I could see the coastline from my window. Ahead of us. Behind us. It stretched around every curve in the road, dropped off the side and disappeared into an ocean that broke, hungry and alive, sparkling intensely as the sun dipped toward the surface, against the cliffs and outcrops that bordered the highway.
Coming around a bend, we spotted people alongside the road and a path leading up one such cliff. “Pull over here,” I ordered and Dan had to brake hard, kicking up dust and rocks beneath our tires. We made our way to the top, climbing the steep path that had been carved out for this very purpose. These trails are all over the highway, leading from the road to the top of a cliff where the Pacific Ocean stretches out before you for miles and hours, a glistening blue floor that leads the way to a side of the world I’ve never been to.
“You can just imagine what people like Lewis and Clark must have thought when they found California,” Dan said at some point during the trip. You come over the tops of mountains and then the earth falls away into an ocean that surely stretches on forever.
“It would be like reaching the end of the earth,” I said. “You would think you had come to the edge of the world.”
“Yeah.” It’s mystifying.
It was windy at the top of the trail. More so than I had predicted. More so than I could have imagined. I stretched my arms out in front of me to snap a photograph and felt my body pitch forward. The wind was pushing at my back. Real or imagined, I felt like wind was strong enough to lift me off my feet and toss me over the edge where I would plummet into jagged rock faces and crash, bruised and bloody into the cold, churning water below. The feeling terrified me and I crouched down on all fours to gain my balance and composure. When I stood again, it was not fear, but delight that filled my limbs. With my knees bent into a squat position and my arms lifted to my sides, it felt a bit like flying. Dizzying, unsettling, remarkably scary but also undeniably exciting. I could die, I thought to myself, as I so often do–in the car, on an airplane, in the middle of the night when I wake in fear of having left the oven on. I could die. Right here at the edge of the world. With the wind at my back and my hair blowing across my mouth and eyes. With the ocean dancing far below me, and the sun beginning to set. If ever there were a place to die, surely this was it. And just like that, there was nothing to be afraid of anymore.