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
(thanks, Lindsay)


marja-leena said...

What a delightful scene to come across on your walk! And how it inspired this lovely scene and story. I love your last paragraph.

L'Adelaide said...

he looked "somewhat worried"? I'll bet.... about to do something that would badly bruise his knees despite the pads is my guess... i thought perhaps you were making this story up to match your delightful walk tale but it's just too real not to be real. People do do the damndest things! I love your little drawing/painting tho. That's a big sail and the guy is definitely either drunk, crazy or brave, very brave. Maybe he wanted to impress the little kid. Maybe he just wanted to cool off, see some white sharks(great kinds), whales if there are any there, say hi to the sailors or the russian submarine captain? Anyway the mind doth reel at the craziness that is being human... even what i'm doing right this very moment is a bit out there. ;) xoxoxox

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
I agree a walk in the park is never boring, and particularly one along a sea path as you have so aptly described. It’s indeed hard to imagine seeing an old man like that since as your probably aware parasailing usually entails being towed along behind a motor boat on sea or a jeep on land.
But hang gliders, reliant on affixed wing, usually take off from the side of cliffs, whereas on launching off there is no turning back. Paragliding uses a flexible wing, where you are in a seated position below the wing. You can abort a take off and the pace is more leisurely. I have a friend who used to tell me he felt like a like a bird, soaring upwards on currents of air and often staying aloft for 2 hours or more, with elevations achieved of over 10,000 feet not uncommon and covering long distances. So the myth of Icarus has come true, as myths sometimes do, to go with your lovely picture and story.
Best wishes

susan said...

Thanks, Marja-Leena. It's always good to know you've found something enjoyable here :)

susan said...

I'm sure you're right about his reason for looking worried, my friend. Since the one thing the Atlantic doesn't have (this far north, at least) is warm air convection currents, he could quite easily have been kited out to sea. We still have no idea what he thought he was doing out there. Nevertheless, it was really delightful when that tiny kid spotted him.
and, yes, there are whales here but people who want to see them have to go outside the harbor on one of those whale watch trips.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay,
Yes, it was strange to see a more than moderately mature man roped up to that contrivance, particularly so since he was all alone. Normally you'd expect some friends to act as assistants in case of problems. Anyway, it looks as though I may have to amend the post to say 'hang gliding' rather than 'parasailing'. Thanks for reminding me of the difference. The idea of these freestyle flying forms does sound like fun but not something I ever would have been tempted to try myself.
Glad you like the picture :)
Best wishes to you too

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Once they get up they can stay up for hours, if they wish, as a few of my locals do, by rising on the updraught caused by the wind hitting the hill. I have seen them circlingat least a few hundred feet above the hill-top. Would scare the heck out of me. The local crows watch too, but whether in admiration, outrage or amusement I don't know.

Should Fish More said...

Answer: "I'm reconsidering my options, kid."

susan said...

It does sound like great fun for those who lean toward sheer excitement. I'm with you in preferring to stay grounded. My friend Crow pointed out the corvids there are waiting to see if the gliders can land on a branch and take to the air again before they'll show respect.

susan said...

Good answer, Mike. Better than 'Go away, kid, ya bother me'.

Rob-bear said...

You seem to come across the most interesting things on you walkabouts aw a Halagonian. (Sp?)

Blessings and Bear hugs. Best regards to Crow.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Hey Susan! The email address you have for me is no longer valid. I'd had it for many years through a local internet provider but it appears the owner and manager has got himself into a heap of trouble with the FCC, among other entities, and all subscribers have had their email accounts revoked.

As is the case with addresses and phone numbers these days, I never committed your email to memory and I'm reaching out here to tell you my new, primary email. I'd have done so through google but I'm not sure if you use that account at all. new addie: Hope all is well. Much love, Gina