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Enveloped in cool shifting shadow under the forest’s dense canopy, I scan the metal walkway ahead, gauge its distance. I slip the brochure from my pocket and read: ninety meters. This is the longest of the suspension bridges in this rainforest reserve. My wife, teen daughters and I have detoured here for the afternoon, part of our whirlwind visit to the central highlands of Costa Rica. We’ve spent the past hours traipsing the moist pathways of this ancient forest, stopping often to marvel at some new natural wonder: a legion of parading ants, a butterfly’s fluttering cobalt-blue wings, the darkened hollows of some decayed tree trunk.
A few first steps onto the walkway and I stop. Feel the metal slightly sway, the gentlest of rocking, light as the breeze that laps the air. Eyes fix on the platform at the other side. Strands of bound gray steel guardrails stretch out waist-high on both sides ahead of me, forming part of the metal cage that I know holds me safe, and yet, I wonder.
I have scaled ropes courses with their high-wire challenges, rappelled from mountain tops and scaled tall trees to trim branches. The fear of heights does not paralyze me. No, it’s not the height, but instead the plague of some devilish voice I fear. One that urges me to leap, fling myself out.
The nagging rises, gnaws at my stomach, presses into my groin. But I will it away, take tentative steps, feet leaden but advancing. Hands reach out – for balance but resolved not to touch the bound cold cords of woven steel. Below me the ravine stretches out, streaks of sunlight glint on the canopy of trees and a thousand tinges of brown and green twinkle, the sound of rushing water. I stop halfway across and, drenched in sunlight, and lift my gaze. The sky is piercing blue, vast and scintillatingly clear, even the summit of Arenal, the volcano that rises like a behemoth across the valley and towards the heavens, is mist-free as it slips seamlessly, earth to sky to heaven. Here at this midway point, I stand suspended in the air. A tiny bird darts by, like a flash of lightning, and my eyes trace its graceful flight.
The demon whispers: “Jump.” I waver, feel the cacophony of voices within me, and push my feet hard against the walkway, struggle to stop the spiraling. What would it be like to fly down through the air, to soar like a bird and pitch down, down, down? I am spinning, losing control. I laugh – a twitter of laughter – and my mind races to a conversation weeks ago when I remember saying: “I don’t know what fear feels like.” But this fear is real, moving in me, spreading gray and green and heavy up my legs, spilling into the belly. Now there is nothing else, just me, these swirling voices and one hundred more feet across this suspension bridge. I fix my eyes on my destination and trudge forward. Legs like rocks, one slow step at a time, I haul my fear with me, the two of us together.
I stop again, stomach clenched. Just breathe, breathe, I remind myself. I wait, a second, ten seconds, holding the chaos.
Behind me I hear a voice – a slice of laughter that graces the air. There is a flicker behind my eyes, a grace of awakening. From the movement under my feet I know that my daughter has joined me on the bridge. I feel her presence through the metal and turn my head. Her slender form moves toward me, blond hair dancing on her shoulders, her crimson sweatshirt a beacon of comfort. She glides, angel-like, and then stops to peer towards the volcano and the distance.
The nagging voice has stilled, vanished into the bright air. I feel a circuit completed beneath my feet, and stand stout and emboldened, breath full in my chest. In that moment, I hear – feel – a sighing.
I move on, feet gliding now across the walkway, body light. Ten yards from the bridge’s end, I will myself to a stop, wanting to savor – burn – this feeling into my corporeal memory. My hands reach out to grasp the cords of steel that serve as handrails, but I stop them, just inches away. Breath moves, strong and steady, in my belly.

A writer and musician, Michael works full-time as a writer/editor with The Children’s Trust in Miami. He’s been writing and publishing for 20 years, both as a journalist and free-lance writer, and taught creative writing at Florida International University for seven years before taking a hiatus from writing to earn his MFA in Writing at Spalding University’s Low-Residency MFA Writing Program (Louisville, KY)/May 2010. Michael did the New Warrior Training Adventure in June, 1997. Learn more at

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