Sunday, December 07, 2008

Flying Blind

This time of year, between about seven-thirty and eight in the morning, there is a moment when, coming around the big curve on Adabelle Road, you get blinded by the sunlight. Blinded by a flash so brilliant that it takes your breath away.

And in that moment, that half-second of total lack of vision, there is absolutely nothing to do but trust – trust your muscle memory from 35 years of navigating that same curve and trust any oncoming drivers to stay on their side of the road.

It's a scary thing, trust.

One bright summer Sunday Jason finally made good on his promise to take me out on his sailboat, a little Hobie. We pushed off from East Beach on Saint Simons into the cool turquoise water and Jason began maneuvering the ropes and sails in short quick movements while I sat idly on the tight canvas.

I had my back to the ocean, watching the bright dots of people stretched out along the beach. I could feel the shallow waves bumping underneath us as we moved away from shore.

We'd gotten no farther than the sandbar when I felt the boat rise suddenly on a building wave. "Hold on!" Jason screamed and I reached out to grab, I think, the mast as the rear of the boat rose straight into the air.

"Let go!" he screamed almost immediately and I opened my fists as I felt myself being thrown into the water headfirst.I came up gasping, looking around for the boat and for Jason. The wave that had catapulted the boat head over heels was long gone, spread smoothly out onto the beach like cake icing.

We managed to wrestle the boat back upright and, still trying to catch our breaths, paddled back to shore while Jason explained that had I not let go, had I not responded to his command without thought, I would have taken a blow to my head with the boom, a blow that – most likely – would have left me unconscious and, quite possibly, drowned.

All very dramatic.

Only later, after we'd told the story three or four times – with appropriate embellishment, of course – to the folks on the beach who'd been able to do nothing except watch as the little Hobie "turtled" and threw us into the air, did I fully understand the extent of the danger we'd encountered only a few yards from shore and in chest-high water.

Just a few days ago, in the midst of a conversation that I'd not really wanted to have, the person to whom I was talking responded to my long, drawn-out, far-more-intense-than-I'd-intended diatribe, with a softly-spoken two words: Trust me.

I didn't know at that moment whether I could or not. Didn't know if I even wanted to. And I remembered, for what at the time seemed no reason at all, that day on the Hobie. That day when, in response to "Hold on!" and "Let go!" (Interestingly enough, also two words.), I had done exactly as I was told without having any idea why.

I didn't have time to think about whether it was a good idea. Didn't know enough about sailing to determine on my own whether I stood a better chance one way or the other. I just knew Jason.

That's all trust is, really. Acting in response to what you know about the person, not the situation. It's what throws a baby off the counter into her father's arms. It's what sends the underdog back onto the field from the coach's huddle. It's what threw me off that sailboat and into the ocean. The father, the coach, the friend.

Trust me, the voice on the telephone repeated. And I found myself answering, I do.

Copyright 2008

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