fire tower

View From the Top of the Tower


By Brittany Merriman "So of course if you find yourself too terrified to go up the tower, we can find some work for you to do on the ground".

As I looked up at the 89 foot watchtower (a mass of metal and rotting wood landings), I couldn't help but recall how stepladders had the ability to paralyze me with fear on a normal basis. Personally I was of the belief that humans belonged firmly on the ground; heights were for creatures with wings.

Our job contact obviously didn't share my opinion. Our assignment? To climb the tower, and replace the questionable-looking wooden boards that made up the tower's landings with fresh wood. This of course involved body-harnesses for our safety, as there would be periods of time when we would have nothing but a frame between ourselves and a 40 foot-plus fall to the earth.

"So who wants to get harnessed in first?"

I took a deep breath, and swallowed the heart that had somehow worked its way out of my chest and into my throat. Deep breaths Brittany: you didn't take this job to wait by the truck where life was safe and easy (Oh god, was the tower swaying the wind?). My hand rose almost of it's own volition, and I quickly found myself in a harness a good 40 feet above the ground, facing my fears literally head-on as I removed the first rotten board.

A week and two fire towers later, I found myself watching a sunset from a relaxed position above the tree line. Spread out on boards that I myself had help to replace, I no longer felt nervous about my state of groundlessness. My only thoughts were of the incredible view, and the wonderful feeling of a light breeze on my face. This feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction could only have come from forcing myself to try something new; from confronting a fear and coming out the other side a new, stronger individual.

Face your fears. Challenge yourself daily. Life isn't supposed to be easy, and as I've learned from experience: the view is definitely better from the top of the tower.

Photo credit: Dathan Tinney