Sep 24, 2013
American climber Steph Davis’ Learning To Fly
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The author of ‘High Infatuation’ comes with yet another gripping and mesmerizing account of her life as an adventurer, how she battled all odds to be what she is today
Steph Davis, an American author, embraces life in an alternate fashion. In regular terms, she also juggles roles as a climber, base jumper and a wing suit pilot. A resident of Moab, Utah, she spends her days climbing massive vertical cliffs and leaping off them in a parachute. Her debut book ‘High Infatuation’, a collection of her life-experiences, was about a dirt-bag climber growing within the climbing community in Moab. However, her latest one, ‘Learning to Fly’, is a rare and riveting journey of self-discovery and liberation, of incessant change, of pure love for the adventurous life and one dog.
The book opens with an innocent description of one of the most feared moments in one’s life, especially a climber’s – falling! At the peak of her climbing career, Steph is abandoned by her husband following a media outcry over a controversial climb made by him. She loses every pillar in her life but one- her dog, Fletch. To start anew, Steph finds refuge in an activity she disliked the most, flying.
“It’s not so surprising that on the day of my fifth wedding anniversary I was lying crouched at the open door of an airplane, thirteen thousand feet above the Colorado plains, about to jump out. That coincidence of timing really wasn’t”, Steph recalls.
In between starting afresh with Fletch in Boulder, Colorado, and jumping off planes, she finds herself reminiscing about her climbing career and gathers strength to get back to it. She describes the interplay between climbing and flying, perhaps two of her most natural dispositions, in an ordinary yet sumptuous way.
“Learning to Fly” is based solely on experience sans any element of fiction, and echoes an unwitting mission to inspire the rest. Steph’s inadvertent recipe for pursuing happiness is not only going to resonate with people within her core community, but is also appealing to anyone who seeks clarity while making important decisions in life. However, it is by no means a “self-coach” book but a mix of her memoirs, so unassumingly written that it makes the reader feel like a witness to every event in her life; a silent observer tagging along, quite gratefully, with her, as she travels across cities, countries and continents.
The book is filled with episodes of unexpected surprises, right from sibling adventures to spontaneous dead-air jumps. “The knowledge rose inside me like happiness,” proclaims Steph, “like a plane lifting off”. She accelerates through sky diving, base jumping and wing suit flying. With a newly found passion for flying, she learns to let go and in the process meets an exuberant yet calm Quebecois named Mario Richard. Together with him, she explores her jumping skills and Moab cliffs. “I liked the way he saw the world as an endlessly enjoyable place filled with puzzles to be solved”. Steph starts falling in love again!
Her book arms you with a pin to puncture your comfort zone and break free. Her technique of narration is different from most books of the adventurous genre. You may not want to finish this book too fast because, to imagine not having to read it anymore would take a while to sink in. This gripping and intense story of her staggering acts of courage, narrated with child-like enthusiasm and meditating patience is not only a subtle yet persistent reminder of the freedom that we desire and the opportunities that manifest themselves time and again, but also a gentle push to believe that one must be ready to take that leap of faith. It reflects change, something, in the author’s opinion, we can be sure of throughout our lives.
Perhaps we don’t know where our origins lie and where we are headed to. She, in my humble opinion, celebrates change with utmost joy.
TOJ Update: Steph Davis’ husband Mario Richard was killed on August 18, 2013, while wingsuit flying in the Dolomites in Italy. He was 47.
Slider Image © Keith Ladzinski
Image 1 © Jimmy Chin
Image 2 © Tommy Chandler