Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Life Aloft

What do you do to renew your spirit? For most of my female acquaintances, they shop. For me, mall shopping reminds me of the running of the bulls at Pamplona. Something I'd rather not participate in. If it wears out or breaks I can usually find a replacement at LL Bean. On line.

For myself, I often look upward to recharge. The heavens. The smell of aviation fuel is my perfume, and the roar of a Stearman's Lycoming 680-13 a symphony of wonder.There will be no flying anytime soon. I'm still physically not quite feeling up to it, and the forecast, clouds low, leaden with rain. But today, I can retire to my library, happily clutching a book, and let the rest of the world become background noise for a little while. Sitting home when you'd rather be out is never fun, but grab a book, grab a dream.

Never experienced flight? Then sit and read with me. Ernest Gann, Gordon Baxter, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, were all my inspiration. All are masters at the art of weaving the aviation world into the fabric of your life. Our world awaits you. You don't have to be a pilot to experience those wondrous truths of life in the sky.

As the only sound in the room is that of the turn of a page and the gentle snore of a black lab by my side, I think back to a flight I took while in my last home. I used to have a little country airstrip right behind the house. When life got too busy, too rushed, I could walk across the road and take out a little tailwheel airplane I named Otis II. Like the old drunk on Andy Griffith, Otis was bedraggled, a little unsteady in a strong wind, and had seen a few years. But to Otis, the world was still a friendly, warm place, where his presence brought a smile to all. A quick preflight, and with the last of the daylight leaking from the sky we quickly launched, leaping into the air with an enthusiastic laugh, hurtling into the mystery, and occassionally scaring the absolutely wadding out of yourself.

It was going to be just a quick flight. The sun was already setting, leaving lavender ribbons across the sky, clouds thickening up, leaving just one large clear space above me through which I can just make out the beginning crescent of a new moon.The day was growing cold and outside I could smell the apple blossoms from the orchard underneath, the scent so dense I could barely breathe. I could hear the first stirrings of crickets and frogs and the evening becomes quiet except for the hum of a Lycoming and my excited breath. I felt as if I had run for miles to get to this point, and the exhilaration flowed through me.

But the sky is darkening so I will have to head back to home, turning back towards the strip while some light remains, utter silence now other than the song of the engine. Wind in my face from the open window, I felt one with the air. It felt like all life, all my past, my future was contained in this sky and I'm not just flying through it but I'm a part of it. It's the most contented, calming time in space you can experience and as the wheels gently kissed the ground, my breath slowed to one of coherent peace.

These are life's shining moments. Small minutes of time you can carry inside of you while the chaos of life hurries past. So turn the page, peel away the tired layers of your life, the noise, the stress. The sky awaits you.