Lookout

Fear.

Sequoia National Forest, California:

I am standing with my friends on launch. We are watching the conditions carefully. We see the swallows dive bombing invisible insects, there is a cloud halfway to the next peak growing and shrinking. We see other pilots in the air a couple miles away. They’ve just launched from the far side of the valley. They’re getting a lot of altitude. Three… No… four of them.

My friend Dave is an amazing pilot. He loves flying passengers on his tandem wing. He is perennially confident and smiling. Today is no exception. The weather is good. Better than yesterday. It was a little strong and gusty yesterday but it’s looking really nice now.

Three of five of us launch. Another guy and myself stayed on the ground. We are both recently recovered from serious accidents. My ankle is still bothering me from my wreck in Colombia.. He flew yesterday in the marginal conditions and I suspect was looking for an ideal moment to fly today… which never came.

I watched them launch, but couldn’t tame my fear…. Is it even fear? I can’t tell… It’s fear-ish… But not totally fear… Could I just be overexcited??

I hate flying with too much adrenaline… It blocks out rational thought… I feel that my skills are adequate for the conditions, I have the ability and knowledge but this moment just isn’t mine…

This is much different than my job in the military…. I think it is easy to make an assumption based on that past experience… After all, I am a Bomb Tech, Navy diver, Naval parachutist, HRST/CAST Master, ATV instructor, motorcycle rider… What fears could I possibly have?

Maybe it was peer pressure… Maybe it was the knowledge that I would be medically and financially covered if I did something terrible to myself back then… Maybe I found a way to shut the door on fear in my former career…

Here, now, today, at the top of the mountain, staring down into this epically beautiful bucolic, rolling green Southern California valley, I can not find a way to control the wild surges of adrenaline filling my veins. I will not take off with this excess.

Fear.

It is a wild horse. One that must be battled, broken, and ridden under control. It can propel me into productive and driven action or cause a poor decision….decisions. If it is extreme,  then clumsiness and a complete blank-out can sometimes occur.

I have had many fears. Some were realistic, some made up, a few necessary, appropriate and timely.

In flying, we all battle fear. We all have our own methods of dealing with it. One trick that usually works for me… a friend told me.. Chew gum.

 Really. It works. For me… Usually. Some people listen to music.. Some people need quiet.

Since that non-launch in California, I’ve had 7 or 8 flights… easy Utah ridge flights and a couple of tows over the water. Some maneuvers. Some thermals.

Golden, Colorado. Lookout Mountain:

I’m on launch again, and again, and again. Almost a week Parawaiting. The conditions change here very quickly…

My last day at the top, conditions are perfect, the swallows are high up chasing the small floating insects, cloudbase is rising, I see two crows soaring the ridge.. my wing is laid out, my lines are clear… wind is 6-8 mph.. E-NE.. my adrenaline is in check, half a dozen people said they would be here, but I am alone. For two and a half hours… I get in and out of my harness. I put my helmet on… take it off. I have one eye on the trail up… Hoping for one winged friend to come. I watch as the conditions begin to deteriorate… should I just fly??

Never fly alone. never fly alone. never fly alone….   My old instructors voice echoes in my head.

Grumpy, I pack my wing and head down the steep rocky, slippery trail.
I’m getting fat. All I do is sit on launch and drink beer…. I guess that’s not all bad.

still grumpy.

I need to fly. Soon.

 

 

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