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Aug 26 2011

Under an Angel’s Wings

by Andrée Trempe

“Why move mountains when we can soar over them?”

asks René Marion, a paragliding enthusiast for 30 years.

Originally from the French Alps and a family immersed in alpine sports, René was filled with the desire to fly from a young age. At age 12 he learned how to fly a glider. He already had an understanding of the atmosphere, meteorology, and aerodynamics. He took classes at Centre de Vol à Voile de l’Aeroclub du Doubs in Besançon. But he was searching for another way to fly.

In October 1982 at age 15, he saw a parachute descend from a mountain. He headed to the landing spot, realizing only several years later that he had met Andrea Kuhn, a veteran paragliding pioneer.

René set out to find a sail that would let him experience the unique sensation of being carried aloft. He made more than 150 successful flights, on the sly, from a cliff behind the family home before one of his brothers discovered his exploits. A year went by before the whole family found out that he had traveled up to 300 meters, for 2 minutes, using his basic equipment.

His parents found themselves backed up against…a cliff! They sent their son off to a paragliding school. It was impossible for them to curb his visceral impulse to fly.

Paragliders must have total control of all actions necessary to keep the “aircraft” afloat—just like long-distance sailors on the Atlantic. Once in the middle of the ocean, the pilot must fend for himself. He’s the only commander onboard. In René’s case, it’s the laws of aeronautics that apply.

Paragliding also lets him develop sensitivity through direct contact with the air mass: floating, rising, descending, feeling, moving with the air. For René, to fly is to play with the “air at my fingertips,” meaning he is in communion with nature, delighting in the environment.

He also seeks to ensure that his students develop this sensitivity. He not only trains them in basic aerial navigation techniques, but also encourages them to go beyond—not to fear the sensation of vertigo that sometimes accompanies flying.

Moreover, paragliding affords him the opportunity to meet pilots from around the world who share his passion. René has paraglided in 24 countries, his “plane-in-a-pocket” in tow. These flights have also enabled him to see the extent of deforestation. From high in the air, he has a birds-eye view of how the planet is being transformed. These ecological realities make him aware of the fragility of the environment. So he is very keen on living simply, in total harmony with and respect for his favorite element: air.

He taught his son paragliding from the age of one and a half. They flew above the birds. What a wonder to see life from a different perspective!

René enjoys extraordinary freedom. He expresses and fully experiences an activity that has been his passion since childhood. His life is an inspiration. He invites us to reconsider our priorities as individuals, to break out of our daily routines and soar beyond all manner of personal barriers.

He especially admires Leonardo da Vinci, who created the first aircraft prototypes between 1485 and 1490. He understands the reality this visionary faced when he encountered tremendous ideological, religious, and cultural resistance. René calls himself a free thinker. Flying opens him to the world.

Photograph: Stock.Xchng
Text: Andrée Trempe

About the author

Andrée is drawn to anything that helps people develop their full potential as unique individuals. Her explorations and discoveries inspire her to create, communicate, and share what she has learned. In 2010 she joined the My Inner Space production team as an outside resource.

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