Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RELAX (06/08/17)
- TITLE: Blue Up Here
By Jack Taylor
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There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as Rick Keefer hurled his wingsuited body off the 3000 foot granite wall known as El Capitan. The thermal converged with a rogue ridge lift and flipped him like a tumbleweed before the fabric between his legs and under his arms could provide stable flight.
“Abort, pull the chute!” The urgent voice of his spotter Ellen was clear in his earphones.
A kaleidoscope of greens, blues and browns blurred the bushes, lake, sky and rock face as Rick reached instinctively for the cord. The chute deployed and jerked him sideways toward the unforgiving face of the cliff. Ellen’s gasp filled his ears as he catapulted toward certain death.
Then it all stopped except for a gentle swaying like the bench-swing on his grandmom’s front porch down in Georgia.
Rick took a moment to survey the pain shooting up his right side.
“Think I got a little too intimate with that rock face. Probably thought I took our relationship for granite. Maybe I should relax a little more.”
Ellen was silent.
Rick did a 180 using only his eyes and as little head movement as possible. “You still there?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Remember when we watched Nik Wallenda walk blindfolded 600 feet up between those two skyscrapers in Chicago?”
“Okay. Wasn’t it his grandfather who said ‘life is on the wire – everything else is just waiting?”
“Yeah, not long before he fell to his death. I don’t want you to think about that. I want you to focus on Nik.”
“What about Nik? Chicago sure loved him.”
"Well, you’re about five times higher and you’re hanging by a few cords. You need to be as relaxed as he was and pray a lot harder. I’m coming up.”
Rick examined the rock face less than thirty feet away. There were no clear hand holds even if someone did scale El Capitan. “Ellen,” he said. “Only Alex Honnold has free soloed up this cliff. It took him four hours to pull off the greatest feat in history here. What have you got for gear?”
Ellen cleared her throat. “About that, I should have told the rangers at Yosemite to send out a chopper after us but I didn’t want them to stop your birthday surprise.”
“Can you call on your phone?”
“Not getting cell reception down here. Probably be better up there.”
“Should I be singing you a lull-a-by – like rock-a-bye baby?”
“How about you catch a snooze for a few hours while I try to concentrate on this climb.”
“How about if I gently swing back and forth until the chute breaks loose? If I can push off the cliff face the wind might open things up and let me coast down like goose down.”
There was no response.
Two minutes later Rick tried again. “Ellen, remember that first time you took me paragliding and I told you that if anyone could get my stomach into my throat that quickly then I was committed?”
“Rick, I hear you. You’ve been doing every stupid thing I asked you to do since then. Why can’t you ever pay attention to your own common sense?”
“You told me that you wanted to teach me to relax. You challenged me physically, mentally, and even spiritually. My strength, endurance, agility and balance are better than I’ve ever seen.”
“Fine lot it’s doing you right now. Use all that to keep your calm. Breath easy. Try not to shift your weight too much.”
“Ellen, something’s shifting.”
“There’s a red-tailed hawk floating around up here. Do you remember teaching me that verse which says we can soar on wings like eagles… to not give up?”
“Relax. Yes, that’s in Isaiah 40. Pray.”
“There’s an updraft pulling at my chute.”
“If I spread my arms and legs to catch the wind like that hawk the lift could take me up and off this face.”
“Rick, what is happening? What are you doing?”
“I’m seeing the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen. It’s like heaven. I’m flying.”
“Rick, are you okay? Are you falling too fast?”
“Ellen, relax. The chute is open. The thermal is good. The hawk is watching me.”
“I’m climbing down. Waiting for you. Happy Birthday.”
A relaxed lone figure drifted out of the heavens silhouetted against El Capitan accompanied by a red tailed hawk circling overhead.
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