Friday, July 18, 2008


A first exploration of words to convey the sensations of unpowered flight.


The dream is always the same, and has been since I was young.

It’s dusk, and I’m running, and my strides get longer until finally I don’t touch the ground at all. I lean forward until I’m horizontal to the ground and spread my arms and begin to climb. The buildings below are oddly crooked and ancient-looking. There are steeples and black roof slates; it’s England. I move out past the buildings and over pastures. My flight is silent. When I roll my body a little to the left, dipping down my arm, I begin a long, slow loop back towards the village. I swoop low and land barefoot on dewy grass.

There is not much difference between the dream and the reality. When you lean forward and the paraglider—a fabric wing much like a hang-glider—inflates, you are moments from flight. Your strides extend, and the wing pulls up; it wants to fly. Then your boot touches the ground for the last time and the slope drops away as you slide forward through the air as though on a flawless glass rail. You are suspended by an array of fine lines that bridle out to the wide wing above.

The feeling of suspension is deeply very familiar and it reminds you of something very important.

The ground slides beneath you and you’re aware of the strangeness of moving without touching the Earth. The wing senses every whorl and ripple of air; these are telegraphed down the lines to you, your body picks them up as a swift rise or a soft long shove from the side that crabs you to the side. By shifting your weight in your seat, or drawing lightly on a brake line, you turn the wing back the way you want to go. Flying is easy. Looking down, you are muted by the simplicity of the paraglider and the calm of flight.

You are not afraid.

You do not want anything.

(c) 2008 by Cameron M. Smith

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