It is just after daybreak and I am musing quietly in my camp chair parked just outside my trailer door. I can hear a plane. A bird trilling in a nearby bush… One farther away…a different call. Nothing else except the ringing silence in my ears. The steady hum of highway traffic is totally absent.
I am ecstatic to have awakened in this silent desert wonderland. It is an escape from time. There is a small farmstead about a half mile behind us. Only Dakotah and I are here at the foot of the mountain.
I found him here last Saturday. He is a sweet, gentle personality. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. No, really. He wouldn’t hurt it. He captures each errant creature in a plastic bag designed specifically for such a task and releases them at the end of the day.
He drinks spring water (he got it from a spring himself) and is a vegetarian, he only eats organic food and works out on a homemade gym. It consists of a wooden weight lifting bench, a small set of weights and pull-up bar welded to the top of his van. The bench doubles as a serving platform for any meal.
He’s a hippie… And a paraglider pilot.
We meet in the morning, he shares some of his coffee and I pet his old dog… Little Brother. We make a plan to hike up the mountain around two thirty.
I swing my pack onto my back and head to Dakotas house.
It is a sharp, wobbly staircase. Eight hundred feet up. Every ten minutes or so I turn around to look at the unfolding landscape. My camper shrinks on the desert floor. I take several breaks with my mouth dry and heart pounding…finally I reach the top. Dakotah is waiting. He stopped a couple times to make sure I was doing ok, but has still made it way ahead of me. It has taken me a little over an hour. It takes him about thirty-six minutes. He is in spectacular shape.. and almost twenty years my senior.
We stand at the top and admire the landscape. It is getting close to sundown and the wind is pulsing up the hill in regular cycles, fairly gentle at around eight to ten mph. I lay out my wing and take the first launch. My wing comes straight up, I give it a quick check, turn on my heel and run forward.
I holler “Ka – Kaw!” and it echoes in the big bowl as I fly away from the hill. Airborne!!
I land about fifteen minutes later walking on the desert pavement not far from my camper. Dakotah has not launched yet and I face the hill to wait and watch his flight.
Dakotah finally lands forty minutes later nearly in front of his van right before all the color has left the sky. It is spectacular to watch him fly. He has no fear.
An hour later I return with some organic grilled romaine I just fixed and he spoons me a bowl of the veggie stew he has made. Its good.. He’s thrown a couple jalapeños in the pot and surprised me with its spicyness. I’ve had dinner with only a very few vegetarians and I have to look in his bowl because i’m curious to see all the things he’s put in it.. The one thing I couldn’t identify were some flower shaped disks he told me were broccoli hearts.. The rest was kale, cauliflower, beans, carrots, and broccoli tops.
The next day is mellow. I fix a few things on my truck, explore some of the countryside, check out the road to the top. It’s skinny and steep.
I’m not wanting to hike up to the top today. I’d go up if we could drive, but I’m just not feeling it. I’ll watch him fly and take pics if he can launch.
The last campers left some wood. I think it’s mesquite.. There is a ton of it dead around the corner by the alfalfa fields. It would be nice to have some company by a fire tonight, I’ll ask Dakota over when he lands.
I finally see him launch in the orange light, it’s a bit buoyant but not too lifty and he soars the ridge getting little pops that take him just feet over the top of the ridge.. as the last of the sun dips below the horizon, he punches out and sets up his landing…
I greet him as he folds his wing. His smile is giant and I can see that he is thrilled with his sunset ride. I show him some of the pictures I took and invite him to my campfire later. He is delighted with both and says he will bring some tea.
The fire is just the right size… Just big enough to throw off some good warmth when I scoot in close with my blue campchair…. I enjoy the quiet crackling of my creation for fifteen minutes before I hear crunching footsteps on the rocky desert floor… And the wheezing, limpy pawsteps of Little Brother, exhausted with his long walk.
Dakota has some warm, fragrant peppermint tea in a cup for me, he is always smiling.. It is a joy to have the company of such good energy. He sits next to me in the flickering light and tells me stories. He tells me about his medicine wheel and how he builds each one very carefully, aligns it to the cardinal directions and how he makes a prayer for every rock he chooses… IF it has the correct energy. It can take days if not weeks to build one. Sometimes he will choose rocks that he only gathers in the moonlight.
He tells me of panning for gold, of living on a reservation, and his life as a saturation diver. He is endlessly interesting to me, but my eyes are beginning to close.
I am grateful for meeting such a free man, such an incredible spirit that is so open and willing to share. I love his sweetness to all living things (he doesn’t have fires because it kills the creatures that live in the wood) but he doesn’t chide me and in fact, says he enjoys the warmth and company.
He gives me a giant hug and parting tells me, “Goodnight Dear One, sleep well.”