Elevated living takes your breath away

Literally. I spent my whole life living in Edmonton, a delightfully flat city in Western Canada. It enjoys an elevation of roughly 2000 feet. Oxygen is in abundance and your lungs will never complain about a lack thereof.

I now find myself living in La Paz, the highest capital city in the entire world. The ground here sits at an impressive 12,000 feet above sea level. Oftentimes, when visiting soccer teams lose games here, they blame the lack of available oxygen afterwards. But only when they lose. When they win, the oxygen levels are just fine. Somehow.

The height at which I’m currently living has blessed me with altitude sickness. Twice. It’s a condition that results from your brain not having enough oxygen to, well, maintain normal body function. You find yourself without energy. You’re so dizzy you can barely walk. The first time this happened, I slept for 17 hours straight. It has all the same symptoms as malaria, so the people around you convince themselves that you are surely going to die. The treatment for this illness is simple—get lower.

Several times each day, I find myself short of breath and I need to stop. Stop walking. Stop talking. Stop eating. Stop drinking. It takes special focus to inhale enough oxygen sometimes.

These experiences left me with renewed revelation that Mother Nature is powerful—a force to be reckoned with. Not only does she set the sky alight with electricity, consume entire forests with the power of fire, and flood nations with the very substance that brings human life, but she also drops us to our knees with something as unseen as elevation.

Dear nature: I submit.