From rock to rock, I push ever up on the paths of the Pyrenees, the Spanish village of Escuain receding in steps. My homage to wildflowers, pine scent and scrub, is the short prayer I compose in gratitude for the mélange of mountain aromas. Above the tree line, I spy a devil’s dance: Whirling dust on the valley floor signals a mass of rising hot air.
A lone bearded vulture adjusts his black span to the influx of lift. Others join him in communal spiral. I am buoyed by their upward drift. In no particular hurry, I will be soon in the embrace of nothing.
At the point of departure, parched, I sip water slowly, spying the shadows of distant canyons. I kneel slowly, cupping my ears to capture the conch shell moan of distant winds far below. These are the sirens of ancient lives, weathered fingers groping the crags and the life I will soon forget. Scooping dirt, I fling grains to the wind. Release from earth is imminent. It is time. Almost time. Thoughts ratchet to exquisite slowness. The raptors circle more tightly, willing me to their heights.
I inhale deeply, reach up, spring out and away in faux-float suspension. My bat suit fills and I descend through a blurred kaleidoscope of camouflage colors. High atop a distant radio tower, another soul has chosen this spot for their point of departure. He/she offers a half a wave. “Bon voyage, amigo,” crosses my lips.
It’s an unexpected distraction.
Daggers of granite tear into my flesh. Now a limp rag, my body contorts along a stone’s throw of cliff face. So much for a clean impact. From serene freefall to violent splatters, I am now a long crimson patch at 4,000 feet. The helicopter crew from mountain rescue will receive a final gesture, a guide to my blood-stained body below: Wide open eyes (beseeching nothing at all) and a “For Sale” sign adjacent to the guy who should have done better.
(Why does it take 600 to enter the Valley of Death, when one descent can buy the last breath?)
I arise, naked and step lightly. Cleansed by a swift, shallow brook, I merge with the wavy grey shimmer.
published 26 July 2014