One autumn, Tony Higgins’s family moved southwest to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I drove down to stay overnight. The next morning Tony took his cousin Steve and me to Pilot Rock, a mountain site that was renowned in his new homeland.
Arriving early, we jumped out of the car and raced to the top. Primitive steppingstones were awkwardly arranged, making us appear like galloping ostriches. Suddenly the bright sun disappeared as we spiraled up the huge cliff, as the steps led us to the mountain’s center before it carried us upward. I was never much of an outdoorsman and never enjoyed mosquitoes, sharp thorny plants, or fat bees that buzzed at low frequencies. Tony and Steve didn’t complain so I stayed close behind them.
At the summit we were embraced by a bright yellow light. An endless ocean of autumn-colored trees blanketed the earth warmly. For the first time I grasped the magnificent size of the world. Although a complete circle revealed endless miles, I knew the view was such a small fraction of our planet. The air was chilly, I had forgotten to bring my coat, and there was deafening silence.
A seven-story fire tower stood at the mountain’s top. With fearless hearts and careful footing, we climbed into the sky. The air blew cooler on my arms and face. Fighting gravity, we dared not look down until we reached the highest point of the tower. Viewing the earth from this elevation was a spiritual awakening–a complete freeing of one’s soul. Tony flapped his arms and pretended to fly. The glorious view of Earth stopped my breath. I could see a longer radius of orange citrine miles as I turned in a circle. I peered downwards. The trees were tiny but seemed never-ending.
The numbness of the breeze stilled my thoughts. What if I were a victim of Pilot Rock? Surely some mischievous youngster had fallen from the tower. I could not escape the dreadful feeling that a misplaced foot would trip me to the land of the non-living. I clutched the side beams with white knuckles as I stared down. I imagined losing my grip, slipping, then falling to the tower’s base. I envisioned grasping at air, for there was nothing to hold on to once I let go. The free fall would last mere seconds, and the scrapbook of my life would be played–at lightning speed. I glanced over to Tony and Steve. The wind was peacefully blowing in their faces while they continued to absorb the panorama. They both wore pleasant smiles.
Leaning snugly against a tower brace, I tightly covered my ears with my hands and closed my eyes. I prevented any wind from seeping through my fingers so I could not hear anything except an ocean-like roar, like the muffled rumble one hears when pressing a large seashell against an ear.
This must be death, I thought. I removed my hands and again gazed into an artist’s palette of never ending trees. The universe resounded with a beautiful symphony that only I could hear. Although I was humbled to a single cell, I was also a living masterpiece with every physical organ working together like a perfect machine. Was I formed by the hands of a creator? Was I a wonderful offspring of the Earth? I realized the inextricable connection among the mountain below me, a lone tree in the distance, the sun that warmed my cheeks, and my mind to be able to discern the differences. One thing could not exist without the others.
In the evening I numbly drove back to New Albany. For the first time, I did not feel estranged from the cosmos, but merely a part of it. I couldn’t grasp who or what was responsible for the paradise I beheld. Was the origin of this power inside or outside of me? I realized that although we are born from the creature we call woman, it is our universe that is our primal mother. The universe gave birth to our wonderful earth. The earth gave birth to me.
For once I realized that I am the sum total of all things. If I had fallen from the tower of Pilot Rock, my death would not upset the beautiful balance of the universe in the slightest, and it would be impossible for me to die without knowing my true creator.
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