Taking Flight

Photo by Guillermo Bobadilla

I wrote this shortly after returning from Nicaragua last June. You can read my story about this amazing country at www.360westmagazine.com, digital version, Page 94 of the May 2011 issue.

I said I would never bungee jump. I didn’t say anything about ziplines.

So here I am, harnessed to a cable above a Nicaraguan forest, ready to flit through some of the most splendid tropical vegetation I’ve ever seen. And I’m afraid of heights.

But I’m not thinking about that now. I’m remembering what a friend told me shortly before I was invited on this American Airlines press trip, how she’d ziplined in Costa Rica and was too scared to open her eyes.

I will open my eyes. I will experience this adventure to the fullest.

Am I nuts? I just turned 60, the cusp of the next phase of my life. The magazine I was working for folded, and I wondered, what happens next? I considered retiring. Instead, I’m opening my own business, Pegasus Editing, and embarking on a sideline as a travel writer. All my adult life, I’ve been tethered to a steady job. Now, as a freelancer, I’m ready to soar.

I hoist myself up so the guide can hook me to the first of 17 cables in this mile-and-a-half-long sequence. I recall the instructions: Right leather-gloved hand on the cable, brake by squeezing the cable, feet up to avoid hitting the platform. The guide in front will signal, come on or slow down.

Remember to open my eyes.

A zipline is a system of sturdy cables zigzagging down from tree to tree, often in a rain forest, or a dry tropical forest like this one.

I first witnessed the mountaineering/military invention in the 1992 Sean Connery movie Medicine Man. The characters sail dreamlike through the treetops, awed at the wonder of nature. It didn’t occur to me then that such a contraption would become a tourist attraction or that I would ever take flight on one.

At Da Flying Frog above San Juan del Sur, on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, the first line is short and pretty much horizontal. The guide gives a gentle shove, and I coast to the platform.

The lines get longer, steeper. To the left, there’s the glorious blue of the Bay of San Juan del Sur. To the right, a stream cascades over the rocks. The only time the guide ever signals me, it’s “Come on.” But I’ve slowed down deliberately, to savor the waterfall.

As I zip down the mountain, I gaze at the tree canopy and the earth far below. I marvel, “I’m not afraid.” I’m too busy enjoying myself. Every time somebody takes a picture, I’ve got a big grin on my face.

I still feel like I’m standing on a precipice. I can’t predict the estimated final third of my life, but I’m strapped in for the ride.

The last cable is short and easy, like a clothesline.

“OK,” I tell the guide. He turns me loose, and I fly.

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10 Responses to Taking Flight

  1. Seré says:

    I am so glad you’ve decided to always keep your eyes open and share your keen perceptions with us. I, too, have sworn I will never bungee jump (How can that possibly be FUN?) but found ziplining exhilarating. Keep on soaring.

  2. Cathy says:

    The last lines are true inspiration and a reminder for me to fly free, without fear – “OK,” I tell the guide. He turns me loose, and I fly.

  3. Cindy Hurn says:

    This is a wonderful piece of writing, from the first line attention-grabber to the last line ending that opens another door. You’ve portrayed well how our generation does not give up and get old at 60, we open our eyes and begin anew. Your spirit is so positive and adventure-ready, just having a cup of tea with you must be a pleasure, let alone slipping down a rainforest cable. Good luck with all your ventures, and keep writing! I hope its okay to add your site to my blogroll. We all need the inspiration you spread like soft butter on a summer day.

  4. Carol Nuckols says:

    Thank you, Cindy. I’m delighted that you would add my blog to your blogroll. Come on by for tea. Though down here in Texas, we’re more likely to drink it iced.

  5. my dear carol, this was beautiful. i love how you paralleled the zip line (opening your eyes) with the leap you’re taking in your career… and i had no idea you were turning 60! you look amazing! love to you…

  6. Joybird says:

    Yay! You may this sound so fun and I am not always ok with heights either. But the lush treescape and the waterfalls and the floating…wow!

  7. Chelo says:

    This piece is so inspiring it makes me want to overcome my fear a height and let fly!

  8. Chelo says:

    This piece is so inspiring, it makes me want to overcome my fear of heights and let fly.

  9. Leslie says:

    my daughter will be graduating with majors in journalism and english next year… she is fond of saying that with the prospects in journalism her career will afford her a cardboard box to live in 😉

    i respect your courage and faith as you leap into this new phase of your life. may it bring rich blessings…

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