My fear of heights has vanished. When I was very young, I had no such fear. I was not too reckless – I only recall falling from one tree – and enjoyed the challenge and the different view. My aunt Alicia had to bring my younger brothers and I down from the platform of a tank set high above the orchard – two storeys at least. (‘You were a bastard of a child’ she said to me lovingly and grinning at a recent family gathering.) In my teens I climbed onto roofs without a thought. Sometime, somehow, I developed a feeling of dread about being up high – in a bell-tower, or near a window in a skyscraper. Edges next to falls became terror-filled. Or I did. A vivid memory of the intensity of the fear was a walk my girlfriend (now my wife) took me on in the Blue Mountains: the Undercliff Walk. I felt uncomfortable many times, but was terrified I was going to fall into the valley on one particular stretch. Some force was pulling at me, trying to suck me off the narrow, unfenced walkway and into the abyss beside me.
Not long after my first day of 7Second, we were back at the Blue Mountains, with a friend who loved to walk – in the mountains. ‘Shall we do the Undercliff Walk?’ And suddenly the remembered feeling of being terrified of falling from the path to my death was back, vivid. I had a choice, clear and simple. ‘Yes.’ And the walk was an absolute delight, even that part that I had remembered with such fear.
When we returned home to Tassie, we had some pruning to do on the Chinese Elm. I found myself at the top of the extension ladder, balanced against a high branch, wielding the pruning saw, when I suddenly realized what I was doing. No fear – just a smile, a mental shake of the head at myself and gratitude. Next year, I noticed the same thing, this time when leaning out over the roof’s edge trying to cut branches hanging over the power line. Same response.
I don’t know at what level these changes are taking place – it is beyond or my conscious awareness. It is as though, when I exercise what is above the surface, the thread that runs down to the roots in me comes free. And whatever else has grown from that root comes free also. I don’t understand it, but it is working for me.