To this day I remember my high school senior class trip. It was early one summer, the day after my birthday, and the day before graduation. A considerable number of my graduating class, together for one last shindig, had trouped it out by bus to the Indian Head Canoe Company for a day of rafting on the Delaware River. It was a 9 mile trip and estimated to take us 5 hours.
It was a day shimmering in laziness, as we paddled two miles down the river to break for lunch, only afterwards to slip calmly down the river letting the current guide us. Occasionally jumping out and swimming between rafts. The river stretched on, colossal and placid, for more than half the trip.
Our attention was completely diverted from the trip at mile 7, where the right shore turned abruptly clifflike with small hidden caverns in the rocky face. Crawling halfway up one I looked up through a crevice to see into the underbelly of the fawn forest canopy above. The sun shone down through and warmed my face as small gnats buzzed around my ears and nose. It was a beautiful sight. No camera could have ever photographed the beauty of the dusty light.
I joined my friends at the cavemouth and we descended back to the raft. The next mile was traversed in a calm quiet.
Upon reaching mile 8 with everybody tired and sunbathed, the river shallowed even more to the starboard side. Our raft slowly rounded the supple hip of the river as we went directly below some friends flying off of an iron triangle swing. Others were jumping off of the 20 foot ledge across the relaxing waters of the cove. Most of the class had stopped and docked here, as the canoe of teachers (the cool ones) waiting below to supervise the playful rushing of us young at heart up to the ledge and back beneath the silent watery deep at the foot of the ledge. From the surface where we floated there was a path to the first ledge, a climb to the next, a rope ladder to the final. It was from this highest peak that the girl stepped off the cliff fifty feet closer to the sky. She just stepped off with windmilling arms and let her sneakered feet slap the cool unknown with a resounding smack and swam back to the surface.
And we watched as she surfaced.
And she saw us watching and smiled.
And for that moment she was godlike.
We docked and I went up to the ledge, the first one, and toed the edge of the wet rock base, and wondered if I could. If I could let go of what I stood on, plunge into the black pool which swirled devilishly beneath me. I know where I had been that day, but wondered where I may wind up. I stepped back and turned; the girl had made the long rocky climb and was leaping through the sunlight, reminiscent of my view through the dust and light at the cave's crevice miles back.
She fell weightless through the sunbeams.
And we watched.
And this time she saw us all watching as she flew.
And she smiled, with meaning.
And for that moment, smiling down upon us with lesser heart, she was godlike.