I’m going to die… I hold my breath in anticipation of my impending doom. I wait a moment, then another, I exhale. I’m still alive! I look around in awe for what must be the 50th time in the fairly short flight. My god, this canyon is amazing.
The wind shifts and we drop suddenly, my stomach rockets into my throat. I’m toast. Relaxing they said, very tranquilla, pfffft relaxing my ass. My entire body is tense waiting for us to fall from the sky as we’re pushed and pulled and dropped by a fickle breeze. We make a large graceful swoop out over the canyon, you can hear the wind rushing to fill the parachute, the birds calling to each other. I breathe in air that’s soft and fresh, laced with that delicious, rainy taste of ozone. I poke my camera out, gingerly holding up my feet for perspective and look down, big black chullos are flying below my feet. Andreas’ cell phone rings. I start giggling. Andreas leans forward to smile and ask, “something something divertido?” I know that word, it means fun!
“Si!” I’m grinning now and my voice is still filled with laughter.
“something something algunas aventura?” Andreas smiles at me again.
“Si!” I begin, in broken Spanish, to tell him about some of the other adventurous activities we’ve done this week when suddenly we zing to the left and parachute speeds right, spiraling downwards. My chest is horizontal to the ground as I look directly down towards the canyon, I’m pressed into the bottom of my harness with the force of the spin. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. We straighten up again and I realize it was intentional. I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding, I open my mouth to explain I do not want “alguna aventura” but for some reason I just start giggling harder. Stop giggling you idiot, we’re going to die!!! Andreas interprets the laughter as delight and yanks on a cord. Suddenly I look up, or is this down?, I can see the brightly colored sail of a parachute and behind it, hundreds of feet down, is the ground. I feel my stomach crowding for room next to my brain. We are flipping over the freaking parachute. WHAT THE HOLY F*CK?! We’re dead… I knew I should have eaten those cookies… I meant no mas, NO Algunas Aventura!!!
“Algunas Aventura!” I gasp. My laughter is bordering on maniacal when I realize I forgot the “NO”. Oh no please… I turn back to see Andreas smiling broadly and I whip around as we launch into another flip, spin, death spiral, ending in a broad arc sending us sailing suddenly up and into a cloud. As we swing back into a normal sitting position, my chest fills with joy that I’m still alive. And I feel SO alive in this moment, so much more than I was on the ground just before I agreed to be hauled off the side of a cliff in what I’ve come to think of as the contraption of death. I can feel the pattern of the rough harness under my palms, the chin strap of the helmet as it’s pulled away from my head, I feel how wide my eyes must be as my eyelashes brush my lids. I can feel the air I’m breathing, the air that’s pushing us up, my heartbeat pounding in my chest, moisture beading on my skin. The canyon is laid out under us like some kind of divine masterpiece, a white river running through the bottom, layers painted and carved into its walls. I chance a deeper breath. If I live through this I’m going to eat a giant bag of Chokis… seriously? my last thoughts are going to be about food… The wind changes and my attention snaps back to paragliding. Wow… this is so beautiful… its incredible.
My cheeks are damp and I release my death grip on my harness to run my fingertips across my face. Did I burst into tears? No, I realize, it’s the cloud. We’re suspended in a soft cool mist, the ground looks fuzzy and out of focus hundreds of feet below as if I’m looking through a veil. I’m flying through a cloud. I’m floating hundreds of feet above a canyon, dangling from a piece of fabric so thin that it’s almost transparent, so thin I can feel the shape of my fingers when I hold it between them. I’m flying. I promise myself that I’ll never forget this moment. I’m grinning so wide, my smile is literally filling with clouds.0