A Giddying Morning

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Today is the day. He had decided. To celebrate his twelfth birthday, Aodren is going to go rappelling with his father down the Dalles Grises in the Verdon Gorge. A dizzying fall of five hundred and seventy-four feet. Nothing like his training on the climbing wall or going up the local water towers.

The sun is shooting out great spears of light that ricochet off the rock and shatter into a thousand glittering splinters, ending up as golden sand in the crevices. The gorge in its morning solitude is extremely impressive. Far below, the Verdon looks like a strange fossilised animal.

The equipment is unpacked but suddenly, on the edge of the giddying cliffside, the child feels his stomach tying itself in knots. It’s not too late to change his mind. His father would never force him to do anything, he knows that. Well, he won’t do that, he’ll prove how brave and daring he is! He forces himself to breathe calmly. He’s going to keep his fear at a distance. He absorbs himself in his preparations: fitting his harness, adjusting his helmet and putting on his climbing shoes. He will be roped to his father. Each of them has to have total confidence in the other.

The first steps: braced against the rock face, they begin the descent. The father and son are at one with the mountain. The boy knows the dangers, so he concentrates on every movement. At the first belay, he passes the rope twice through the ring…

His fear has completely disappeared. His legs are steady. The rock is beautiful but it is unforgiving. With all his now twelve years, the young boy is discovering the majestic power of the world, and at the same time becoming aware of his own fragility. Yet he does not feel vulnerable, just minuscule on that colossal rock face. And light! Wonderfully light. He can take off just by pushing on his feet. His body flies, lands, takes off again, in an infinite slide.

Above him, two vultures are writing their story on the huge blue slate of the sky. Intoxicated with his freedom, he rests his weight on infinity.

Fatigue creeps up. He overcomes it. He negotiates the difficult places. He accepts this gift of happiness, fulfillment and euphoria.

When Aodren sets foot on the bank, he is no longer the same person.
He is not yet aware of all that he has learned today. In the photo his father took when they arrived, in his smile, shines all those revelations. One day he will know how to decipher them; one day, they will help him to live life to the full.

Translated by Wendy Cross

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