“When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space between act and act when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.” – Ursula K LeGuin
The funny thing about “just being” is that it’s often imagined as a quiet room pulsating with the good vibes of meditation, or a white space where you are the focus of the universe. The day that Pablo woke me up early to trek to a special place didn’t feel like it was going to be more than a day full of adrenaline and good scenery, but then again – I guess you never know when something is going to affect you profoundly.
We woke up in his families house, a place that has become my second home in a sleepy town, and threw our day’s supplies in our pack: granola, one apple, one pear, plenty of water, and ropes and harnesses in case we would have to rappel any waterfalls. (Yes, this is what most “hikes” are with Pablo.)
A short drive to my favorite hidden spot; a hydroelectric dam surrounded by an incredible valley of four towering waterfalls – Pablo let me know the good news. We were headed off to find the fifth one. With little preparation other than the warning that it would be an “intense” day – a word not often used, no matter how trying the day actually was – and to wear my bathing suit, we lowered ourselves from the parking lot to the boulder-lined river below.
From there, we picked our way across huge rocks and hugged mud banks as we followed the turquoise tinted water upstream. Quiet sections of the river gave way to crystal clear pools whose rippling current pulled at me when I chose to swim, while Pablo balanced on a moss covered log that led us to the same point. Crossing deeper, frothing whitewater caused the unfamiliar tickle of panic to rise inside of me, despite the huge stick he had lodged underwater to act as a support. At one point, he jumped up a rock face and used the same stick to act as an extended arm; I grabbed hold, leaned back, and hand-over-hand climbed until I was able to grasp the real one.
Slowly but surely my confidence grew as we slipped purposely over the damp terrain, and I found solace in that I wasn’t holding back his natural pace as much as earlier “dates.”
With leg muscles trembling, he assured me that we were getting close. The roar of water tumbling over rocks became less intense as the river bed widened to a meandering stream and we sat down to wash off the layers of mud and admire the smooth, flat rocks.
Just steps around the next bend, a cloud of mist and dull pounding told me we had arrived, even before the grin on his face confirmed the fact. He pointed to an entrance in the rock walls that rose nearly forty feet out of the water and asked if I was ready to go in – but that it would have to be quick, we never know what’s happening upstream and we don’t want to get stuck. We covered our pack from the mist with the gargantuan leaves that grow in places like this. He walked in front, only knee-deep but feeling for holds in the rock and sunk down to shoulder-level before swimming to the opposite wall. I followed suit, diving under and opening my eyes to an explosion of tiny air bubbles, and a rush of cold.
When I stood up, we were waist-deep in a pool of turquoise waves, crashing against the rocks walls and the water falling from above came in surges so strong that the echo made it impossible to speak. While squinting, laughing out of equal parts happiness, exhaustion, and awe, and feeling the liquid strength of water around my feet it became apparent that this was one of those moments;
a space between act and act when you may stop and simply be.