Seventy-five, 80 feet up the hillside. About 10 more feet to go from the top. Waterfall splashing, crashing, dashing beside of me. Hands and feet are the day’s equipment. No ropes. No harnesses. No net below.

If you were watching the climb on television, it wouldn’t seem like a great height given our experience of watching people cling to crags hundreds, even thousands, of feet high. But being there, looking down, it seemed far higher than just 80 feet or so. It might as well have been a mile high.

This is several years ago. A few of us were climbing up the rock borders of a waterfall. We would climb up the side. Water and moss made the rocks slick. So it was slow-going. Fingers and toes had to find nooks and crags and up we climbed. At the top, we leapt from the waterfall to the lagoon of water below.

We were young. That’s all the explanation I can offer.

As I reached for a handhold near the top on one climb, my foot slipped as my hand released one rock and the other hand still reached for another nook. For a split second, it could have gone either way. I could regain my grasp or I could tumble.

It was one of those moments that come in life. A momentous moment, when a decision or a move can affect your life, change it, dramatically, all depending on what you do or say within a matter of seconds, or less.

Sometimes, such as the case of slipping on the rocks so high up, these moments are immediately, perilously recognizable.

Other times, the importance isn’t fully realized until later, when the dramatic change has occurred. Then these moments are indelibly imprinted upon the mind. They are stamped as critical moments, crucial instances, when things in one’s life could swing either way, and what one does at that moment determines the course of his or her life until another such decision moment arises.

These moments can be as simple as the look in someone’s eye asking a person not to go out on a given night.

Or it might be in the heavy pause between saying yes or no to a job.

Or it might be the moment when a body lurches forward and grasping fingers find a hold in the rocks or the body’s arms and legs flail in air and you fall, fall, fall to whatever fate awaits below.

I could live or die, remain unharmed or slip and crash. I lurched forward. My fingers found a grip. My toes found a strong hold. The dizzy, momentary spin of gravity was replaced by rock that seemed far more solid than it did a few moments earlier and more slippery, too.

Just like these moments which suddenly come and go within our lives, slippery and solid, but what we do decides which way it will go.

Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times and editor of The Tifton Gazette.

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