Unlike Sarah, I don't have any qualms about fashioning whatever makeshift metaphor I can scavenge into the crude shape of my experience (as regular readers can attest).
As a human, every attempt at speech and writing is a failure of communication to varying degrees. The most mundane of personal experiences are utterly impossible to transmit into another brain with accurate intactfulness. It logically follows that relating my first hang gliding experience to you in any meaningful way beyond "I ran off a hill with a guy and then we floated and then we stopped moving on the ground" can't be an act of precision.
It will be an act of writing as precisely as I can in an attempt to convey my perspective. But from my perspective it's perfectly acceptable to use invented words like 'intactfulness.' My name is Chris, and I'll be your pilot today.
The moment of hang gliding I remember most vividly (courtesy of my reptilian fear center) is the first moment we became airborne.
This isn't a picture of that moment.
This is a picture taken probably a minute and a half after my pilot Didu had straightened us out; after I had shakily clamped my feet against the saddle, and after I became composed enough to attempt a dorky smile for the camera.
"Composed" isn't the right descriptor for how I felt in this photo. My feeling at the moment of this photo was "Barely Beginning to Recover From Shock." But I was trying for composed. I wanted to look composed for the photos. In some of them, I think I come close to achieving this strange, subconscious goal.
There aren't cute pictures of that first minute and a half and I think I know why (and it wasn't because my pilot Didu was too busy taking off and steering us into safety). It was because we were doing something completely, utterly, totally illegal.
At least, that's what every organ in my body screamed at me. As we sprinted down the hill and my legs began scissoring stupidly in the air, I could clearly hear the roaring chorus of my guts shouting "THIS IS THE MOST WRONG THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE AND SO VERY WRONG AND MORE WRONG THAN ANYTHING YOU HAVE EVER DONE IN YOUR LIFE!" My head reacted in the only reasonable way it could by promptly turning itself off.
But shortly after this mind-erasing transformation into a blubbering primate, consciousness rebooted and with it came a steady trickle of delightful euphoria. This, coupled with the soaring vistas all around me, produced a ravenous hunger for more speed, more wind, more flight. I felt peaceful and vibrant simultaneously. Gloriously alive and more free than ever before.
We started at 2,500 feet high and ended at zero, but for about an hour after my flight I felt as high as an elephant's eye.
And I felt sure I understood why perfectly sane people would spend their lives sprinting off of hills. The feeling was one of the best I've ever had, and all I wanted to do when I touched down was do it all over again.
Here are the links to the pics and videos one more time for those who are intent on receiving this imprecise communique with as much precision as possible. We salute your curiosity and noble commitment to fidelity and truth: