Seasons in Flight – Part 2
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Seasons in Flight – Part 2

I was prepared for the worst the instant my feet left the ground.  I can still remember balancing stiffly on the edge of my harness seat, arms straight out like a star fish, every muscle in my body clenched tight, as if acting like a rock would somehow keep me airborne when the wing failed.  

But lo and behold, my wing didn’t fail.  It didn’t didn’t dissolve into a useless, flapping ball of tissue above my head as I had been expecting.  And I didn’t plummet to the earth.  I slowly glided, 400′ feet down through perfectly smooth air.  Under radio guidance from my instructor, I executed a few 180′ degree turns with my awkward starfish arms, then landed softly with a perfect flare. 

By the time my feet touched down, I was ecstatic, grinning ear to ear! Never before in my life, had something brought me to my knees in terror, only for me to get up and do that thing anyway. To overcome that kind of fear, was just so amazing. I was flooded with relief, disbelief, amazement, and pride all at the same time.  I felt like I could do anything!  And in that moment, the only thing I wanted to do, was fly again!

It's a little Katie Bird!
Landing after my first flight!

It’s hard to believe it’s been over four years since that day, and five years since my first tandem flight! What a journey it’s been, full of countless incredible experiences, as well as plenty of doubts and challenges.  Fear is a difficult thing to overcome, and in the beginning there were many more days like that first one.  There were tears, moments of defeat, and days when I’d simply fold up my glider, not sure when I’d have the courage to take it out again.  It often felt like I was taking one step forward and three steps back. But I always kept moving, and slowly, I gained the confidence and skill to do things far beyond anything my young self could have imagined. 

Through paragliding, I’ve met wonderful people, visited beautiful places around the world, and had some of the most humbling and inspiring moments of my life.  I’ve hiked mountains in the dark and soared away with the morning sun, flown wing tip to wing tip with hawks and ravens, and landed in stranger’s yards to excited hugs and a hero’s welcome.  I’ve thermaled so high that all I could do was laugh out loud in wonder, I’ve soared along the coast and watched whales and dolphins jump beneath my feet, and I’ve topped out above the clouds, skimming my toes through a fluffy, silver sea!  

A friend of mine once said, that people are truly alive in that place where fear and joy meet, and I think that’s such a perfect description of paragliding for me.  When I’m in the air, I feel completely alive, pushed to the limits of my courage, yet filled with happiness and wonder.  Flying really has been a dream come true, and I feel so lucky that I was able to face down my fears and step off that first hill five year ago.  In honor of my five year anniversary, I tried to sit down and gather some thoughts about why I loved paragliding so much. It was very hard to narrow it down into something concise, but I hope I was able to capture some of the magic!  Please check it out below and let me know what you think! 

I began paragliding five years ago, and since then it has become one of my greatest passions! I love all of the beautiful places paragliding has allowed me to explore, as well as the instant camaraderie with pilots everywhere I go. I love that every flight is unique and challenging, constantly giving me opportunities to learn, face fears, and reach new heights. I love that paragliding broadens my world. It has brought me on amazing adventures, introduced me to wonderful people, and given me the most inspiring views! In the air, there is never any worry about what might be waiting down below. There is only the wind and the sun, and the freedom and wonder of flight. I feel so lucky that I get to fly. What an incredible feeling it is, to step from the earth and become a tiny little speck in the infinite sky.

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