“Did she push you off the cliff after taking the picture?”

      -“Something like that, but not”

“You’re still alive, that’s what matters. Although, knowing you, you’d just figure out how to fly on the way down, anyways.”

It was singularly the kindest thing I’d heard in a while from an outside source, but a compliment nonetheless. Funny, the most stubborn among us have to get hurled off the proverbial cliff to discover we can fly, if necessary. The last year and a half has been turbulent to say the least, with flights of fancy or otherwise curtailed by a protected heart, an evolving mind and a busted soul. When we’ve burned the bridges of friendship with the torches of our cycles of depression and painful growth, we’re left with nothing but a foundation from which to rebuild. And what a cost it is to rebuild a broken soul. All cliches about breaking eggs to make omelettes or the hour before dawn being darkest aside, it is a curious thing, indeed when the protected embers of your inner fire feel a breeze begin to blow in, bringing life anew.

And so it happened to pass that I found us lost, without a map down in the middle of the nowhere that is the forests of northern Arkansas. Beautiful landscapes with temperamental cell phone service directing us down gravel roads all of which were littered with single-wide trailers and tattered Confederate flags, seemingly to offset the works of nature. But when we’re in the right company, getting lost is no cause for loss-of-absolute-control furious fits in our mind. We wandered down dirt roads where a random rooster crossed our path as some sort of avian omen. We stumbled across an ATV safety course being held in a field on a mountainside, people waving at us like old friends and us too content without agenda to stop and ask directions. There was a lurking, quiet pressure to return to civilization, where expectations of adulthood loomed, but for an afternoon, we were beholden to none but a sense of adventure.

There was much to hash out as we bounced along the roads at a mind-blowing 23mph. Questions to answer, two people so tied by our soul’s connection yet relative strangers over the last 18 months. Parallels were drawn between the rough, off-beaten paths we were lead down and the circuitous route of our particular dance. Lame jokes about if you can survive getting lost in Arkansas hillbilly country, two people can survive anything. Stories about the mythical powers of a random road rooster were conjured up, to the unforced laughter of two creative minds volleying back and forth, eager to make up time lost, grateful for the uninterrupted chance to banter freely.

Somehow we stumbled across the trailhead to one of the most-photographed sites in the Ozarks, Hawks Bill Crag, or Whitaker Point. A large group of middle eastern gentlemen with selfie sticks and wearing skinny jeans were kind enough to not laugh at us as we headed the wrong way into the woods, again lost. Regrouping and passing them by for a second time, they nodded sympathetically at the fools laughing at an inside joke between us, known to none else. We lumbered down the trails, interspersing commentary about the surroundings with authentic conversations that had had too much time between one another. I was lost, I was happy and my heart began to beat in time with my soul, a rhythm that has been dormant for what seems like a lifetime. And damn, did it feel good to feel that rhythm once again.

Reaching the iconic spot was almost a non-issue by then; although on a bucket list for us both, it was the trail leading there that provided the soul the nourishment so many seek in the vistas. We took the requisite pictures there, but in reality, the pic on the way there means more to me; she was trying to figure out a camera, and I was looking over the edge, in awe of what lay before my eyes and before my own heart and soul.

One way or the other, it’s time to let a reborn heart sing once again, to unleash the tethers holding back a soul born to soar.

One way or another, it’s high time we discover how to fly.

On the precipice

On the precipice