She said she wanted to do this
told all her friends
bragged about the big jump
laughed and joked all the way to the ladder

So vulnerable climbing the steps
painful progress to the top
fighting with herself not to reveal the fear
and to show bravery to the entire pool

Worried, but trying not to show it,
we below also balance bravery with fear.
light-hearted encouragement:
“It’s easy, honey! The water’s fine!”

Treading water, necks tilted back looking up, yelling encouragement
to the one we love, seeing the fear and excitement on her face
fatigue in our arms and legs, but we don’t dare call it off ;
we paste the supportive smiles on our weary faces.

She’ll jump in time; everyone does eventually
you don’t see little old men and women living up there,
camped out on the threshold for the rest of their lives,
faint-hearted youthful adventurers who weren’t able to muster the courage,
dreams unrealized, failure their legacy.

But it seems like it takes forever, and we’re tired of treading water.
can’t she see how easy it is? How easy it will be?
it’s as easy as falling down.
Driving home she will go on and on and on about the day,
about jumping over and over and over and over
and about how much fun it was and who she jumped with;
amnesia about the trepidation we now see in her body language
as she stands up there in the wind,
knees locked, jaw set, fists at her side,
toes dangling over the edge,

We have all been there, facing our demons,
and having finally jumped off our own high boards,
we float to the frothy surface, grab a breath,
and look up at the board and ask what was the big deal?

* jumping off this high board,
* holding her breath longer than ever before,
* swimming all the way across the deep end,
* touching the grate at the bottom of the pool,
* doing a flip off the low board,
* changing in the bathroom with all those people watching:

She will face these gateless gates of summer,
open them, pass through them;
her life, her jump, her indecision,
in the twinkling of an eye it will be gone

[see also “On the High Dive“]