I ended up travelling through Lillooet on a whim. I was beginning to feel tired when I passed the turnoff from 29 or 99 or whatever road I was already driving. I pulled over, suddenly second guessing my path, and thinking of Ken, the nice gentleman I met at Ten Mile Lake who recommended the alternate route as a much more scenic option. I flipped a u turn, and decided to take a chance with the potentially snowy, climbing, winding, hair pin turning road through the pristine mountains instead of the safer, flatter version through Cache Creek.
It felt right, and so it was.
I slept on top of a mountain, and when I woke I was facing a tiny, sleepy town nestled in the greenery below. I worked my way to the little cafe that promised free wi-fi on its front door, and was greeted by a pearly, genuine smile and shining, kind, blue eyes. His energy transferred easily, and I felt comfortable as the manager of the shop explained to me why his muffins were so much more tasty than any others. I caved, ordering a blueberry one to accompany my typical ‘Americano. No Room.’
The manager realized I wasn’t from that area quickly. Perhaps it was my lack of “Ya’ Knooow” at the end of each sentence, or my round pronunciation of ‘about.’ Either way, when he showed an obvious interest in my destination, I figured I could get his opinion on the weather situation. The clouds were looking a bit dismal. I wondered, how smart would it be to head up into the mountains with 2 wheel drive? He assured me there would be no snow, simply by voicing the words I wanted to believe.
The decision was made.
I’d leave Lillooet and head to Vancouver by way of Whistler.
Now, I believe the Universe works in mysterious ways at times, and sometimes you don’t quite understand what’s happening, but I do fully believe that if you are following a feeling that you believe is real, true, and right, then you are going to do the right things, be in the right places, and achieve that which is meant to be done by you. And even more importantly, you will be happy. Truly, shamelessly happy with yourself. In that happiness, you will grow pride in yourself, begin to unabashedly love yourself, and so on.
I was driving down the highway, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flicker of light. I turned to take in a magnificent waterfall crashing beyond the trees, and I knew I needed to go there…
It felt right and so it was.
I turned, following the signs to Shannon Falls, and parked. I grabbed my camera, rain jacket, and locked my car (since I’m now so close to the lower 48 and the signs all warned to hide my valuables and secure my vehicle).
I made the short hike up to the highest viewing point easily. I kept my hood half way back, so the rain drops could kiss my face while I met them with my chin lifted slightly to the soaked maple tree tops. As I reached the landing, I saw a man standing alone, smoking a cigarette, leaning on the wooden railing that was acting as a barrier between the normal visitor and the falls. I smiled at him, charged by the natural electricity my soul experiences when caressed by Mother Nature, and fell into a casual conversation with him as I absentmindedly continued to search for a way to climb up to the base of the falls.
He noticed my intent and asked, “Do you plan to climb up?”
With a light I could feel shining in my eyes, I quipped, “If I can, absolutely!”
He looked towards the falls wistfully a moment, and said, “I’ve been to the base before, though not the top.”
I glanced quickly at him, and immediately responded, “I’m going at least to the base. You should come with me!”
He laughed, shrugged, nodded, and we set off, climbing up a steep embankment of slick mud, pulling our way through the sloped trees, onto the slick rocks surrounded by gurgling rapids. I stopped halfway to turn around and introduce myself to my old friend. We rock hopped and scrambled our way up, Javier and I, balancing on slippery fallen tree trunks and using anything we could to keep ourselves upright.
We separated when we reached the base, still warm with movement, standing apart in the icy spray, feeling the force of the frigid mist like millions of tiny charged needles, piercing our skin; awakening our senses, making us aware of the power of the crashing falls, the frailty of our bodies, and the short distance separating the two. I stood, facing the wind-tossed walls of melted ice, eyes closed, ears and mind open for countless minutes; just listening and feeling. Not just feeling the burn of each gust of water like shards of freshly blown glass bursting on my numbing skin and the thunderous vibrations the raging swirls sent through my body, but also the way my hair was pulled tight and haphazardly against my forehead, and the thrill of sensing the slow trickle of cold moisture that slipped behind my uncovered ear and snaked its way down the curve of my neck, naturally following contours, obediently submitting to gravity on my warm skin. Skin, goose bumping in wake of the chill. I stood still, feeling the steady stream of liquid leaking from my sopping jeans right into the base of the brown XtraTufs into which they were tucked. Feeling the creeping cold reaching my toes before the neoprene began its magical warming, but most importantly, feeling my heartbeat, and feeling desperately alive in a world of wonder.
I opened my eyes and looked at Javier, who was leaning into the strong gusts, struggling to stand straight on a particularly exposed rock. His smile was radiant. He looked at me, and I nodded before letting out an unbridled “Suuuuuuuuuuuwiiiiiii!” with my face to the clouds. He did the same, and laughing, climbed down from his dangerous perch.
Javier approached me, and with genuine relief stated simply, “I needed that. Thank you.”
Pleased by his happiness, I thanked him for sharing the experience with me.
To this his eyes narrowed, and he said more forcefully, “No. You don’t GET it. I REALLY needed this. I should tell you,” he hesitated, “…I’m on suicide watch, and when you came up, I was not in a good place.”
I looked on patiently as he explained, “I mean, I was in a REALLY bad place. I can’t believe I’m here with you! I mean, people don’t normally come all the way up. You don’t even know me, but you invited me up here with you. I didn’t know people like that existed.”
I smiled, my heart welling with a reflection of his new radiating positivity, and told him, “Good people are everywhere. Part of the adventure is getting to find them in the most random of places!”
To this he said simply, “Thank you. You saved my life today. Really. Thank you.”
I opened my arms to him, and he embraced me. For a moment we stood still, left to left, heart to heart, knowing his world was becoming a better place, and accepting my role had been realized solely because I had followed a feeling that I believed was real, true, and right. And so it was.