The First Time…

Preparing for flight

Creative Commons License photo credit: Daniel Flower

Note: this is a slightly edited re-post from the first ‘version’ of this blog, and functions as a bit of a teaser for the now basically finished and nearly release-ready ‘Cliffjump Manifesto’ that I’ve been talking about here for far too long…

About six or seven years ago I spent some time in Dubrovnik, Croatia, a stunning medieval walled city on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Some good friends/colleagues and I had the good fortune to have a ‘working holiday’ arrangement there for a couple of summers, whereby we would play music – basically whatever we felt like playing, but nominally jazz – in exchange for lodgings and food at a cool local taverna called the Sesame. Nice place, recommended if it’s still there!

During the daytime we could pretty much do whatever we wanted, which was naturally walking, exploring, swimming, and generally hanging out. Dubrovnik has incredibly thick and ancient stone walls, which in many places stand right on the water. In a number of spots there are narrow passages through the wall to little enclaves on the outside, often small cafés or restaurant. One of these, which we never really knew the name of but which we called ‘the Lav’ for reasons that will shortly become clear, was a favorite haunt in the late afternoon.

Everybody’s doing it…

Now ‘Lav’ in Croation (I am told) means ‘lion’, and the reason we called it that was this: next to the restaurants zone there was a kind of high rock terrace overlooking the water, and at the lip of this was a large rock on which someone had written this word, ‘Lav’. This was where people jumped from. I don’t really know how high it actually was, perhaps 15 meters (50 feet) or so. High enough to be daunting, but then lots of people were doing it; you could swim right underneath, the water was very clear and you could see that the shore dropped off very steeply and there was lots of uninterrupted water of great depth to jump into.

Nevertheless, it was a kind of test of courage, which built up over days and days while I built up my resolve to try this thing. I’m not a kid anymore and I don’t take these things as lightly as I used to, but I also haven’t completely outgrown the urge for a physical rush. So I have a very clear memory of standing up there on the rock on the day that I had decided I was going to do this thing, and taking deep breaths and telling myself that it was going to be OK, people were doing this all the time.. and fighting the biological imperative we all have built in that tells us to NOT JUMP OFF OF VERY HIGH THINGS, EVEN IF EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT….

And then the jump, and the airtime, and the flailing arms, the racing heart and the kind of quick ripping sound of entry… and the confused moments underwater when you can’t completely remember which way is up… and then the exhilerated kick up towards the surface, the gasping for air with which to form these words: Oh, yeah, I’m definitely going to have to do that again!

Can’t Buy A Thrill

Well of course I did do it again, a few more times in fact, but the rush was never the same as the first time, when even though you basically know you’re going to be OK… you don’t, quite, not with the certainty of experience that you have the second time. The first time is always the best, the most intense, the most thrilling, crazy, hilarious.

I think this is a good thing to remember, because when we forget what that feels like, and stop looking for it, even in smaller safer doses, we lose something important. I believe that the creative instinct is driven at some level by that primal urge to find a new experience, a thrill we haven’t had yet. Craft and meticulous care can come later, but this spark of curiosity has to be in there somewhere, at least for me, or else the whole thing feels very lacklustre. And I’m kind of all about the lustre…

How about you? Are you a creative thrillseeker? Comments are, as ever, welcome!

More on this subject very soon in the Cliffjump Manifesto!