It started as a free-fall. A few moments of graceless terror as the mass of my body plummeted to the river bank below. Then the harness tightened and I was pulled upward; a welcome delay from the inevitabilities of Newton’s gravity.
Seconds earlier, I was on a cliff. I leaned over the edge and felt as though mine were the first eyes to view the serenity of the cresting rain-fattened Ada River. My senses became saturated with the calls of unfamiliar birds, the warmth of the dawning sun and the air inflating my lungs.I took three deep breaths, closed my eyes and jumped.
What led here? Strapped to a para-glider dangling hundreds of feet above a meandering mixture of sloshing water and red clay. The long version of this story involves a half-assed map, a road-weary (and remarkably loyal) Kawasaki 250 and a punishing thunder storm. Perhaps the details are best left as something for the memoirs or at least a conversation at a later date. The short answer involves booze, drums and a moment of clarity.
The night before my leap, I met a man named Ta’ola-ula (spelled phonetically) a holy man in the Ga tribe of Ghana’s South Eastern Volta Territory. Now, I don’t want this story to read overtly Heart of Darkness-esque or mystical in tone. I assure you this country is modern and it’s people are cosmopolitain and refined (I’ve been to the mall. The theater is playing the new movie starring Matt Damon and cast of zoological wonders). However, I sat in a drum circle and gave the presiding shaman a bottle of peppermint schnapps as an offering. He called me Obruni Brouage, (a name I’m getting accustomed to it means: White Man Beard) handed me a half coconut of palm wine and explained the difference between the living and the dead. Not a bad trade.
He said the dead envy the living. They are omnipresent and watch over us constantly. They can only remember what it is like to love, taste, touch, learn, discover and experience the world through the senses. He told me the meaning of life is in not knowing what will happen next and truly living is moving forward without fear.
I spent the night in a building with no roof listening to small lizards and crabs shuffle through the sand. Before sleep, I stared at the sparkling stars lining Orion’s Belt and in a fool’s epiphany decided to jump from something high at the next opportunity.I have always had uneasy relations with heights. Well, to be clear the falling from them and troublesome landing is what bothers me. Days earlier, Samson, a student at The GJI (Ghana Journalism Institute) had spoken of Volta’s para-gliders. Naturally, when I woke with palm wine still on my breath, a few crinkled ceti bills in my pocket and my boots still on my feet I set out to find them.
That’s my story…….glad I could share it.