It had been almost a year since I’d left the ground under my canopy, like a flea hoping off the back of an elephant. Now, that’s way too long.

So today I drove an hour east of Montreal to the mighty Mont Yamaska, a small hiccup on the flat expanse of the Eastern Townships, hoping for flyable conditions. It was a partial success. The winds were a little weak, from the southwest, facing the main launch pad. After waiting over an hour for some thermal activity to come our way, I decided that walking back down was not an option, mostly because of the black flies swarming around my face. I unpacked my paraglider, hooked up to the harness, put gloves and helmet on, strapped the vario to my leg, and waited some more.

There’s a lot to be said about waiting in the paragliding activity. It forms character. It teaches patience. It lets you sweat profusely and makes you wish you were somewhere else. Like at the shaded terrace of an alpine cafe with a beer mug in one hand and an ice cream in the other. Or vice versa. And then it gives the bugs a chance to fly suicide missions into your ears.

Here’s how I would define the essence of aerial wisdom:

Success is the result of good judgment.
Good judgment is the result of experience.
Experience is the result of bad judgment.
Bad judgment is the result of black flies.

I once took off against my own advice from this very same site, in a fierce crosswind and without my speed bar, only to find myself flying backwards as soon as I was airborne. But today the gods were smiling upon me and finally, the sun appeared through the clouds, triggering a few thermals that lazily ascended the hill towards my vanishing patience. Four or five wings launched, I was next, a few more followed.

We managed to soar for a while, fighting hard to gain a mere 200 or 300 feet above the pad, turning tight to stay in the lift at each end of the run. Then the sun went away again, and sinking air was everywhere. I headed for the field, crossed the road, followed an S shaped approach and didn’t quite flare enough while landing, so I actually had to run a few paces. A year is a long time to wait for a twenty minutes flight. But how sweet it was!