Silence is a true friend who never betrays. —Confucius

Colorful lights wrap around the trunk of a giant oak, glistening in the distance as raindrops meander down a wall of windows. Hyacinth bulbs planted in late autumn can be seen emerging from still supple ground, evidence of growth usually hidden in this season. The threshold of winter is upon us, and yet, torrential rains and higher temperatures are keeping the gates closed, soothing layers of dazzling white reserved for another day.
Four pairs of string bean legs stand before another wide wall of windows. A giant bucket is perched high in the distance while cousins are leaning in, looking on in chirpy anticipation. Water is trickling into the faux wooden container while little by little, it becomes more and more full. Slowly it begins leaning forward. The people beneath, heads tilted upward, seem to hum with expectancy. Suddenly it reaches its tipping point, an enormous cascade of water comes pouring down with a thunderous crash. The swimming suited people disappear under the heavy weight of liquid and I imagine I might stand beneath that giant bucket and feel the flood of water hitting me.
I imagine it might be cold beyond the windows, but once we’ve carried our belongings into the dressing room, plucking off coats and boots, we emerge into a balmy microclimate and find the splashy place inviting. It’s loud though, as if we’ve emerged into a globe where sound reverberates off the many slides and pools surrounding us. There is confusion about who is sharing a locker, and we pay for more than we think we need, but everything finds its place. 
We’re beginning to perspire and before the adults can fully find our bearings, the kids are begging to run off on their own and we vaguely send them on their way. There are new expectations in play and suddenly it’s just we three siblings, charged with creating an experience of our own.
They say if your children never see you having fun, they will never want to grow up. 
We decide to head straight for the top. 
Steps made of concrete feel damp beneath our bare feet. Without a raft to carry, I rest my hand on my hips, occasionally holding a railing and looking down through the breaks in the stairwell, trying to catch sight of Jonah and Adrian. At a landing midway up, the line breaks in two—one for the most daring, who are heading for the red slide where the communal raft will apparently drop from one platform onto another; and the other for the green side, where the promise is for exhilaration minus any death-defying surprises.  
Our plan is to go green and it’s curious just how cautious I’ve become. At one point in life I was plucky enough to climb midflight, out onto the strut of an airplane, and let go, allowing a ripcord to open my parachute. I did this twice.
The rafts on the green side resemble white water rafts and move along a conveyor belt while our small group steps onto a giant scale to be weighed. We squeal a little in anticipation and lock eyes, preparing for our entry into the wide mouthed tunnel. I pray the tube will not spin, sending me down the chute backward. This fate befalls my sister instead and I watch as her face widens with big anticipatory eyes, and yet, taking it in stride. There is a kelly-green glow inside the wide tube which is enclosed but winds around the outside of the building where the sun is setting, creating a luminous atmosphere.
Whipping and splashing, we zip down the spiraling slide, our hands gripping onto handles until we are finally tossed from the tunnel, breathless and exhilarated. Hopping out of the raft into a shallow pool, I sense a new buoyancy in my being. It’s as if some of the weighty responsibilities I’ve been carrying have been lifted, my body and spirit returned to a sweet equilibrium. We’re having fun.
A dip in the hot tub is further edifying, allowing the experience on the slide to sink in and be integrated. Soon we discover the kids swimming in a river that meanders through the park. Upon seeing us, they scurry off, teasing us like a school of minnows in retreat from a predator. Submerging ourselves into the bustling current, we experience the power of the flow. I can see Jonah in the distance, and I observe him testing the current. He wants to know his own power against its force. He wants to defy it, moving upstream against the flow and contrary to the direction of everyone surrounding him. 
Isn’t that the paradox of strength? The ambiguity present in expressions of power and will. How can we know what is right? There is such beauty in going with the flow. And yet, there can be a necessity for resistance—for holding firm against currents that might carry us in directions we do not want to go.
A decision is made—we adults will try the red. I’m in agreement, but the consent seems oriented in my mind, more than my heart. At the top we discuss childhood ordeals, but I cannot fully focus on what is being said. My eyes keep wandering to the raft ahead at the top, the scale, and the red tunnel with the wide opening beckoning me like an angry mouth.  
I’m chatting with a man in line who traversed the slide with his tiny daughter. 
It’s startling, he says, with a grimace. 
We begin screaming before we’ve even fully entered the opening and the most immediate shock is the lack of glowing red interior to light the way. It’s grown dark outside and so there is no light in the tunnel. We are flying—seemingly through space—into a pitch-black cavern. Suddenly, the entire raft drops a level and one sister laugh-cries loudly into the abyss. Then we shoot into another very large space where the red has returned with stripes (I think). The raft is shot up onto the wall of the room, the quality of which is like something out of Willy Wonka meets an unwanted hallucinogenic event. I’m holding on for dear life and imagining if my son Adrian were to be on this ride, his compact body might be ejected from the raft. 
When we finally emerge, I am nearly at a loss for words, but then I stammer, tripping from the raft, “It was so …. violent.” We go to find our towels, my body vibrating with adrenaline. Eventually we join the kids in the wave pool where the gentle rocking of the warm water lands me back into my being. I smile at the thought of our experience caught on video and expect to be done with wild rides for the day.
Adrian is experimenting with his own sense of gravity in the pool, off by himself twisting and turning under water. At some point he misjudes the pitch of the slope and backward twisting in the water, he grazes his forehead on the cement floor. 
We leave the area and go to sit together wrapped up in our towels. Some of the cousins run off to explore and my sisters decide to give the red another go. I’m amazed at their fortitude and content to be in a place where I can sit quietly, taking it all in. People of all shapes and sizes. A variety of family dynamics. Air thick with moisture.
Adrian is sitting in my lap, leaning back against me. I’m happy for the comfort of his body weighing me down, grounded, and closer to the earth. We’re near the enormous bucket of water we observed at the start and I realize we probably won’t be experiencing its magnificent force on this visit. The evening is coming to a close. 
After a little while, I can see my sisters in the distance, bustling toward me with excitement. They can hardly contain themselves.
“We did something, and you have to do it too.”
“What did you do?”
“We went on the red, again, twice. The first time we screamed like before, but the second time we decided to try something different.”
I ask again, "What did you do?"
“We did it in silence.”
My ears perk up.
“It was blissful.”
That word, blissful. Just listening to their description, I seem to merge with their experience and can almost feel what they felt. 
“You have to do it.”
“I’m not going on the red again. I’m just done.”
We’re standing together, looking at each other. I can feel them wondering if they should push me. There is a little shift happening within, so they don’t need to.
“Well. I’m not sure, actually. Maybe I should do it!”
If I am going to say, “yes,” I want it to be my own, authentic “yes.” But then I falter the other way. 
“No. I think I’m done. It’s late and I want to be with Adrian.”
Fully respecting my decision, they are walking away to wrap up their own children in towels. I’m alone with my thoughts and I keep returning to the sense of bliss they described. A sense of urgency rises, and I jog over to them. 
“I think I need to do it.”
It’s the end of the day and there is almost no line. We’re up at the top again and I am weak in the knees from the height of the stairwell with fewer people padded around me. Looking down, I’m wondering what I have gotten myself into. It’s just two of us and we’re climbing into the raft. I’m pressing my bottom as far into the tight opening as I can so I can feel secure. We look at each other and reassurance radiates from my sister’s eyes. 
“I can’t promise I won’t scream, but I will try.”
Inside, I know I will not scream. I will be silent, and I will breathe. I will be with whatever transpires. That is my will-work. The question is whether anything will rise to meet me. As we begin to move forward, the raft rotates and I am turned backward, pulled into the void. 
I drop into myself and arrive in the seat of the observer. It is instantly clear how different this experience will be. Moving very swiftly I feel relatively calm, knowing the drop is coming. Awaiting its force, I’m both gripping and softening and very curious about why I would have previously screamed at this juncture. My silence is a friend and begins integrating me with the flow of the raft. It no longer seems as if I am riding in it, but rather as if we are one being, zipping along.
Suddenly we are free-falling, and the sensation is total joy. I am cradled by an extraordinary force beyond the raft and beyond this place and time. I could fall like this forever. 
We’re midway through the spiral and I’m wishing for a longer ride. It already seems too brief.
When we shoot out into the striped room I breathe in as we travel up the side of the wall. For a moment, the sense of fear returns, as if I might tip forward and fall out. But I remember the bliss and return to it, allowing the moment—the force, the experience—to take me as it will. 
Coming back down the wall and then to the end of the shoot, we seem to glide into the pool, delivered. There is nothing violent at all about what we’ve been through. Only bliss. 
Climbing out of the raft, my heart is flooded with gratitude. Gratitude for having said yes—my own yes—in my own time. Amazement for the way life can engage us with its infinite wisdom in the most unexpected of places.
Lying in bed, I can still feel the motion of the raft. I can feel the euphoria of letting go and trusting in the safety of my experience. I think a lot about how the quality of my interior world so deeply affected the way I was able to move through the various twists and turns and surprises. More than anything I recognize how much I wanted the ride to go on. ✨

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