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The Victory Flight – Fly Into Your Fear

014021 Above: before takeoff 330

Left: taking off

Right: safe return

The red and white sticker on the dash of the helicopter reads: “Aviation Allows No Room For Error.  FLY TO COME HOME.”  That comforted and unsettled me.  Really?  Like I needed to know aviation leaves no room for error?  The last time Dad took anyone to the airport and deposited them in a helicopter, it was my mom.  She did not come home  – not as she left.  She departed the landing site in a body bag.  What was left of her did.  I wonder if they packed her charred camera and lenses in the same bag.  Doubtful, but it would have been fitting.

As the young man in the movie, “Second Hand Lions” said of his two uncles who killed themselves attempting to fly their kit plane upside down through the barn opening and out the other side, “Well, sir, they went out with their boots on.”  Those fellows had determined they were not going to sit around and wait to die in their old age.  No sir, they would try anything that struck their fancy; you weren’t going to find them in bed shriveled up when they went.  My mom went out with her boots on.  The phrases, “in a tailspin,” and “crash and burn,” describe her last moments on earth – well, as she met the earth and her simultaneous demise.  When I step into a helicopter thirteen months later, the message that greets me is “No error – come home!”  I needed no reminder, but appreciated the message being ever present before my pilot’s eyes.

That eight hour drive to reach Houston the day before had some excruciating moments.  My stomach started cramping.  My mouth tried to throw up.  My head started hurting.  In response I said, “I’m doing this, if it kills me.  Literally.  My body is trying to get sick to keep me from going.  Well, I’m jolly well going, even if I’m throwing up the whole time.  This will not whip me!  I will conquer this fear.  I will not be subject the control of this terror.  I will win!”  And so help me, I drove on.  I rested reasonably well that night, and woke determined, but unsteady.

Keeping my mouth tense but not gritting my teeth, I attempted to regulate my breathing and prevent it from becoming shallow and rapid.  I dressed with trembling hands and eyes bugged open to hold back the moisture that may have tried to develop if left to their own.  I joined Dad downstairs in the motel breakfast area and choked down a fairly balanced combination of foods.  Protein for strength and endurance, fruit for healthy sugar and quick energy, and half a waffle for the carbs to take the edge off my nerves.  Dad kept asking how I was doing and reminding me that I didn’t have to go up, we only lose money – no big deal, it’s okay to change my mind.  I repeatedly replied that I was fine, I knew I could back out, but it was okay.  I lied every time.  I was not okay, but I was going up.

Dad and I loaded up and drove our respective vehicles to the airport twenty minutes away.  It was a sprawling operation with many sub parts scattered about the periphery.  Another ten minutes of wiggling and stopping found us at the correct office and hanger.  A young man with a strong southern drawl greeted us.  His name was David.  He was seven years younger than me.  And he was to be my pilot.  I cast Dad a furtive glance.  Really?  I was about to hand my life over to someone not yet thirty years old?  I leaned the back of my head against the brick wall and closed my eyes, forcing myself to breathe slow, while frantically fanning myself despite the moderate temperature in the room.

Dad and David discussed the flight plan – something Mom would have had prepared and printed out before she arrived.  I listened, breathed, and fanned.  Dad showed the David and I a particular junction about five miles from the photo shoot location, and haltingly Dad told us that was the location of Mom’s crash, in the pipe yard next to the service road for the highway.  Still I fanned and swallowed, dry eyed, and feeling like I would start buzzing around the room any moment.  Dad laid his hand on my back and asked if I was okay.  I shrugged his hand off and said, “Don’t.  You can’t be nice to me or I’ll loose it.  Let me be tough.”  He understood, and we did not touch again.  We waved a lot, and motioned “I love you” with gestures and arms crossed across the chest.

The moment I put my foot on the frame and lifted myself into the passenger seat, all the theatrics inside me stopped.  They knew that I had won.  There was no way I would step out; I had crossed the line, I had passed the point of no return.  I pulled the harness around my shoulders and the strap across my hips, and felt the cold metal in my hands as I listened to that click and slap of the buckle locking me in.  The camera strap rested around my neck, securing it against an untimely demise from several hundred feet.  The weight, texture, and monetary value of the equipment impressed itself on my mind.  David started the engine and engaged the rotors.  I smiled bravely and waved, clicking pictures of Dad standing in the hanger.  At the instant we lifted off the ground, nose tilted sharply, Dad and I smiling and waving a bit too exuberantly…that is when it hit me: this is precisely how he saw Mom last – and I wondered how on earth he was able to let me deal with my terror in this manner.  It would have been understandable for him to beg me not to go.  But he didn’t – he played out the drama with me, pretending we weren’t both well aware of the potential (albeit unlikely) horror that could transpire.

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Sweethearts at Pebble Mountain Campground (Mom & Dad, 18 years of marriage)

Pebble Mtn Joyce&NathanThis is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken of my parents.

Many were the good times experienced at this creek! The icy water moved rapidly down this shallow, wide creek.  I spent untold hours in those very rocks, sometimes playing intentionally, sometimes rescuing my book that I dropped (accidentally) while lying on the swinging bridge suspended above the rushing water.  I loved listening to the bubbling, chattering, and general hubub of the water as it made its way elsewhere.  Is there a better way to pass an afternoon than reading in the sunshine listening to that glorious sound?  I didn’t think so then, and I don’t disagree now.

I slept fully clothed, and many’s the morning I pretended to still be asleep while calculating Mom’s location in the house.  When I deemed her far enough from the front door, I would pick up my shoes and book, ease out the front door, closing it ever so gently.  Then I would turn and run like mad, never hesitating as my bare feet slapped the edges and points of the rocks they flew across – for I must keep the wind rushing in my ears such that should Mom have called me I could honestly report that I never heard her.  To the swinging bridge I would dash, blasting across the smooth wood slats as it swayed beneath me.  Attaining the far side, my frantic pace continued until I had run far enough down the creek that the distance and rushing water were certain to drown out even the most bellowing yells of my name.  When deemed safe, I would stop and bathe my burning feet in the cold water until the stinging subsided, pulling my cherished book to my lap and celebrating my success as securing a morning alone to experience my own time travel through the pages of cream colored fiber and black font.  Oh, those were the days!

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Launch Out – Anchor’s Away! Destination: Maine, America

Multiple forms of travel fascinate me.  I have yet to sail, but that shall soon change. One of my goals for 2014 is to learn to sail before Fall.  I regret not having gone out on a schooner in Maine last year during a quick trip there.  The Fish Chowder and fresh caught Lobster eaten in the sunshine sitting on the restaurant pier could not be improved upon, though!  Cadillac Mountain was a sight to behold…ah, I digress!  Sailing ventures yet await.

Can you feel the warmth of the sun combined with the crisp breeze?  That photo causes me to breathe deeper and sit up straighter, as I feel my eyes squint against the brightness and my pulse quicken in anticipation.  I want to be there.  Or I want that to be here.  Either way, we should be together, the boat and I.

In preparation for my next trip to Maine, I will be perusing the site below in great detail.  The captains restored one of their boats completely, and now provide extended sailing trips to guests, up to six days!  Although I enjoy water, I’m not sure about being on it for days on end…but perhaps it would be grand!

http://www.camdenmainevacation.com/heritage.php

Camden Maine Lighthouses

Let’s see, for those days on land, pleasant accommodations are in order.  Some potential landing places (pun fully intended) are depicted next.

http://www.bbonline.com/united-states/maine/

The last trip found me at Thornhedge.  The host most graciously returned my late evening phone call and provided arrangements allowing a late check in (read that, 2:00 am check in).  Breakfast and conversation were equally wonderful in that the host joined us for breakfast and interacted with everyone.  He freely shared recipes and instructions for fabulous yet simple-to-prepare delectable foods.

http://www.thornhedgeinn.com/

Thornehedge

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Wonder-lust Induced Wanderlust

Curiosity may well have killed the cat.  That is not the important part.  The important part is cats have multiple lives with which to experience additional danger and fascination.

cat with lime helmet

Our cat friend appears less than amused.  Assuming you are reading this, however, you are not a cat.  Therefore you do not possess multiple lives.  Given that information, caution is merited when choosing pursuits in the wonder-lust and wanderlust categories available.  

Topics of interest to me include, but are by far and away not limited to, the following:

I would like to:

  • become a sailor
  • learn to swim (perhaps this should come first)
  • climb a mountain
  • restore my mom’s 1985 Toyota MR2
  • become a world traveler
  • improve my speaking and storytelling abilities

 

  • develop my natural bent toward drawing and painting
  • utilize the camera equipment and supplies at my disposal
  • live health consciously – think self care in the aspects of physical, mental, emotional/relational
  • become financially independent
  • earn a graduate degree (and pay it off)
  • learn to restore and refurbish homes for pleasure and profit
  • join the Peace Corps to contribute and experience on a global scale
  • join forces with Habitat for Humanity to contribute and experience on a local scale
  • ______ (space for future ideas as they strike me)
  • ______
  • ______

This list is subject to being updated without notice.  Watch for blogs related to the various topics of interest, with more information on each subject in those blogs.

 

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There’s a Last Time for Everything

There's a Last Time for Everything

Final Photo with my Mom

The statement “There’s a first time for everything,” has likely passed the lips of most Americans.  There comes  a point when instead of merely counting new experiences, we must make peace with the reality of lasts.  Such is the case with this picture.  Standing in the church parking lot, feeling a light breeze and the sun warming my back, casually embraced for a quick photo before dashing into service…I almost objected to the delay, then decided being another minute late was better than an argument and ruffled feathers.  So, impatiently but politely, I acquiesced.

I can hear Mom say, “Oh, you look so pretty.  I just love that jacket on you.”  She smiled and I knew she was proud to be my mom.  Under my hand on her waist rested her gun belt.  Mom liked jackets, and it served her well since she was always locked and loaded with her concealed carry firearm.  If one looks closely at the photo, the bulging jacket near the hemline belies the holster.

Some months later I hugged Mom at a restaurant in Oklahoma City after not having seen her for an extended time.  The inside of my arm pressed on the flat hard leather holster.  When I pulled back a bit to look her in the face, my hand naturally rested on the gun covered by her denim jacket.  Not a word was spoken about it.  None was needed.  Her slow smile, tilted head, assessing glance, and the constant presence of her gun were all as much a part of her as breathing.

Nobody told me that would be our last hug.  But it was.  One seldom knows when the parting of ways at a given time will be ‘the final parting.’  To the extent possible, make every parting a pleasant one.  You’ll be glad you did, given enough time.

 

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Ride ‘Em Cowgirl – Old West Days at the Cowboy Hall of Fame

ImageImageImageExpressions of sheer joy and childhood exuberance grace the countenance of my bull-riding-angel.

Julie, my niece, is my local pride and joy.  She is the only one of my siblings children who live close to me.  Many are the memories we have made together.  This particular incident transpired at the Old West Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City several years ago.  I won tickets to an annual outdoor festival.