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.

22 comments:

  1. The mood and the images your writing provides are beautiful. Lovely post.

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  2. I talk with friends and revel in their good news.

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  3. TJ - yes, keeping the fingers crossed on the house buyer but it's all good

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  4. The sky awaits just as much as the uncharted areas of one's mind to "push the envelope" on other matters earthbound. No less risky, yet just as rewarding. Added bonus, you don't have to worry about a flaky magneto or accidentally squawking 7700. I wish there was a support system for ground based transmissions for that!

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  5. Another great, evocative post. I remain in awe of your gift, as always. And thank you, too, for the suggestion of authors who can take me into the air with them.

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  6. "You can't take the sky from me..."

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  7. Substitute water for sky, and you have captured my essence. My escape. It's always been that way. Even when I was a little kid. You show me an irrigation ditch, and I'll show you how fast I can strip and jump in. Great post.

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  8. "Grab a book, grab a dream" Love it! Thanks for the post

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  9. A moment like that makes the trouble of washing off the evening bugs entirely worth it.

    Jim

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  10. Not a shopper, would much rather be a horseback pushing cows thru a mountain meadow. Thunder bumpers floating by, the smell of pines, grass, dogs, horses, leather and sunshine.
    Love to be up in the sky,too. My dad flew jets and a little cub. He could land and take off from a kitchen table with that ol cub...

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  11. Brigid,
    Once again you bring the picture home. I miss the flying more now than I have in months. The plane sits in the hangar ready to go; I sit in another hangar working myself to death. I remember late afternoon flights, I called them therapy flights.
    My x always made me feel guilty about the flying I would do by myself. She had no use for flying, and no understanding. Having read all the authors you listed, I will say this with some authority. You have more talent than any of them. Thanks for the trip.
    DS

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  12. The picture looks somewhat like CV-66. Only longer and not moving up and down by +/- 6' or more. (And these days, above the water.)

    B--Do you hold a glider license?

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  13. Hello again,
    Where is the airport? Looks like it could be unforgiving.

    DS

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  14. You forgot Coonts, mainly The Cannibal Queen.

    I really didn't enjoy his fiction, but thought Cannibal Queen captured the essence of what it was like for me and my flying friends.

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  15. Been there, done that, know the feeling!
    I was a one-third owner of a Cessna 150 Aerobat. Nothing like a few stalls, spins, loops and hammerheads to get the adrenaline flowing, and mind cleared up!

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  16. "What do you do to renew your spirit?"

    Hmmm... doing nice things for people 'just cuz'.

    ...it makes the world gets just a little brighter.

    "Antoine de Saint-Exupery"

    Hmmm.... cool.

    Nice post, Brigid.

    'Book Vacations'... yea... :)

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  17. Been a few years since I've been up in a single engine plane... thanks for refreshing the memories!

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  18. Lordy...wish the Army hadn't insisted that I show up in Vietnam BEFORE I could finish my flying lessons. Darn inconsiderate of them...especially with the memories you just brought back. Wish I had finished after, but life got in the way!

    Thanks for the memories!

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  19. "These are life's shining moments. Small minutes of time you can carry inside of you while the chaos of life hurries past." That about sums it up in my opinion. I don't have a huge amount of hours, and it's been several years since I've flown. However, those hours are some of my fondest memories and the ones that haunt my dreams.

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  20. Not a pilot but I used to have awesome flying dreams when I was a kid. Great post...as usual.

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  21. I need to go flying with you someday. Great post.

    That pic of the runway reminds me of flying into the Telluride airport. On that ride many years ago the crew left the cockpit door open for the approach. Watching from the cabin it looked like we were going to fly straight into the side of the cliff below the runway.

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  22. Lycoming 680. Wow. I know where there's a zero hours P&W Wasp Junior C with a HamStnd.CP prop if any Stearman types want an extra 200 ponies pulling. It was a popular conversion back in the '50's, when the front seat usually got switched out for a cropdusting tank.

    When we were stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn my old man used to fly a floatplane out of Jamaica Bay on weekends. I don't remember the manufacturer, but it was aluminum, high wing, a pusher, and had a spar running aft under the propeller to connect with the tail. It also was like sitting in a bass drum.

    My Dad used to wander by on Sunday afternoons and help the guys with fabric covered planes cut, stitch, and dope linen. He was a real pro, starting off as a Crew Chief for the OS2U floatplane on the U.S.S. Erie, PG50, before he got into his beloved SBD's.

    You know, it's odd. With all the planes I've been in, I've never flown in a biplane. Haunted them at airshows, but never been up in one.

    And I think it's time I revisited Enest Gann. It's been a while, which is a loss.

    In addition to his flying books, if you ever get the chance, check out his autobiography, A Hostage To Fortune. Some people manage to really live before they die. By comparison, the rest of us mostly take up space.

    Thanks for once again reminding us that there's more to life than just paying the bills and meeting the schedules. You are an absolute joy to read.

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