Standing deep within the mountainous amphitheater I stretched out. After a good 3,400 foot climb I was ready to get the sweat off of me. Reaching over, I placed the last bit of clothing I was wearing across a branch in the sun. There wasn’t a bet or a challenge; it was a more of a polite invitation. My mind raced backwards to a moment years ago.
I curled my toes over a rock outcropping, staring at the alpine pond we had come across still half-shrouded in ice. The warm Sierra sun shined through the trees, illuminating the verdant grasses around the pond in an almost magical way. The air was still and silent; crisp, cool, yet warm and inviting. I could hear my heartbeat; I could hear the rustling of clothes being stripped off by my friends. The anticipation was palpable. It was juncture in time that the path of my life transitioned.
Can I recall the last time I ran and leapt into a body of water? Or waded through a grassy alpine meadow simply because it felt wonderful? I have grown up, it would seem. I think it started when I was a teenager, uncomfortable in my own skin; becoming too afraid to look uncool. I was never cool, but I always thought I’d fit in somewhere. It was a divergence to a pre-programmed life of work and becoming content to sit on the sidelines where it was comfortable.
A bird chirped. A shoe was dropped. The trees fluttered a bit. I looked across the pond gauging my swimming skills in the icy frigid waters in front of me. It was a playful day filled with waterfalls and an icy cool dip. I remember as a youth splashing and playing in the lake by the family cabin. Jumping in and out of the water, diving down and playing with the grasses, rocks, and plants until I was utterly exhausted. It was fun and I didn’t want to stop it.
Now many years later, standing on the bank of an alpine lake in my 30 something year old body with my insecurities, I plainly saw the decisions that I could make. I could sit along the shore in the sun enjoying the company of my romantic infatuation, entwined, reading a book, and being observant of my surroundings. I’d be comfortable. Warmer, for sure. I’d avoid the fear that comes from standing naked alongside an alpine body of water that you’re about to jump into. There’d be nothing abnormal or inherently wrong with staying on the shore enjoying the afternoon, like a grownup.
I saw the symbolism in the moment. I saw the paths diverge and knew where I was; I’d been at this intersection earlier this year faced with some serious decisions about my life and where I wanted it to go. Do we sit content on the sidelines watching others have fun exciting moments and adventures? Or do we dive into the cold water, braving our fears, feeling alive, and embracing life around us as we were when we were too young to be “grown up?”
I jumped in. The cool snow-fed water encircled my body, the chill immediately raced to my core. I was clean-ish. I felt alive. As I turned around and let my head breach the surface I saw a playful spark of inspiration come across her face. I’m sure the others at the lake weren’t ready to see a grown man and a grown woman jump naked into the lake, unafraid, secure with each other and infected with a youthful playfulness that is often lost when we grow up.
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