The trail is muddy and mostly slick rocks, so I’m forced to walk slowly and carefully toward the sound of the beach.
The incline down becomes steeper and suddenly I slip and land hard on my right knee. My leg is covered in slimy light brown earth and tiny flecks of rock.
I stand back up and keep going.
The ocean is in view now, crashing loudly against a pocketed black boulder. I’ve stumbled into a little cove straight out of Neverland and I can almost see the mermaids peeking at me when the waves recede.
The smile on my face is wide and full and real.
I am happy again.
This time last year, on this exact same vacation, things were very different.
My depression was wound so tight around me it blocked out everything and everyone.
I tried to hide it. I played cards, laughed and even made it to the beach once.
But inside, I was empty and hollow.
And I was fooling nobody.
The darkness and alcohol kept me locked in a loop of feeling sorry for myself and imagining the many ways I could disappear below the waves forever.
I was so lost.
A seagull lands next to me and squawks loudly.
“Good day,” I say and tip my sunhat.
I chuckle at how silly I am and the smile bursts across my face again.
My mother rents this beach house from a friend of hers every year. We come with my mom, my aunt, her son and my two children.
This is the first year my depression didn’t take center stage. I’m able to control it now, thanks to therapy and medication.
I’m not lost anymore.
I hike back to the beach house and burst through the door and begin babbling on about an expedition to the “secret cove.” My kids are ready in a moment and we dash back outside.
As we hike, I fill them in on the mermaids, treasure and the possible pirate danger.
They giggle and play along.
We pick up sticks and sharpen them with rocks.
We talk about what we will buy with the treasure and wonder if the mermaids will let us feel their tails.
But after only a few minutes in this magical cove, it is the waterfall that catches their full attention.
“Let’s climb it,” my boy says and takes off.
Fear grips me in the stomach and I swallow down all the images of broken bones or worse.
He is an excellent climber.
I watch him place each foot carefully and test the handholds.
He looks back and smiles at us.
His sister and I copy his movements, making our way slowly up the waterfall. We have to cross back and forth over the water and we are quickly soaked.
Each movement is slow and many times my girl looks back at me with fear and doubt in her eyes.
“I don’t think we can go any further,” she says over and over.
“Go slow,” I answer every time. “Just one movement at a time. You can do this.”
When we reach the top, my boy offers his hand to his sister and then me. He helps us up the last little lip and then we all stand, exhausted and soaked. We burst out laughing.
“We just climbed a frickin waterfall!” my boy yells.
“Don’t say frickin,” I reply. “But we really did. We climbed a frickin waterfall.”