Before I Die

Notes from Janey . . .

Tupelo and I are in Mexico on a second-class train streaking down through the Copper Canyon. But we’re not inside the stifling passenger car, sitting on torn seats with our shoes sticking to the grimy floor and looking out a smudged window.


By a very quick series of events, we have found ourselves outside, clinging to a skinny rail at the very front of the train, directly above the cow-catcher.

Jagged rocks slice by inches from my cheek. The deep canyon is a breath away from my precarious footing. Knuckles white, hair plastered back, my screams are sucked away as if freefalling into the valley below.



I’m having the best time of my life! My situation is dangerous beyond description. But here we are, Tupelo and I, standing on the edge. We’re ecstatic.

We’re in Costa Rica, barreling down a white water river. Untamed, unpredictable, the water is impassioned as it boils its way to the ocean. Class 4 rapids tumble and churn. Our guide speaks quickly and succinctly, giving us instructions as to what we need to do to get our tiny raft through the giant turbulence. There’s no time to lose. With cascading water on each side, boulders the size of small houses, our tiny helmet and life jacket are a joke. I’m not screaming this time because my heart is lodged in my throat.

I’m blissed out.

I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt that read: I want to be used up when I die.

I couldn’t agree with her more.

Playing it safe is not written in my genetic code. I’m not saying I’m never terrified. Quite the opposite. Massive heights tend to freeze my heart, like the tallest and longest zip line in the world, but still, I jumped. Birds scattered and monkeys took cover for miles around because of my scream.


Sitting numbly at home, watching other people having an adventurous life on my TV screen is something I don’t chose to do. Why should they have all the fun? Why should they get all the friends with the witty dialogue? Why do they get to go on all the great adventures? Where’s the good in that?

I say we must get our own life and then use it up. If we don’t spend it, no one else will. Can’t reuse it. Can’t recycle it. Can’t cash it in for a refund. What a cosmic waste.


Life is a complex tapestry. Each small fiber holds the promise of love and fear, hope and despair, angst and elation, sorrow, beauty, but most of all, joy. We have the choice to twist and turn our tapestry to the light or to the shade. We either cower under it or we wear it upon our shoulders like wings.


You can probably guess the condition of my wings by now.

I know of many others. Like the only blind man in history to hike the entire Appalachian Trail by himself with just the help of his dog. And the man who broke his back in a severe car accident and was told he would never walk again, who we met in Guatemala, as he was bicycling his way from Seattle to Chili.


And the blind-since-birth, 24-year-old woman who sings like an angel and plays the piano, performing all over the country to hundreds of very appreciative audiences. Each one is not afraid to wear their tapestry like wings.

I have to ask, have you looked at your life’s tapestry lately? It’s never too late to take it out of the box, let it fly, and use it up!


(Article and photos by Janey Wing Kenyon)

This is the end of the article entitled Before I Die published by Tupelo Kenyon on April 17, 2009 at 5:00 am | In Courage, Discipline, Passion, Self-Image - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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