Two years ago, I was talking with my fellow English-teacher friends about books whose characters we still carried around with us. (Yes, we actually have discussions like that.) One of the women said without hesitation, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. And all of a sudden two others seconded that nomination and the three of them sat and gushed over it for ten minutes, all the while I wanted to crawl under my desk because not only had I not read it, I hadn’t heard of it. (This, friends, is actually even more humiliating in my Englishy-teachery world than I am making it sound.) I immediately got my hands on the nearest copy and nearly fainted when I saw its breadth–900+ pages. I had never in all my years of reading tackled a book that long. But lest I be left in the dark from that discussion again, I started the epic story of characters in a medieval setting called Kingsbridge and followed them over decades of the building of a cathedral in Europe. I couldn’t put it down. I was obsessed with carrying the book with me everywhere I went. I read at the dentist, at the park, between my classes, at red lights, in standstill traffic on the downtown connector, and any other chance I could find. I took it with me to a cabin with friends, and I was absolutely anti-social and distant all weekend, as all I could do was sit in the rocking chair on the screened-in porch and read about Tom Builder, Ellen, Jack, Aliena, and other characters that I still reflect on wistfully. I missed them when the book was over. As soon as I finished Pillars, I started its sequel, World Without End, which is set in the same town, just in the next generation. I loved it just as much as its predecessor, all 1050 pages. And so has everyone else in whose hands I have placed these books. They are that memorable, that powerful.
Tonight I had the opportunity to hear the author of those two fantastic books, Ken Follett, speak at the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta. He actually recorded a Between the Lines session with Valerie Jackson for NPR, which was a thrill for me just being associated with my beloved public radio. Follett was everything I wanted him to be: charming, funny, self-deprecating, smart, witty, and a pleasure to listen to. He was lovely and patient as he signed our books and listened to us acclaim his novels and grin goofily at him. Yesterday he released a new title, Fall of Giants, the first of The Century Trilogy, which will go all the way through the 1900s. Which characters will I love? Which will break my heart? Who will I hate and wish death upon? How will the Great War affect their stories? My mouth is watering with anticipation…
Yesterday I realized that in the last five weeks, I have signed my life away THREE times. Yep–on three separate occasions, I have initialed and signed beside the X that I would not sue if I was injured, that I did not have a pre-existing medical condition to keep me from doing this obviously-dangerous activity, and that if I died, I waived my rights and promised that my closest loved ones would not sue the company. Three times in five weeks. Do I have a problem or is my life awesome? Let’s see.
The first time was my skydiving experience five weeks ago. (See my video here.) Hands-down, best time of my life. Jon and I had so much fun and I would go again tomorrow if I could afford it! The adrenaline rush lasted two days. In fact, I had a first date on the evening of the day I skydived, and I’m not sure he got a word in all night. My cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much. And I swear I glowed for two solid days! I don’t know how I slept.
The second time was whitewater rafting in Colorado on the Royal Gorge. (See previous post for a reference to how much I loved All Things Colorado.) Our boat ran safety, which means we went down each rapid first to figure out the best way for the other boats. We watched one of them behind us totally capsize (called “rotisserie” in raft-guide-speak) and send all eight passengers floating down the river.
And yesterday, Amanda and I went to North Georgia Canopy Tours where we hiked, ziplined over a mile of cable, and repelled from thirty feet up in a tree. And had a freaking blast.
This is a new side of myself resurfacing, but one that has always been there, just beneath my scarred-up skin. When I was a kid, I lived in the top of a magnolia tree in my front yard or on my ten-speed bike. For some reason as I got older, I stopped giving myself permission to let myself go: to jump, to climb, to soar. Maybe I was too afraid of the fall? Not anymore. I’m becoming quite accustomed to carabiners, helmets, harnesses and detailed safety instructions. And maybe I’m getting a bit addicted to an adrenaline rush. (Next on my list is riding a motorcycle (sorry Mom) and hang gliding.)
Life itself is one grand adventure, and we only get to do it once, so why sit at home? Let’s GO!
Ok, I gush a lot on here. I have so many great things going on in my life: great people, great neighborhood, great school, and life is just great great great for me right now. So because you know that, I am afraid that you won’t understand the Greatness of my trip to Colorado two weeks ago. Please, pause a minute to let this sink in.
I started planning the trip last spring when I saw that my two all-time favorite artists, David Gray and Ray LaMontagne, were going to tour together. (Be. Still. My. Heart.) As I scanned the list of cities on the tour, I was dismayed to see that there were no Southeastern cities (at the time…they were added later…but how was I to know they would?!). But my dismay quickly turned to over-the-top excitement as I saw Red Rocks Amphitheater listed on August 30, the day after my birthday. Let me clarify: Red Rocks is every music lover’s dream venue. All of the greatest artists have played there. It is one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in the world, and it was at the tip-top of my list of places I wanted to see. I immediately emailed my girls to get them on board–resounding YESES came back in a jiffy, plane tickets were purchased, and it was ON.
As I talked about the trip for the four months leading up to it (sorry, coworkers and neighbors and perfect strangers), I repeatedly said, “I have my heart wrapped around this show.” I did. (I really did.) It simply had to be magical. Now, my mama always says that I set myself up for disappointment because I have too-high expectations. (I know, Mom. I know.) But this time, my expectations were blown into that starry night in Morrison, CO as I squealed and giggled my way through hours of giddiness, dancing around gorgeous red rocks with Rocky Mountains standing over me and my soul mate girlfriends as we internalized every single moment of our lyrical, musical heroes crooning to us. And it really was as if they were only singing to us. I have never felt such unabashed, unbridled, pure joy. (Right now I have chills just thinking about it.)
Those four days in Colorado top my list of Great Days in my Life. The food was incredible, whitewater rafting was exhilarating, and that time with Amanda, Audrey, and Allison is wrapped around my heart forever.