I received an email from someone recently that reminded me that simply filling the skies with our colorful wings can have a positive impact on the daily lives of people held firmly to the ground. Sometimes I forget that what we do is, for lack of a better adjective, 'special'. It sometimes takes an exuberant outburst in a retrieve van by Nate Scales, exclaiming, "How COOL is this?! We FLEW today - UP THERE!" to remind me how. . .'Special' what we do can be.
Anyway - Here is the email I received during the US Nationals in Provo, Utah, edited a bit for brevity -
It's going on 3 a.m. and I'm enthralled with your blog and website. I can't wait to see more, read more, and share it with my family. By way of explanation and introduction into my life, my sister, 80 year old Mother, and I live down on Canyon Road in Provo. Our condo has a patio with a straight shot at Squaw Peak. Everyday I spend time with my Mother on the patio enjoying the beauty of Squaw Peak. This week has been a new and incredible journey for us as we view the paragliders. My Dad is buried half way between us and where you are launching in a cemetery that you probably see from the sky. So we put the dog in the car and ride up the hill to the cemetery for a better view. Thursday we saw a big black bird following a couple of you around and around. I wonder if that was you!I responded with this:
Anyway, what I do want you to know is that you and your fellow fliers have brought a lot of joy to some people that you don't know. My Mom is one of them. Her days become very long, and I find that the smallest things give her much happiness. This week I can't wait to hear her call me from the patio saying, "Barbara, come quick. You'll never believe this sight. The sky is dotted with color!!" Then I know that it's time for the paragliders, and we have a new afternoon to enjoy and take in the beauty. Thank you for providing us with wonderment everyday this week. Next week should prove to be pretty boring!
Another person that you have brought happiness to is my friend that lives across the street. His name is Paul, and he is in his 40's and is dying of liver cancer. As we watched you the other day he made the statement, "I would much rather die flying around like that and feeling freedom than I would from cancer." I asked him if paragliding is something that he would put in his "bucket list". He said that he'd love to do it, but medical bills, child support, and being on disability does not allow for that type of a bucket list. He said that he has loved watching the paragliding this week, and that it has given him a sense of freedom in his mind. Paul doesn't know it, but I'm going to check around with some people here in the condos and see if they want to put some money together to give him a tandem ride or something like that at the point of the mountain. I don't even know if there is such a thing, but I'm going to check it out.
Oh my goodness - all I meant to say in this email was thank you for the information, and we hope to come up on Friday or Saturday. It would be wonderful to find you and shake your hand. By the way, I sent emails to the TV stations and the newspapers. Haven't received a reply, but at least I tried.
Thanks for reading my ramblings. I hope you have perfect weather on Friday and Saturday, and I hope that you have much success in the competition. Thank you again for your kind reply. And thank you for adding to the beauty of the earth and touching the lives of those that you don't even know. That is a measure of success.
Dear Barbara -
Thanks for that great note Barbara. I hope you and your mother were able to get a good view of the action on Friday and Saturday. We had a fantastic week of flying - flew 7 out of 7 days, which is unheard of in most competitions due to weather.
It is great to hear that our activities can positively affect others. One of the hardest things to convey to 'non-flyers' is the joy and freedom that we feel when we are flying a cross-country flight. Paragliders are flying machines with no structure other than the rigidity of our own bodies. The wing is moving with the undulations of the air and we fly reactively, like a bird does when he alters his feathers to compensate to changes in airflow. We actually 'touch' the air and use the information we derive tactily to find lift and continue our flight. This joy we feel is an individual, isolated joy, that is seldom shared with others. I often feel that the sport is selfish in some ways because the amazing benefits and joy I get out of the sport are often viewed to be trivial to those that don't share the experience. The fact that you and others have derived some level of appreciation for our activities brings me an additional layer of joy.
I think your effort to get your neighbor, Paul, a paraglider ride is admirable. I have forwarded your email to a couple of instructors I know who enjoyed reading it and also value the sentiments. Go to the North launch at Point of the Mountain any weekend and you will see as many as 30 wings being kited and flown in a family picnic atmosphere.
Thanks again for the note and I hope your mother doesn't find the beauty outside her back porch to be too boring now that we have flown to other sites.
So, Fly safe & spread the Joy!