As I said before, getting to Crater Lake is no cakewalk. I am not talking about the lovely scenic drive. I speak of the shear cliffs that guard the circumference. There is a reason the water is so clean. Only a few fools can manage the steep trail down and fewer still find motivation to soak their dirty bodies in the ice water. And that is exactly the spot I was in as I sat contemplating the blue water: unmotivated. I can assure you that not every day is a high but every day seems to have and unexpected twist and today was no different.
My visit to Crater Lake has been longer than absolutely necessary to see the park but with the extra time, it has become an odd vacation within my vacation. It is a rare place that I am content to simply sit and watch the water be blue. And I keep going back to do that for hours at a time, sometimes twice a day, just to watch the light change over the water. It soothes me as I tend to the darker, dusty corners of my mind. With increasing pressure to return home, there is the increasing anxiety about what to do next with my life. I had wrongly assumed that becoming a doctor meant I had a career that had intrinsic meaning. I learned much too late that there is a great difference between taking care of someone and caring for someone. How do you create a meaningful life? And why is it that I struggle to keep relationships glued together? People do it all the time. Is there something wrong with me? And what happens if time runs out before I am ready to say goodbye to the man that means the most to me?
I sat and watched a large family jump off the cliff into the icy water. Some went with little prompting while others stood for long periods worried about all the possible outcomes. At over 1900 feet deep, there is certainly plenty to consider. It would take me 2:06 minutes to run that depth on a really good day and there haven’t been a lot of really good days lately. But the reality is that no one was going down that far and the only real guarantee is that you are going to get wet.
A man finally walked up next to me with his lunch. We watched the antics and discussed the variations of technique. He is a ranger in the park and I invited him to have lunch with me. He excitedly told me of his plans to come fish and jump off the same cliff tomorrow. I expressed my fear of heights and the fact that I had been sitting there for over an hour and had pretty much made up my mind that this was just not going to happen for me. I had hoped to simply wade in slowly.
“It will always gnaw at you that you never did it and it will be unfinished business.”
He was right. Maybe the future does not work out as I want but right then I had the chance to be sure that when I look back, the past was as good as it could be. Life does not always give you the option of wading in. You might as well choose to enjoy the rush. I ran and jumped off, unwilling to look down into the endless blue and depths of possibilities I cannot imagine. There will always be the hard, cold truth in the end but there will also be the pride of taking a chance and flying, if only for a moment.