The Rock

Jumping

Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
John Muir

Do you notice what the tide is doing down there? I would have rather had more time for us to psyche up before we jump; some more time to sit and tell some yarns. But with the tide now half out we have to get moving. If we leave it much longer we’ll struggle to swim against the current and be lucky to grab the end of the rope tied to the overhanging gum tree down at the bottom rock. With our bare feet the mud and algae will be so slippery we’ll never get a foothold to climb out of the water.

No, no! I know you’re excited, I know you want to keep ahead of your nerves, but you can’t just stand there and launch from the ledge like that! Take another look over. See there, the middle rock juts some way out between where you’re standing and your trajectory into the water. What you have to do is back up the rock as far as you can and literally run and jump off the edge – I’m sure you’d prefer to ‘splash’ into the water than ‘splat’ onto the rocks in between; that’s certainly what I’d prefer…

I tell you: I LOVE jumping off ledges into water, but we must consider the risks. I’d NEVER jump from anywhere before either watching a local jump first, or undertaking a serious survey of the environment above and below the water into which I’m jumping. So, being as I could probably be considered a local, let me show you what it’s about. See here, before I back up for my launch, I take some seconds to study the water. You can trust me when I say the water is deep enough, but I want to check there are no logs or submerged debris to land on and none in the vicinity which might float down on the current. Once I forgot to do my check and when I jumped I landed on a person below. Luckily I only skimmed her and neither of us got hurt, but I can still see her scared, brown eyes looking up at me in the instant I was plunging toward her.

We still have a couple of minutes before the tide is too low, and I’d like to tell you a funny yarn about the proprietor of the caravan park: Des White and his ultra-light airplane.

I recall this now because one time while doing my pre-jump check, I looked down at the river to see Des drifting by in his ultra-light which was fitted with floats. Straddled on one of the floats was his son Brent who was struggling to hold on while trimming the floats. From Brett’s position I could sense he was doing this for his dad through the resentment of gritted teeth.

From above, the fragile floating contraption looked like a drowning dragonfly.

I jumped off The Rock after the dragonfly floated by. As the afternoon lagged I hadn’t given Des’s ultra-light another thought until, from my caravan window, I looked out over the park to see it, now with wheels fitted where the floats were earlier, starting to gain air at the end of the runway flattened out over the backfilled type-tip. It appeared Des was set to fly over the park. He had to be excited – we all watched him make several attempts to achieve flight without success for some months, and I could hear outside with all the gasps and laughter that I wasn’t the only one watching the spectacle. But then a gust of wind caught the plane, for it took a sudden dive and became entangled by a wing in some overhead power wires.

Swinging in the breeze, Des’s ultra-light looked like a dragonfly trapped in a spider web.

Des managed to un-harness himself and get to the ground safely while his plane remained dangling above. Then he proceeded to fetch his truck, park under the plane, climb onto the truck’s roof and begin to free the tangled wing. Everyone watched his struggle. But with great persistence it appeared Des was making progress and without warning the plane dropped from the wire into a crumpled heap over his truck.

There was one problem. When the plane dropped, the wire’s tension took up like a spring and propelled poor Des skyward leaving him suspended by both hands. He bounced and bobbed about midair with a bewildered look on his face, like a stage-frightened trapeze artist. I can’t remember how he got free but suffice to say the caravan park let out as one in unison with laughter.

The dragonfly sat sadly on its trailer for some months after that day with its wings well and truly clipped.

Des may or may not have taken the power wire into consideration while attempting to fly his plane over them, we’ll never know. We must consider the risks in play, however, before we have a go at anything with a perceived element of danger, just as we’re doing by carefully surveying the water before we jump.

I love the feeling of a freefall, the feeling of jumping into something with no return. There are lots of ways we can achieve this, of course, but I sincerely believe we all-too-often find ways to avoid making such a jump into things in life. Whatever the jump, we sit on our hands instead and with pursed lips resist the prospect and excitement of a challenge. There’s nothing wrong with sticking our toe in for a feel but if the risks have been considered it’s also a nice to shock the system by jumping right in. Maybe I’m being idealistic but sometimes all it takes is a little courage, confidence and the wherewithal of a free spirit.

Sorry, I’m rambling. I always do this just before I’m about to jump off The Rock…

Okay, so I’ve done my check and all’s clear. I’ll jump first, swim out of the way, and from the water below I’ll watch you jump.

Here I go.

Splash!

I look up and see your face peering over the ledge. I give you the thumbs-up and watch you disappear behind the ledge before your plunge.

And here you come.

Splash!

You startle me from my own thoughts by pulling on my leg from below the water before you resurface. You can be such a kidder! Look at you, you’re so excited you’re talking twenty words to the dozen!

You tell me about how you launched your young body off the ledge and let out a little scream the split-second before plunging into the water. It’s hard not to, I concur, but by the clap you made on entry I bet you forgot to point your hands and feet, that they slapped against the water surface.

You tell about being enveloped in the cold, murky, gritty, brown, brackish river water with smarting hands and feet, but how relaxed you felt down there regardless. You tell of being immersed in the depths for as long as your breath would allow, about how nice it felt to have a liquid cuddle after the rush and whoosh and chaos of the air through which you plummeted. You took all the time you could in the stillness, to have a gawk up and see the translucent light refracting through the water like a crossfire of darting lasers.

Now all your senses are stimulated, I ask again: Do you feel any inkling that you are a part of something bigger than yourself? You tell me you are still buzzing from the excitement and adrenaline of the jump – I am too – but there’s more at play here, so much more that you and I are indeed a part of.

You can taste it now, can’t you? You are a fish, a little fingerling. The water penetrates right up your nose and filters into the back of your palate almost as if you have gills like the eels and flatheads swimming below, and you breathe just as they do. You are at home in your wet, viscous, bubbly world. Your scales offer you protection from the threats you will undoubtedly receive along your life-path and while you don’t actually have webbing between your fingers and toes you still have fins all-the-same to help you swim away from threats which get too big.

We swim over to the bottom rock, climb out of the water, sit for a while longer and share some more yarns.

About Blair Paterson

Blair grew up and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. He first realised a love of nature and the outdoors during weekends and holidays with his family on the Hawkesbury River. From humble childhood pastimes building billycarts and tree houses to spending large chunks of time in the bush, Blair now embarks on outdoor pursuits whenever and however possible – by foot, kayak, bicycle or other. He has worked in Environmental Management and currently Outdoor Education. Some of his fondest travels to date have been around Australia and through the Indian Himalayas.
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