TODAY WAS THE DAY I finished most of the maintenance for Puff, and it was time to fly.
I pulled her out of her hangar, looked over all the nuts and bolts, the tension on the cables, made sure that all the hinges were working smoothly, the flight controls, added some fuel and oil for the flight. It had been several weeks since I had landed in the water, for all this maintenance, and I was just a little nervous as I slid into the cockpit, fastened the seat belt and shoulder harness, started the engine. This flight would take us to the lake again.
More than any airplane I’ve owned, Puff had somehow learned to talk with me (and I had learned how to talk with her), and we flew thousands of miles, happily chatting about the events of our flights. I don’t know if you remember, but after our crash with the high-tension wires, Puff had been silent,.
When I could walk again, I had some talks with her spirit (her body, wings and tail were destroyed, on the floor of the hangar), and she told me that when I rebuilt her body it would be a little confused, and would not talk much.
I NEVER THOUGHT SO. Seems to work for everyone who decides to live with another human being. Works for every marriage.
When one decides for marriage, they’re done with dating, at last; they’ve found the single person who mirrors their own perfections, and they’re off on tests and challenges and beautiful understandings that only a life with a lovely human being can offer. The odds against that are barely this side of impossible, yet it happens time and time again, to millions and millions of us.
What makes it work, I think, is the magic of intimacy. There is one person with whom we can talk about anything, we can splash our imaginations, we can build events that won’t work, but still our dear ones love us. Without intimacy, some say, what’s the point of living? Without magic, there are clouds to muffle every sunrise.
IT HAPPENS OFTEN, they say. We’re in the midst of our life, we take some photographs, think nothing unusual has happened. Then when we look at the pictures there’s a spirit or an orb in the midst of our day! It’s become a common event these days, with so many cameras at work. Strange, but common.
I didn’t think that I’d have the experience. I was working on Puff, the little seaplane, doing some maintenance. For a friend, I laid out some parts on the deck, then got the camera and took several pictures.
To my surprise, well, to my astonishment!, there was an image that I had not seen when I pressed the shutter:
IT’S SO STRANGE! For the last several months, since I returned from Florida, Puff was in my mind every day. So many adventures with the little seaplane, adventures with Dan and his own plane Jennifer, spun in bright film strips clear as life sometimes, sometimes an old monochrome, fading.
Last week, though, a message from Dan, that Puff was ready to come home. They were about to fly 3,700 miles together, it would take 50-some flying hours, seven days to come home. All those days I was haunting the computer weather sites as they slipped from one weather to the next: missed a storm, tossed into winds that shuddered them both.
WHEN ONE NEEDS one’s sweatshirt, where could it be?
WE BEGIN, as mortals on Earth, with a million questions.
By the time we’re four or five years into our beliefs here, we know there are answers and we intend to find them. And sure enough, by the time we’ve spent a few decades here, watched blessings that we thought were disasters when they happened, we have some answers that work for us.
Comes a time when we have so many answers that there’s hardly a question we haven’t resolved and we sail easily through the deep waters that once were reefs and shoals of unsolved mysteries.
Troubles are events for us, we don’t have to worry about what used to be the tests, to be the problems for us to solve. By the time difficult times arrive, we’ve already got matched answers trotting four abreast.
But all these answers! Can we share them with those few who might be interested?
Can we list a problem that seemed to be impossible when we met it, and that’s now a quiet gentle answer?
I don’t know, but I’ll try:
ONCE UPON A TIME, I knew that our imagination was fiction, and our daily lives were fact.
Aren’t there rules? Can’t we write a story that seems to have happened (but didn’t), and yet remember some startling event that no one believes is true (but it happened)?
Answer: No rules. All our lives are gently stirred, our recollections and our imaginations become, to the best of our knowledge, the lives we live, day after day.
Of course we can play with rules that aren’t. I remember flying formation long ago, through clouds that were so dense that I could only see just the wingtip of the flight leader, the rest was fog. I had to fly breathtakingly close to his wing or he would be gone in the clouds.
Later, on the ground, and with years after the flight, I couldn’t believe that clouds could so tightly packed with mist. I must have imagined that flight, i thought, and soon as I did, it became unreal. I hadn’t had such a day ever, before that day, never had one after…it couldn’t have happened, just some light mist, I’m sure. It couldn’t have been. So today, it’s fiction, until perhaps some reader can tell me it happened to her or to him, too. Some clouds are really dense! Then it will come back into living experience for me, once again.
I wrote a little book called Rescue Ferrets at Sea. A book from a few years ago, and since I loved the ferrets I decided to make them a little more true for myself and for readers.
IT USED TO BE, that one could tell that a new era was happening. In electronics, it’s happened, In publishing, it’s happening, but the one I know best is aviation.
I remember the old pilots never much wanted to fly on instruments, reading headings and altitudes from the heading indicator and the altimeter, while all the world outside the windshield was grey fog. They called instrument flying “Needle-ball and alcohol,” for the turn needle, the ball to show an airplane slipping or skidding, and the magnetic compass, damped with alcohol.
You could go anywhere you wanted with those crude instruments. An airspeed indicator was nice to have, too. And an oil pressure gage for the engine.
Early pilots flew by the picture they saw, looking at the world outside of their open cockpits. They didn’t enjoy “flying blind,” but in the 1930’s it was the beginning of an era, pretty well necessary if you wanted to fly every day.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery lived the first part of that new era. He didn’t like modern planes, didn’t much care for the P-38H (F-5) photo plane he flew at the end of the second world war.
He had lost many old friends, flying in the 20′s and 30’s, and the new era was not for him. He disappeared after what he had promised would be his last flight in the ’38, July 31, 1944. Some said that he didn’t really want to live while aviation changed and his friends had gone.
I GUESS SOMETHING I had said about loneliness reached my guardian angel. She’s beautiful, of course, as all of us are in our highest realms of spirit. Spoke softly, a kind of music in her voice.
“Hello, dear spirit. You’re my angel?”
She laughed. “You can say that. Most of us have specialties. Safety in airplane crashes, protection from storms on land, storms at sea, accidents on roads, in elevators… Everything that you believe can happen in a lifetime, you have angels to help when your mission in life is not quite finished.”
I knew there was more for her to say, but she didn’t go on. Not Telling Everything is part of an angel’s training.
“Are you going to help me,” I said, “with another airplane crash?”
“I don’t think you’ll be having another airplane crash.” She was so solemn about that, that it was my turn to laugh.
“What’s your specialty? There’s no elevator on the island. If you’re to be company for a lonely gentleman, I’ll accept your offer with thanks.”
“You’ll need mortals for company. I’m just a busy angel. There’s more in my specialty, but we’re all busy.”
“Forgive me. Thank you for saying hallo. My best wishes from the humans you’re helping!”
REMEMBER LOCKIE? That sweet, that dear, calm, gentle, thoughtful, wise, understanding, soft, fluffy little Shetland Sheepdog puppy who walked with me a few steps, no leash, never barked, who captivated my heart with a single look?
He was so sweet, for two days in my house. I was so kind to him! I told him that this was now his house, and the lands around, they were his lands. He was a Sheltie Prince. Because these words were in the past tense, you suspect that there was a change.