Little Eagle

Up near seven thousand feet among the ancient cedars and granite resides a little spot where our family goes camping. We have gone every Summer save one since our older children were pretty small. Tatiana was seven and Ollie four when first we went. Elciana has been, since, well, in the womb. She was making Seal queasy in early August 2011 when she was just about 4 weeks into her pregnancy. In 2012 our youngest was but 4 months old on her first trip up there. It wasn’t her first time camping. She had been to the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium, camping with her Mama and I guess a couple hundred other mama’s and children when she was little more than a month old. Our little Pip.

We don’t go alone. We coordinate with friends who, like us have found the place special and worth the six or seven hour drive from our home. Different families will go different years and a few, like us go every year. We camp. Do a little fishing… a little hiking. Swim in the river and tube down stream through alternating rapids and smooth placid runs. Some jump off the rocks for a plunge into the tea colored water of the lake which is earned on the one mile hike uphill from camp.

This year Elciana’s goal was to jump off Little Eagle. Standing up from the surface of the lake there is a rock that looks like the head and shoulder of an eagle at it’s top. Eagle rock. That’s the highest place to make your leap. I don’t know how high it is. I do know it’s high enough to make you think about it before you jump. If you jump. It’s high enough you don’t want to look too long before you go, or you may just be standing there for an hour talking to yourself. It is a decision. Even if you’ve done it before. So it’s plenty high enough.

Little Eagle is eight or ten feet down from there. Second highest spot. I’ll give her credit it was a pretty lofty sight to set for a nine year old. Only a few of the teenagers or grownups will do it. She’s a little bit small for her age. Like her Mom and I had been.. We can relate to her urge to show bigger folks what energy, will and confidence can accomplish wrapped up in a little package.

I enjoy the jumping. Always have. But I would never push her to do it. Either you want to do it or you don’t. She does. She has built up to it from successive heights in prior years. The lowest rock is about 8 feet high. It’s a big flat spot where you might have your picnic lunch then go in from there if you’re going to have a swim, or maybe just Sun yourself. About seven feet higher is a little spire of granite you can scurry up to. To be honest I’m nervous when she stands on top of that because it’s precarious footing and if she should fall it could go badly. Little Eagle is about twice as high as that.

She has asked me about how best to enter the water. She wants to have a plan. She has wondered about how to position her arms and hands. This way or that. Should she plug her nose? Point her toes? The main thing I told her is to watch the surface of the water approach so you time your entry and pierce the surface cleanly.

The other advice I have shared, what works for me is to Not Look for more than a few seconds when you stand at the edge of the rock. If you do thoughts will enter your mind that have no place in that moment and you will hesitate. It doesn’t do to ponder once you are at the edge. The time to resolve your questions is before you step up. Before you make the climb, or during it. That is when you must decide, “I am going to leap off this granite cliff, fly through the air and splash into the lake”. That is the appropriate time to run it through and visualize it. See yourself succeeding, pushing off, arcing through space and slicing through the surface poised and graceful.

We went up together. People were watching, shouting encouragements to Elcie. I don’t think that helped. It seemed to make her more self conscious. It detracted from her mental focus. So when we reached our spot I gave her the little pep talk but also let her know she didn’t have to go if she wasn’t feeling positive about it. She assured me she really wanted to jump off Little Eagle. I said, “Ok”. She asked me if I would go first. “Of course, if that’s what you want”. I told her, “Watch how I make my decision back here, away from the edge, that when I step up I am going to jump. I just have a quick peek to see where the water is then I push off the rock… not too hard and just focus on entering the water with my arms tight to my sides and feet together”. With that I step forward and am off. A brief rush of air brushes my face as the water approaches. Time seems to elongate just a pinch and a little butterfly stirs in my stomach as I drop and…Splash! As quickly as I can I bob back up to the surface and swim a few yards farther out, beyond where Elciana could jump if she lunged her hardest.

Treading water I am looking up at my little girl. I know she will do it. No doubt she will jump. She has stated this was her one goal for the trip. People are shouting, “You’ve got this Elciana!” She looks at the water and back at the people on shore and at me. I can see her rocking forward and back trying to unlock that moment’s courage that will release her from her earthly bounds for an instant. I know she has stood too long at the edge and she’ll have to go through it all in her head again. The cheering onlookers are having the opposite effect than they intended. I’m treading water. Marking time. She is growing up.

Only she can do this now. I am below her. That 30 feet or so represents an enormous gap between the little girl standing high on the rock and the big girl who’s head will resurface after she makes that leap. These are parenting’s proud moments. I feel like we have done something right in raising LC. I know she has the self confidence and the strength and the will to do this. It is natural to hesitate. This will be the biggest jump she has ever done, by far. She doesn’t just have to overcome the physical challenge of it, she has to overcome the bigger, more frightening barrier of the unknown. I have jumped from here and higher and I still had to will myself over that edge just a minute ago. I knew from experience what to expect. She does not.

So I’m treading water and holding space for her. I know she’s going to do it and she does too. She just has to find the that trust to let go. While I’m in the water another friend has been climbing up to where Elcie is. She gets up there and asks if Elcie would like to go before her or after. Elcie lets her go first. (She can be thoughtful that way). So, after a few moments of looking our friend pushes off and jumps with a joyful hoot. After that Elciana is not going to turn around. With just a few more moments deliberation she does it. What a beautiful sight, that little body soaring through the high Sierra air, past that solid granite and with perfect form entering the lake and a new understanding of herself.

The shouts of celebration echoed from peak to peak and Elciana’s smile was as bright as the Sun and as broad as the sky when she surfaced. I can only imagine how her heart was pounding in her chest as she made that swim back to shore, that little flat rock just eight feet high and the exuberant hugs awaiting her.

Someone wanted to know, “What made you finally jump?”. Elciana answered, “Well, when my dad jumped it wasn’t really a good example for me because he does crazy things. But when she jumped (our friend) I knew it was actually safe”.

Later Elciana told me she thought her form might have been a little off, but she still felt good about her jump. I told her it was nothing less than amazing to witness. And I was proud of her for doing it. That she impresses me with her courage and her abilities. How glad I am to know her and to get to spend this time with her…my Little Eagle.