Thursday, June 11, 2015
on human flight
A walk in the park is never boring but usually we see things we expect to see - people, dogs, squirrels, crows, bluejays, chickadees, gulls, clamshells, crabshells, flowers, grass, trees, the sea etc. You get the idea. Sometimes we see the unexpected. One day last week we came across a scenario just unusual enough that I have to share it. Unfortunately, since I'm not in the habit of carrying a camera you'll have to settle for a more elementary image.
That day, after passing through a narrow section of the beachside path between some old wwII bunkers, we were surprised to see an older man standing on the shore holding the ropes of a very large parasail*. In actuality he was wearing a harness, knee pads and elbow pads as well as the helmet, plus there were a few more ropes. I hope you'll excuse me being a bit too lazy to draw all that. He did look a somewhat worried. I don't know if you're familiar with the sport of parasailing - I'm certainly not - but what I do know is that the general idea for getting up in the air is as follows:
You want to begin by standing high up on a reasonably steep grassy hillside with the sail spread out on the ground behind while a fairly brisk wind blows up the hill. The pilot then grabs the ropes in the prescribed manner, runs forward, throws his hands high over his head, and, if God is merciful, the glider inflates - floopf. A brief downhill run and the pilot feels the earth dropping away under him. He is flying. Unless, of course, he crashes. The flying and landing parts are beyond the scope of my story.
The man we saw wasn't doing any of that. Instead, he was holding tight to the ropes as the parasail (about 30 feet across and therefore much bigger than I've drawn) shuddered above him in the breeze. The fact the breeze was blowing out to sea might have been part of the reason he looked worried.
We'd barely had time to take in this unusual spectacle before a little boy out walking with his mother caught sight of the man and his apparatus. Transported by sheer delight the little guy ran laughing and shouting across the grass, 'Hey! Hey! Mister! What are you doing?'
It was great.
We kept walking and the little boy went back to his mother. I turned back to see the man spreading the parasail on the grass in preparation of folding it up. I wonder if he's found a suitable hillside?
Before man walked, he yearned to soar, as if on feathered wings. Ever he has sought, in supreme affirmation and ignoble pride, to float upon the wind, high above the mute and pitiless ground. Icarus lives in archetype: Children remain convinced a bright cape will let them fly like Superman.
* references to parasailing should probably say paragliding