Friday, March 23, 2012

Sedgefield, Revisited


The clouds have been gathering for hours before we careen up the dirt road to the Sedgefield launch. Looking out onto the ocean from the ridge, the multitude of clouds casts a shifting reflection on the silver sea, the late-afternoon sun warming the whites to a pale buttercream.

The sock, steadfast and orange, snaps to oscillating attention, pointing insistently across the grass.

No one else hangs in the air, nor is anyone waiting on the ground. The carpark is eerily empty, devoid of dogs and backpacks scattered in the sun; of nervous families fussing with the children as they wait wearily for a tandem passenger, whooping giddily from somewhere along the treeline; of helmet-headed pilots, moving their Santa-sacks of nylon to and from the shade.

There's only the thwap-thwap of the sock; the sussurus of the wind pushing up and over the wooded ridge; the snap of my fingernail between my teeth.

The clouds, dense and clotted-grey, knead themselves along the glass ceiling of cloudbase. Shafts of sunlight split the velvety canopy for long moments, throwing the trees into crisp relief before disappearing.

I decide: I'm gonna fly.

I apply my gear with great ceremony, giving each buckle a solid tug before shimmying back into the harness. The straps, once hopelessly awkward, settle easily onto the slopes of my collarbones; over the soft rise of my chest; across my breathing belly; along the same line of thigh that a lover's hand nestles. The toggles in my palms, I buck the glider into a firm and heaving wall, letting it gather breath before slipping it into the airflow over my head.

Before I know it, I'm bouyed into a dancing mass of bubbling thermals, sweeping me swiftly towards the patchy afternoon sun. Delighted, I bounce through the jostling crowd, spinning handily up and down; leaning so far out of the soft side of the harness that I seem to be drawn bodily up into heaven, trees retreating dizzily into a green featureless carpet, a heathen version of the Rapture with bare feet crossed at the ankles and a breathy Portishead soundtrack pumping in my ears.

I spin, and dive, and dolphin, and whip wide wingovers over the  fields far below. I buck and deflate and reinflate and rattle in my high-suspended seat. I whoop and holler and sing.

At some point, I notice the other pilots crowding the carpark. I smile, knowing we brought them here.

One thing is clear: I'm a different pilot today than I have ever been.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

siren

It's thickly overcast, perfectly silvery, as though the African coast were a secret Narnia buried under a snowdrift. The filtered sun casts a cottony shroud over the ocean, drawing birdsong into silence, muffling the syncopated slap of waves. It's been a long time since I last submerged myself in saltwater.

You smelled like the sea.

There's a boogie board strapped to my wrist. It was the only thing from the encyclopedic rack of boards in the carport that would fit in the cabin of the golf-cart-sized car I'm driving. The board is festooned with smiling dolphins and, inexplicably, the planet Saturn. One dolphin leers up at me from the technicolor nonsense of the board, goading.

What a question.

A single jellyfish burbles by. A crab runs across the top of my foot, its movements feather-light needles on my skin. This ocean teems with life below its dancefloor surface, and I perch at the edge - me and my flourescent-dolphins-passing-Saturn boogie board - unable to see beyond the first line of breaks.

You're so careful with me. I like it.

I watch the glassy water swell into an azurite blueness, bubble into cloudlike white, then spread into a twisting, airy clarity as it passes the pillars of my legs. I wonder who invented the color "seafoam," and what made them think of it. I wade deeper.

The only way out of the foxhole was to shoot the SS gunner.

Submerged to the waist, I sashay along the beach in my shimmering skirt of sea. Sand-colored fish explode in neutral starburts as I move through them. Little remembered things swim across my thinking, then dart back into the depths.

I'll see you soon.

Monday, March 05, 2012

the grandest project

Today, I noticed that the first flight we booked leaves in a couple of weeks.

Heh.

Hilarious that we ever thought we'd be on it. Heck, I don't believe we ever truly did.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


I.

Today is the day I start a travelogue.

I should have begun it in the airport lounge, as I sat restlessly in the pregnant pause just before we piled into the good ol' jumbo jet. Or in Frankfurt, wired and tired and rubbing at my underdressed arms. Or upon arrival in Kommetjie, from my perch at a wide-plank table, watching the ocean breeze poke at the enormous chandelier overhead.

Or ten years ago. 

Or, perhaps, right now.

In any case, right now is what I have...so here we go.

II.

We've been flying every day, several times a day, at several sites a day, for twelve days. As thrilled as I am at the tremendous growth this has afforded me as a pilot, I'm understandably exhausted...so when we woke this morning to the sounds of a petulant sea and the gunshot retort of rain on the metal roof, I melted back into bed with a rumbling sigh of gratitude.

In the quiet that fills these earthbound hours, I think about my beloved mobility -- of my religious devotion to moving around the spheroid temple of the world, and of touching a match to the candle of everyone I meet out here. I think about how much more me I am when I'm on the move; how sensual; how stimulated. How the yoga of travel cracks me open and fills me with a buoyant sense of peace.

Tomorrow, the skies will clear, and the Good Hope wind will shuffle teasing fingers through my summer-light hair as it unfurls my wing before me. Until then, it's coffee and music and quiet conversations beside the fire.