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Scared of the Big Wheel part I

Not the karmic kind, but yes, afraid of that too, of having regrets of not having done something, rather than what I have done, and badly.  No, this big wheel was the fairground kind at a county show not so long ago.  We stopped at the top to let people get on, and we were right at the top when It happened.  I looked at the bolts holding our seat, I wondered if they were loose.  As the wind rocked the bucket seat, I found myself holding on to my daughter chanting something like “Oh my goodness, oh goodness, oh goodness” as hot tears squeezed out of my eyes.  Perhaps some of you can relate.  But I’ve never been afraid of the fairground, or heights, or anything really.  Except regret, of course.

Taking it apart later on that day, I wondered where the fear came from.  To put it into context, I had practised extreme sports before even they had a name.  My first was throwing myself off a glacier near Mont Blanc, Chamonix, with a parachute strapped to my back.  This was before the rules of base jumping got finickity.  I was with a gang of French mountaineers, who climbed the escarpment like goats, leaving me struggling in my borrowed size 9 climbing boots.  The day had begun with me telling someone that I could drive, and whilst this was true, I omitted to say I didn’t yet have a license.  As the car switched and swerved up an icy mountain path, and then stalled, I did wonder at the wisdom of my white lie.  A group of mountaineers behind me (unknown to me), jumped in the car as I wriggled over to the passenger side, and got the thing started again.

What I remember is the blue of the sky as I glanced behind my back as four friends made sure the ‘chute was fully open.  This was at a time when my French wasn’t all that good, and my instruction for the jump had happened on that climb up the glacier, when all I could think about was how to stay upright, and I was patently not listening to the French voice giving me all the needful details for the exit off the mountain without the use of feet.

So I ran and I jumped into pure nothingness, glancing behind me, I saw the mountaineers jumping up and down and waving their arms and I thought “Well, something has gone wrong, and I’m about to pop my clogs.  Best enjoy the ride.”  I glided down, steering the ‘chute nicely, wondering which part of my anatomy would be speared and which spared by unknown obstacles on the valley floor.  I spotted a tiny ceramic bath, focussed on it, and steered towards it.  Landing on both feet, I marvelled at my physical alrightness.  During my flight, honestly thinking that my sojourn on planet earth was up, I felt completely and fully at peace.  I came to understand this state, the eastern sages call it satori.  And I came to understand, too, that it is a very powerful reason to keep pushing oneself in sports.  But at that time, glad to be alive, I rolled up the ‘chute and began my hours long climb back up the glacier.

I later found out that the reason they all jumped up and waved, was because it was a beautiful first flight.  Who knew?

My realisation of this utterly peaceful state that comes when one concentrates fully on something came when I lived in Arizona, and we had been tubing on a mountain river.  There was the most beatiful lake where we picnicked, and lo!  I watched someone with what looked like a scooter pull up the handles as they zipped across the water.  It was balletic, and I was fascinated.  The rider came to the shore and asked me if I wanted a go, oh yes, I said.  He warned me to stay on my knees and not try to stand, but I did stand, and the concentration it took to do all of that put me in a state of alert awareness, peace, and silence, where all I could sense was the blue sky, the water beneath me and my own body moving and flexing as I rode the scooter.  I came to the shore, and thought “I’ve got to get myself one of those”.  It wasn’t the machine I craved, but the state of peace I had reached whilst riding it on the water.

This was my first trip into the slightly dangerous, wildly exciting, totally needful, and it had me wanting more.  There was more between this time and crying on the Big Wheel, but that’s for later.

Right now, I’m off to the more sedate climbs of ferrying five teenagers to a shopping centre in the South West, where I will sit and drink coffee whilst they agonize over which hoodie to buy.  Ah, me, to have that simplicity again.



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