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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Wirebird


Man is the Master of All Creation, on land, in the sea and in the air. Homo sapiens is supposed to rule over the brutes underendowed with gray matter. But when you look at our physical abilities, we come off as rather unimpressive species and, unless you count spell checking among survival skills, most of us wouldn't stand much chance in the wilderness. Sure, we can get by in the department of running and swimming, but our performance doesn't come even close to the explosive charge of cheetahs or efficient elegance of dolphins. You could argue that, on a good day, Michael Phelps might keep up pace with a school of malaria stricken tuna fish, but the sad truth is that if there ever was an Animal Kingdom Olympics, we'd rank somewhere between San Marino and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Our record deteriorates even further when it comes to flying. Douglas Adams once observed that "The knack [of flying] lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss". Well, after several thousand years of hectic evolution, we have to admit that this "knack" misses us rather completely. We cannot fly, period. The few of us who try quickly realize that they don't have much choice for direction and usually land with an ungraceful plop and a lesson that gravity has a deadly downward bias. Such unbecoming manner of flying may elicit patronizing smiles on the faces of common pigeons but does not really lead to much enjoyment. Let's face it - we are developing a pretty strong case of wing envy.

But hey - what about blimps, hot air balloons, choppers, airplanes, or space rockets? Doesn't all that aerospace junk count as flying? Well, I don't think so. Our body itself doesn't really sail through the high airs. Rather it is some metallic cylinder that does the moving and we are merely packed in it like a bunch of wretched sardines, watching our fellow packees sip orange juice from plastic cups. The human body, relative to the casing is in perfect stillness. Our senses do not get that palpable guttural experience of being integral part of the rapidly changing perspective.

But do not despair. If you do desire to feel the comb of fresh air tousling your hairdo while flying - but are not quite ready to commit your fragile skeleton to the whims of hang gliding - there is hope for you and it comes in the form of ziplines. A series of taut metallic strings zipping inconspicuously through a canopy of a rainforest near you. On the island of Antigua, I succumbed to temptation of stately trees and not having any prior experience decided to wing it. A lovely attendant helped me into a harness, clipped me onto the wire above my helmet and before I knew it, my body was moving through the air in an unusually horizontal way. Experiencing the surrounding vegetation in a fly-thru mode wasn't quite what the birds do for a living, but it was pretty damn close.

The chauffeur who drove our little group from the Cruise Terminal to the adventure site fell into a bit of aviatory delusion himself. In the spirit of free wheeling Caribbean driving, he treated the narrow island roads as if they were La Guardia runways and throughout our trip kept barreling on roughly at the speed of sound, except for the stop signs where he lightly tapped the brake pedal, in apparent deference to the local traffic Gods.

But this bout of non-canonical driving was well worth it. Flying liberates more than you'd expect. Some of the motion challenged folks were visibly overcome with the loss of solid ground and the dizzying zips that their senses were thoroughly unaccustomed to and consequently exhibited surprising proficiency in high pitch wailing and squealing and squawking and howling and whooping and scads of other sounds which English doesn't even have a name for, but which carried for miles around nonetheless. I haven't inspected the vocabulary of Antiguan parrots, but I bet you two sleeping bags of golden coins that the one American phrase they all know by heart is "Oh my God! Oh My God!" rendered in a perfect Southern accent.



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