America roses.
Next, we were asked to hobble over to a set of benches for some instruction. It was a relief to discover there really wasn’t much to learn. A guide gave us just a few pointers and explained that even stopping would be handled by a braking mechanism at the end of each line. Whew, that’s good! Except…
Excuse me – each line? Turns out we’d be crisscrossing down the canyon along five separate lines. Which meant if I found out after my first experience that zip lining just wasn’t for me, I’d have to do it four more times before getting on with my life. Well, that’s just brilliant.
We were ushered into a waiting van and as we took off up the hill, people were joking and laughing like this was going to be fun or something. But under the weight of the news I’d just gotten – not to mention the weight of this claspy thing on my lap – I was feeling more like a convict being transported for a day’s hard labor.
Nobawwwdy knowwws the trouble I’ve seen…
At the top of the canyon, we piled out of the van and as I watched it pull away, I couldn’t help thinking there went my last chance to back out of this with any kind of grace. I’d had second thoughts from the beginning, but I never considered bailing – because I knew that so many of the coolest things I’d done over the years were the result of simply saying “yes” to cool invitations from friends and family. Saying “yes” had taken me all over the world (as well as around my own backyard) and broadened me with experiences I never would have sought on my own. So I wasn’t about to turn back.
Instead, I kept working the upbeat, non-forebode-y thoughts as we were marched single file out to the first of the five (sure, why not five..?) wooden platforms from which we’d be zipping.
And it totally reminded me of a gallows…
Oh, come on! Seriously?! I was trying to keep a positive outlook here and I was queued up on a scaffold! I really needed to stay out of my head and this was so not helpful.
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done…
At least our two guards – guides – were upbeat and full of information they were happy to share about Catalina’s history and everyday life on the island. These guys clearly enjoyed their jobs and had the routine down really well. At each platform, one would hook himself up, zip down to the next one and, when the coast was clear for a zip liner, he’d get on his walkie-talkie and announce: “Zip away!”
As each person in our group took off, I had to own it looked as easy as they’d said. All you had to do was walk to the edge of the platform, step off and away you went. When my turn arrived, the guide attached me to the wires and, while we waited for the signal, I tried to keep the internal pep talk going. This would be as easy as falling off a log! Wait. No falling – nothing about falling. Um – it’ll be easy as pie! You know, I’ve never understood that one. Is it that it’s as easy as making a pie? Because I’m really not a good cook. And I always thought there’d be time to learn…
Finally, my call to destiny came over the walkie:
There it was – the moment of truth. Tightly gripping the handles of the claspy thing, I crept to the edge of the platform and peered at the dry and brushy hillside below. This really didn’t even have to be a leap of faith, I thought. Just one step. One easy step. So I took a deep breath and stepped off…
And I flew!
I cruised down the line like a bird soaring over the countryside! Well, a nervous and dorky bird, maybe – but still. It. Was. Awesome!
I’m king of the worrrld!!!
All too soon, my claspy thing smacked into this braking block at the end of the line and I glided the rest of the way onto the next platform. And I couldn’t wait to go again! With Peden and Greg’s group still assembled on the platform just ahead, I went first this time so I could catch up with Peden and giddily tell her how much fun this was! Oh – and wish her the best for the wedding tomorrow and everything.
One line at a time (now I actually regretted there were only five), we zigzagged our way down the canyon. And platform by platform, the rest of my group became my friends – members of the fellowship of zip liners.
Yup – it was a blast after all!
And the wedding the next day was lovely! At a beautiful spot in the cradle of another canyon with a sliver of shimmering blue sea visible below, Peden and Greg made such a sweet and exuberant couple – and I was so touched to be there to share the moment. True, the affirmations they gave each other were way more important – but I was still pleased that I’d been asked if I wanted to stretch myself and do something I hadn’t done before.
And I’d said “I do”!
I’m not great about making New Year’s resolutions. (Or maybe I’m just not great about keeping them…) But I do like taking stock at the end of every year. And this year I’m remembering and feeling thankful for those family and friends who’ve made my life so full over the years – not just with their company – but by giving me the opportunity to say “yes” to going along on great adventures I would otherwise have missed, like:
Checking out festivals celebrating everything from tofu to cantaloupe to chainsaw sculpted art. Snorkeling off Maui. Touring Art Deco buildings in downtown L.A. Road tripping to Idaho to research the family tree. Enjoying a Baltic toast with glasses of Cherry “Herring.” Being introduced to Clark Gable on film. Boogie boarding. Riding shotgun with a proper NASCAR driver. Visiting a salon that offers champagne with their pedicures. Reverently walking the battlefield of Antietam. Attending plays about loyalty oaths and “Yankee dawgs.” Having a multi-course French dinner in the Canadian Rockies. Holding my face up to the rain and wind at the rugged Cliffs of Moher. Feeling such warmth in a bare clubhouse space that’s been lovingly converted into a place of worship. And sharing a basket of fresh strawberries on a Helsinki park bench.
The kind of embarrassment of (en)riches I’d sure wish for everyone.
So, go on and zip away – and have a wonderful 2014!