In the Zone

Chris and Allison in the Woodrat LZ

Post-flight Contentment: feather-friends in the Woodrat LZ

Mid-summer finds me in a paraglider pilot’s paradise: living within a short glide path to the Woodrat Mountain landing zone. My place is nothing spectacular–a small trailer with bland decor but equipped with the essentials: a four slice toaster and high speed internet. A few decorations might make it feel more like “home” but I move so much these days I’ve nearly given up on such efforts; my painted sugar bowl and beloved brass horse figurines will remain indefinitely consigned to a storage unit until some distant and more settled future. For now, my need for decor is sated by sunsets and trees, which are easily viewable from the trailer’s wide deck and never in need of dusting or storage.

Life here has a satisfying rhythm. Early mornings bring writing sessions on the deck, where I can glance up occasionally and watch gray squirrels twitch or watch deer tip-toe through dried madrone leaves. My flight radio is always switched to “on” so I can hear when the pilots have arrived and get up-to-the-minute flight reports from top-launch. It’s a short commute to join up with them and spend the late morning in search of gentle thermals. Afternoons here are hot and languorous, spent sidled up to the Applegate River reading West with the Night, which is female pilot Beryl Markham’s flight log-turned-eloquent travel narrative set in Africa. My own writing also fills the hours and out here, removed from the tempting social scene of Ashland, I am more productive than I have ever been.

Around 6:00 the evening shift of pilots arrive to fly glass-off. The camaradarie is enough to scratch my social itch, and often friends come by the trailer afterwards for beer or mojitos, sometimes staying over to catch a morning flight. I write late into the warm nights, sitting out on the deck with large bugs crashing into my computer screen. I sleep in the outdoor bed, tuning out the mysterious rustlings around me.

The place has its quirks: the electricity is haywire and the oven smokes, making my last pizza smell like a Les Schwab tire. In the bathroom the shower head sprays wildly in every direction. But, overall, this place combines the best of everything: flying, socializing, quiet time to write, nearby vineyards, organic farms, cool rivers. A great place to land.

One thought on “In the Zone

  1. Visiting my friend at Wood Rat and watching, for the first time, her flight taught me more in one afternoon about the value of community than I have accumulated in a lifetime. A community bonded by the careful discovery of a sport that takes humans into a dimension not accessed easily by our grounded bodies. They soar gently on the wind like newly born spiders. Simultaneously, they stay in constant contact with each other, reporting their individual experiences like a band of scientific explorers. Reporting temperatures, winds, and the resultant thermals that carry them further and further aloft. If, purchance, one finds oneself traveling greater heights and distances than expected, landing sometimes miles from Wood Rat, it is this very tight knit communication web that will keep one secure in the knowledge that others know where he/she is. I am proud of my friend having discovered and embraced paragliding. Watching my, sometimes, scattered friend very carefully lay out her wing in preparation for takeoff, I realized how much she is changing. She has become a confident adventurer.

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