Sunday, February 22, 2009

Light of Life

"Stay gold, Ponyboy"

The light has come back. Four months waiting for this, and today I opened my eyes to find the sunlight stretching golden through the birch, turning even the darkest spruce bough into a gentle soft shade of green, so bright and abundant that even in the shadows, the birch trunks glow a muted warm white and the spruce trunks deep brown. Bright and clear, vivid the blue sky above, soaked and saturated in that color, touched by red aspen tips beginning to bud with the first faint trickle of sap up skyward. The snow below holds the light, multiplies it, reflects it back upward to light the forest around me.

Winter solstice is past, and now the sunlight is pouring back into the sky, every day flooding back into our parched eyes, our sun-starved souls, lifting our hearts and bringing thoughts of summer ahead. No longer the dim red light of the sun barely filtering through the atmosphere from the horizon, cut with cold blue shadows even at midday, nor the greyness of near-dark twilight under overcast requiring headlights even at noon so that cars whose colors are anonymous under grey glacial silt may see and avoid each other on the dirt, gravel, ice and snow that buried our asphalt. Now the light is golden and glowing inside the surfaces of things!

Nothing gold can stay, perhaps, but the real secret is that if you wait out the darkness, if you keep that hope alive in your soul, after all the darkness, the depression and the pain, the gold comes back. We will never have the first blush of our lives back, nor the pain-free bodies of our youth, the freedom attendant with a lack of responsibility in a world run by parents, any more than we can ever have last summer again, never smell those same flowers, nor pick that four-leaf clover. But that does not mean summer will not come again!

After this long cold time alone, I find an abundance of blessings - the joy of discovering new friends and connections with old ones, the returning function to my lamed leg, the title and registration to my own plane, paid free and clear. Today I go to dismantle all my work and pack up all the parts for my wings, to put them in storage: I must pay my medical bills, and have no money left even for hangar rent for my project. Nothing gold can stay, not that first rush of discovery, or the joy of accomplishment at watching the wing take recognizable shape from scattered parts. Still, I have a light heart, because I know her time will come.

I will not despair, as she is only sleeping: she will wait patiently for me to pay off my bills, and as my leg allows me to work more, I shall come clear of this massive debt, and soar free without fetters or shackles. The lids of totes folded over the carefully photographed, tagged, and labeled parts is no more than the drift of leaves on the forest floor, insulating the bulbs below for the spring to come. The time will come, just as summer is coming, for new friends to grow from words on introductory emails, then voices on the phone, into into faces to see and bodies to hug. The time will come for me to go from curled on the couch half-stoned and still unable to escape the pain and humiliation of being unable to even stand long enough to cook my own food, then affecting a hat and a devil-may-care attitude to go with my cane, to walking back up the mountain passes and climbing the ridges. And someday soon I shall be holding my breath, biting my lip in hope and fear and pure joy as my first student gets into her without me, and takes the lovely golden bird that we built together into the air on her own, for three ritualistic landings without an instructor that signify she has joined the ranks who have grown wings and learned to fly free.

Nothing gold can stay, maybe, but the gold will come again. Have faith, and hope, love, and patience for yourself, and those around you. The world is a beautiful place, and summer is coming!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shoot for the Stars

"Life is Pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something..."

Adventures rarely come in glossy color brochures offering convenient packaging and efficient handlers. More often, they arrive in the form of a casual mention by a friend of a possibility. So when a friend of mine mentioned casually that a mutual acquaintance would be bringing his submachine guns to the range, I jumped at the opportunity and asked with unfeigned glee what might be done to be able to shoot them. Then I went off and checked with the esteemed gentleman himself, and proceeded to go buy the ammunition for the guns.

Despite internet horror stories, I can firmly say that my experiences with gun store employees have been uniformly positive, friendly, and helpful - and by en large, with the other customers there, too. Certainly there's a lot more warmth, relaxed attitudes, courtesy, and easy smiles even in the middle of a lunchtime rush than you'd ever expect from a store. Whether a large man in a duster and a long grey beard with a bag of brass in hand or a small lame woman in a black leather trenchcoat with a post-it note and a puzzled look, Great Northern Guns will take care of you with unfailing courtesy and humor.

Armed with 250 rounds of 9mm, earplugs, hearing protectors, (why are so many of my expressions of freedom loud?) and 800mg of ibuprofen freshly spiking in my bloodstream, I stood by the table as the guns were gently pulled out of their bags and shown to us, starting with a careful explanation that they are safe when the bolt is closed, not like my rifle.

A few years back I was in a bad car wreck, when the woman behind me didn't stop on the ice and slammed into my car as I sat at a red light. So the little muscle that runs from your neck down to your shoulder, used for things like holding your arm up, or a gun to your shoulder? Mine supports a max of five pounds for about five minutes before failure. The uzi is heavy. If only I had been able to hold it without muscles screaming in agony, it would have been a gun I could adore.

The mac-10 is light enough and fast enough on the rate of fire it has a kick like an eight-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. The Sten, though, is a fine old gun, simple and straightforward as the design of my plane, and roughly of the same vintage. Its rate of fire was slow enough I could place my shots well, and it was light enough I could hold and fire about eight bullets at a time between breaks as my muscles gave out and I had to control the breathing as my body hyperventilated with pain. I adore that gun, in all its simple, straightforward, plain and easily fabricated glory.

It was so worth everything - even sore today, I have no regrets at grabbing that chance and exploring it. If I'd waited another year or two until I might be strong enough it wouldn't hurt, the opportunity would be long gone. Never hesitate - take on life with everything you've got, and don't waste a moment.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On Shared Ideas in Culture

"In the beginning, there was the idea. The idea attracted others, like-minded. It flourished, and grew. Well, my friends, the idea has become the institution."

We participate in the most powerful of shared cultural ideas every day - like government and money. Some we fight against - but the very hallmark of an institution is that its detractors will try to define their alternative by comparing to the thing they don't like. To fight against the institution is to reinforce the belief in the institution. For example, consider the Satanic. What is a Satanist if not someone who still defines their whole world view on Christianity? Certainly, if you ever meet a Buddhist monk, you'll find that he does not define himself as struggling against the Christian God - so it is fair to say that Satanists are nothing more than devout believers in the concept of Christianity, though not its practices, and that everything they do only reinforces the idea, the institution, that they fight.

Another such struggle is 'racial discrimination.' Once the concept of race was introduced (and it is a fairly recent invention), it was rapidly used to combat the cultural shift in Europe away from slavery, and justify continued slavery under the guise that whereas before anyone of any country was fair game, now it would only be practiced on a clearly defined "other". Not that it was, and slavery continued under other names like "indentured servitude" as so many of the poor of the British Isles had their bonds sold by their owners and carted off to the colonies, whether or not it was officially called slavery anymore. (Political correctness is a new name for an old idea.) Nonetheless, western Europe moved away from the concept of slavery, as did its colonies, and the institution of slavery, the idea, has been abandoned so thoroughly that neither its supporters nor its opponents can make us believe in it as a place in civilized society.

Now that the justification that relied upon the concept of race is gone, so, too, may the concept of race slowly be relegated to the historical relics and museums. But there are very powerful institutions that have large amounts of political power and money, as well as ego, tied up in "fighting race" - they are the truest believers in racism, and determined to make the rest of us abide by both their shared concept and their interpretation of it.

Think on that, the next time you get called racist for judging someone not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spar Update

As time goes by, and paperwork is dug through (Alaskan Geek-Montana Architect found ANC-19, bless his black heart!), I become more and more reconciled to the loss of my spars. Wooden spars are fragile works of wooden art and science, and there are no more than a handful of people in the country who make them. (Four?)

Waiting on a quote to get them made and shipped from Michigan - many things are cheaper in the lower 48, but shipping is a killer, and something as long as a wing, light, flexible, and fragile must be trucked to the coast and shipped up on the barge.

There's one place in state - and he quoted $666 per spar, and what shipping? Come road trip to him and get them myself. (I must snark about the price - you knew it would be evil to have to replace them!)

For future reference,
Eyak Air in Willow, AK, on the Willow Airport,
precision aero marine

On brighter notes, I made the last payment this month - she may not be flying, but Vickie now belongs to me free and clear, no liens or loans. That makes me giggle, despite all else.

I leave you with a couple photos of previous flights, showing the view of winter I'm missing. If you like what you see, I can post more on these lines while waiting for spars to be made.