I’ve never been one who dreamed of bungee jumping or skydiving. Terra Firma is one of my favorite places—solid and reliable under my feet. Don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not a complete wimp. A limited degree of adventure sufficed for me: whitewater rafting in Maine, zip lining in Costa Rica, helicoptering to a glacier in Alaska or hiking in the Andes Mountains. All of these provided a bit of adrenalin rush, racing heart and vivid sense of being present and alive.
But I have my limits: jumping out of perfectly good airplanes being an absolute. Even a loaded gun aimed at my head wouldn’t motivate me to take that kind of leap of faith. Whenever I heard someone advocating such foolhardiness, I held a smug sense of I value my life too much to play so casually with my aging carcass.
On a recent vacation when my daughter and niece chose to paraglide over the cliffs in Lima, Peru. I was stunned to realize that part of me wanted to screw up the courage and join them. Fear-busting at its best, right? Or was it lunacy? At first I blew it off like the absurd idea I was convinced that it was. My husband concurred. His face exploded in a wide-eyed grin as he asserted “Are you all nuts? Of course if you ladies want to do it, don’t let me stop you.”
Crazy, I am not.
My faculties are intact yet at age 61 I’ve come to understand that some risks are worth considering and a few of those are worth taking. My niece, an experienced skydiver and obviously not totally unbiased, encouraged me to go for it. She offered one observation: it would not feel at all like falling but rather like gravity no longer existed.
As an author, I recognized a good “hook” when I heard it. That’s one powerful degree of freedom. I was seduced.
In minutes, I was strapped into a tandem harness with a squat, muscular Peruana. His grizzled hair and wrinkled face indicated age and experience. His limited English informed me that he was an instructor who had taught for many years. I chose to believe he was both capable and truthful. An assistant spread the huge, arcing canopy behind us on the ground. My escort and I crab-walked a few feet to the edge of the cliff while the assistant lifted the chute over his head.
As if a fairy godmother had waved her magic wand, the chute inflated. We popped off the ground and out over the Pacific. The sky was dotted with cottony clouds, the breeze was steady, the ocean choppy and the ride was exhilarating beyond anything I could have imagined. We soared along the coastline. Our reflection echoed back to us from the surface of rooftop pools and the mirrored façade of high rise buildings. Swirl and dip, soar and spin, the ride was smooth and gentle without the feeling of carnival-ride butterflies. Intoxicating.
Too soon, the ride was over and we swooped toward the landing spot precisely where we had ascended minutes earlier. Touch down. I know this is an experience I will revisit often in my mind’s eye. It is good to know that I can fly.