Hm. How often do cougars hunt near this waterfall? That cliff could make a good launching platform for a pounce.
Such thoughts made me pace, hands in pockets, across a wide spot in the path beside Henline Falls. Phobic me. I’m becoming no fun on wilderness hikes.
I mused about cougars and other large predators while Tim and our son explored an abandoned mineshaft, originally blasted into the hillside last century in a failed quest for silver. I’d scrambled over mossy boulders with the guys to trail behind them a ways into the tunnel. It took me moments to decide I’d rather wait outside.
In there the blackness, bit by Tim’s flashlight beam, had smelled musty. As if animals had explored (maybe hibernated, I wondered; maybe were still hibernating, wishing to be left alone…?!) over the recent winter.
Now I tried in vain to calm feverish imaginings. Somehow my mind wanted to bet me I would first see Tim’s panic-stricken form, with our son pushing from behind when they burst out of the cave calling, “Yeeaahh! Bear!” I reminded myself of my son’s longer legs – he’d surely be in front.
What I lacked and must unearth from somewhere, I realized, was sensible thinking. Look around at what you’re missing, I thought. Let the waterfall’s mists refresh you. Breathe the greenery-oxygenated air.
If I’d been able to relax, I might’ve exuded poetry about lovely, cascading river-voices warbling in constant cadence. Instead I muttered, “Wish I could turn that thing off.”
Standing by while men forge into possible danger has historically been the lot of women. While a twenty-year-younger me refused staying home whenever guys went “out there” seeking adventure, these days I find I dwell among a sisterhood. We say, “No bathroom where you’re going? Miles from wireless? Not packing chocolate? Count me out.”
I can see there was less choice and more restriction involved for women back when a Man wouldn’t consider climbing mountains with a mere girl. From clothing to domestic duties, those of female gender were expected to fit a certain role, often narrow as a corset-cinched waist.
Even today, though, when women do most everything, it’s typically guys who launch into grimy reality and bring back the biggest fish stories. (Lately we watch these programs: Survivorman and Man vs. Wild.) Like Tim and my son sloshing down an old mineshaft, they are drawn (prodded by testosterone?) to shouldering their way forward, despite muck and myth and the fears of wifely mothers.
Growing up, I didn’t want to be girlishly fearful. But I don’t think I’d ever have applied for military service. Vietnam scared me to pieces, because I loved my younger brothers and never wanted to lose them to the draft, to guns of war.
A friend of mine has two sons, both Marines, and both were stationed in Iraq for several months. While I agree with her that their decisions to serve were honorable, I don’t know how I’d have managed in her place. It’s just hard to send someone, anyone, into situations where even testosterone gets blown to bits on a clear day’s whim.
And yet lives end. Every day. Anywhere. For men in battle or wilderness, for moms pulling towels from the dryer. I need to be glad for life. It’s mine at a stage of estrogen-episodes, and it belongs to the driven, adventurous males in my world, as long as it’s granted. To be lived.
By the time my guys emerged that day from the bowels of granite near Henline Falls it occurred to me there was too much standing water on the tunnel floor for animals to bed there. Oh, well. Senility happens. Although Tim had ripped one of his galoshes, the men looked satisfied. I resumed our hike, breathing, gazing skyward without fear.