Thursday, April 28, 2011
A Bird's Eye View
“Hutt! Hutt!” says the man and my chestnut stead starts slowly up the lush mountain slope. Sitting astride, tightly clutching the reins was I-a petite, city girl who has so far never traveled on anything that walks (not considering piggy-back rides).
Twigs snap beneath crushing hooves, a cold breeze teases by hair, burrs cling hungrily to my sweater and branches stretch out their verdant arms slyly towards me; their fresh, leafy fingers brush me lightly, reminding me of a lover’s gentle, seductive first caress.
The horse and his keeper, both with their heads seemingly bent in deep thought, solemnly plod through the wilderness on dry, narrow paths hewn into the ground by mountain streams that gush down in the summer months. The conifers appear to have conspired and entwined together in a determined effort to filter out much of the sunlight. Although a few slanting shafts of golden light do manage to evade them and play hide and seek with me.
Sounds of human life gradually fade away. My ears are filled with the buzzing of alien insects and an occasional flutter of wings accompanied by shrill bird calls. A gentle hop across a small rivulet here, a mighty step over a huge boulder there - higher and higher we climb. Until finally we halt. We have reached our destination.
I take a few cautious steps and come clear of the green canopy. A few more and I wouldn’t be here, writing. But then, that is precisely my intention. Indeed the sole purpose of this long horseback journey.
My escort sets up the paragliding equipment and proceeds to enlighten me on the basics. For someone who eyes roller coaster rides with apprehension, I listen attentively with a hammering heart and with symptoms of acrophobia. Suddenly, he signals that I am ready. Am I? I ask myself. I remember the numerous failed high jump efforts of mine. I always run up to the pole and then…stop! I could never make myself jump. So will I do it now? Was I really ready to leave behind the safety and security of solid ground?
With a prayer, a shiver and a rush of adrenalin, I run to the cliff’s edge, grit my teeth, will my eyes to stay open and jump! For a split second I flounder. My lemon yellow parafoil forms an arch above me and then gracefully, graciously I rise, defying gravity. Like an eagle drifting lazily, I float. Snow capped peaks wink in the sunlight, miniature villages look up at me with envy and a meandering river gives me a silver grin.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud,
That floats on high o’er vales and hills”
Only, it is not loneliness that I feel. It is solitude. About 2000 m above sea level, in Solang Valley,Kulu Manali-India, I have conquered my fears. I look down and smile upon Earth like a benevolent God.
I gently hum the Carpenter's "I'm on top of the world, looking down on Creation".I am at peace.
A gauzy swirl of clouds envelops me. I surrender to the embrace.
Image Courtesy: www.dreamstime.com