"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Monday, 14 August 2017

The Hawk


I startle a hawk out of the fence line next to the road. I'm on my bike, pushing down a hill and making almost no sound. She is busy with something, or he; dramatic in whichever sex. Considering the area, next to a large forest and across from a corn field skewered apart by a secondary, wobbly paved road, I would bet the hawk had a rabbit, or, yes, I would bet on the rabbit. I would win your money.

She rises up out of the deep grass like spume from the top of a focused wave. I am surprised, thrilled. The hawk flies so close that I can see intricate detail on tail feathers as she hurries to pull them back from disarray; browns, reds, and blacks with a sheen that reminds me of velvet, or soft, soft suede. We were in each other's space; a momentary infraction forgiven both ways. The hawk was big enough that, factoring my speed and trajectory, and her, being a hawk with the requisite beak, talons and flying ability, she could have taken me out, tipped me over and sent Cervelo and spandex sliding miserably toward gravity's stop and my date with a large tube of Polysporin. My only threat is as a giddy idiot, speechless at how close she is, how fast we are both going, and how cool it would be if she continued in flight beside me.  I am not her spirit animal; she does not have the same guess-what-happened-to-me-today, wishes to remain in sync.  

I watch her fly ahead and then arc across to the forest on the opposite side of the road. She was gone as quickly as she appeared but that was all the time it took to bring me out of myself and marvel at the miraculous. 




Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Faith


Many adventures, I'm sure, have started with,

 "I'm pretty sure this is the right road, I think."

I've never been a stellar navigator, easily distracted into the hypnotic passing of telephone poles, or the life happening on the other side of my passenger-seat window. I decided to take a drive to Lake Huron recently, and, for a while, managed to stay on the main routes, but traveling solo can be challenging; I can't drive and read a map at the same time, so the while ended on the way out of Owen Sound. Here, I fell to the bait of a soft liquorice road skirting south of the main route. Most of the traffic was scrambling to go west, but this other route was beckoning, as if the imps had a secret to share with me. 

There was no Oh-God-hurry-so-we-can-have-our vacation–urgency on this route in comparison to the other, but I picked up a little speed on the way out of town and crossed–into a painting. The sun was fetching up the rich tones of green, the new yellow in the wheat, and the reds, whites, and blacks of the cattle and horses. The land stretched out flat up here after the hills and the Blue Mountains that I had come through. The fences were square and neat. I passed farms at the height of their beauty with full gardens, enjoying this day; the up-ride against the coming down of winter's cold. I came to corners where there were three or four houses maybe, and people out enjoying the day after whatever and wherever their work took them. I thought them lucky and wondered if they did too.

Then, I found the secret. I came upon a field with a herd of beef cattle, all relaxing; some standing, others their legs tucked underneath as they rested like great steamer trunks  on a pier. There was a woman standing out with them and I will admit, she and the whole scene took my breath away. She had a kerchief on her head, a long-sleeved shirt and jeans. She was holding a long pole, like a walking stick. She was standing, arms crossed, with the pole tucked in her right elbow.  She was looking at the cows, standing there, with the sun drawing down her back. I could not see her face. She could have been merely looking. Or she could have been reciting poetry. Or singing. If you've never been around cattle, well, they are attentive. When they are calm, you are calm. You can't help it. Their breath is sweet like the upper notes of a field of clover. They watch you with those fast-ball-sized eyes with the most feminine lashes, and listen with perfect ears the size of tacos!

I almost stopped the van. I could hear the sounds in my head; the cows chewing, swishing their tails. I could smell their sweetness mixed with the afternoon breeze, laden with whatever else it had moved through on the way there. The woman stood and looked. She was beautiful. I could feel the ground underneath her boots and the sun on her back. The whole scene was paint-worthy. It was as if it was planned, choreographed just for me. 

Lake Huron was nice, but it was the gift of the woman in the field with the cattle that made my day. I am grateful to have witnessed it and to have a past that enabled me to imagine the sensuality of that moment; sounds, smells, thoughts and that calmness. Thanks to the imps and the lure of that liquorice road. How lucky to have taken the wrong route! 











Sunday, 30 July 2017

Oh the Hilarity


I was back at the field yesterday. It's a good distraction from the search for a better job, a more inspiring place to live, and a soul mate. Plus I get fresh air. I arrived in the middle of the afternoon, and after three hours, had cleared an inner sanctum in the middle of the forest. There was an old tree that had fallen across the stream. I had intended to take the chain saw to it and pile it's parts up and out of the way, but the more I cleared the scrub from around it, the saplings and drifts of goldenrod, I realized how beautiful it looked and left it whole. I decided against an evening fire, preferring to hide in the dark and watch the crew change from day-beasts to night-beasts. I lit a cigar to keep the bugs away and watched the Sikorsky-like dragon flies run their sorties to snag dinner. Bats rolled and twisted higher up, dark like black satin, the birds quieted, and the spruces to the west posed still like a silhouetted back drop in some stage play. The moon was up, showing only half; bright though as if someone had ripped a hole through into daylight. Jupiter was nestled deep in the forest branches. I saw the space station pass and then decided, after the speed bump taste of my third cigar, that it was time for sleep. 

Right...

I have a Hennessy Hammock instead of a tent. It's a hammock with a mesh cover, and then a separate fly that sits above it to keep you dry from dew and rain but it allows you to see what's going on around you. There is a velcroed access approximately half the length of the hammock along the bottom. You open the access and shove in your inflated, foam-filled Therm-a-rest pad that, ideally, is supposed to offer firmness to your sleeping experience. Sleeping bag goes in on top of this. There is a handy hanging pocket for keys, flashlights, whatever you need close by.

Sounds great, huh? 

Well, it has been great in the past. Last night, I realized that my Therm-a-rest had a leak, and like a man in a state, could not stay stiff. Also, I did not have the contraption stretched out enough so I found myself sliding down towards the lowest sag-point, the bottom of the catenary curve.  I would pull myself up, and then slide back down as if in some physical slapstick sketch worthy of Mr. Bean. Several times, I realized that my flaccid Therm-a-rest was off-centre and sliding out from under me. I raised my hips up in an attempt to reach underneath and pull the floppy no-show back to home position but ended up winding my sleeping bag around myself until it felt like I was wearing the lower half of a mermaid suit; I could barely move. In addition, with all of these Cirque-de-Soleil maneuvers, I was working up a sweat. I found the opening to my sleeping bag and threw a leg out, only to find the night breeze chilling, so I pulled my leg back in. 

I repeated this routine over and over again. I did not sleep at all. I DID see a shooting star, and considered evacuating this ridiculous sleep-taco, which is a better name, watching the sky for a bit, then retiring to the back of the van which is what a person with sense would do, but I persisted. I heard something pad through and peruse the sleep-taco then leave. It could have been a rabbit, or a fox, or a Jehovah's Witness coming to call, then not. Shortly after, I heard light hooves approach, stop, then I heard the calf-like grunt of a deer. It turned and fled, and I think I heard deer-laughter. 

The eastern sky began lightening. I was in the middle of another, adjust-everything-until-you're-sweating-or-you-pull-a muscle flourish, when I realized that the sleep-taco access was open and the Therm-a-rest was half out, making a droopy break for it. 

Okay. I give! Enough already!

I grabbed my boots from deep down in the sleep-taco abyss and got the hell out. I threw the sleeping bag and Therm-a-disappointment in the van. I took the sleep-taco down as every mosquito in the county tucked into me for their breakfast. Moments later and a pint down, I was driving out towards the road. I HAD planned on staying for the day and over the next night, but I don't think using a chain saw on five minutes of sleep is something celebrated in any safety manual. Plus the bugs, and that derisive, Pan-ish laughter!

I was on the road before 6am, and basically solo. Most adults were still asleep in their non-taco, uber-comfortable beds.  This was good because I did not have the stamina to navigate the cottage traffic gridlock that would manifest later. I put on some Bach and, came up over a hill to see the sun, full, and intense, and red like a hot stove burner! It was beautiful, and it was all mine! I spoke out loud about how grateful I was in that lovely, special moment. I felt full, and present, and keen to get my life back on track. I really was grateful. Life is such a gift. 

...Then, I spent the remaining drive home, taking that very gift away from the blood sucking mosquitos that had stowed away in the van. Bastards all.




Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Field


I went to the field yesterday. This is a seven-acre piece with stream and small forest attached to the farm that I grew up on. For me, the field is a portal to quiet while the world reels and grinds from the callous posturing from juvenile, dangerous egos. I can see the barn through the trees which is both a delight, and a source of tremendous sadness that I don't expect will ever disappear. While I am glad that my father is not around to experience this arrogant, political, humanitarian crumbling, I continue to struggle and wonder about the lead up to his death and the things we all could have done had we been a family that communicated at all. There's that done.

The field itself is a soft landing from difficult, surreal considerations; it is so full of life. As a hay field, it's terrible and needs to be reseeded, but as a meadow, it is astounding. I stood in the middle of it and was amazed at the industry going on at all levels. There was buzzing at ground level through remnant clover and wildflowers seeded by wind and chance over the past decade. My calm started with a Monarch butterfly, one of many, sitting, posing on a disc of Queen Ann's Lace. His orange and black wings remarkable against the white. The late afternoon sun caught him and lit him up as he took off to somewhere else, following what looked to be some drunken flight plan betted out on chance. There were dragon flies with heads tricked out with nature's best flight helmets, and myriad other bugs that were impressive, of names I do not know. There were birds chattering in the forest, and several downs around the field where deer had slept. I know there are deer in the far end of the forest so I did not go there. No need to disturb them in their home. 

I worked for a time, clearing bush, sung to by the stream whenever I shut the chainsaw off. I freed one tree from some vines that had it bent almost to the ground, and was delighted when it sprung up to full height like a patient coming out of deep hypnosis: "Hey! How's everybody doing? I like your hat! Uhm, what day is it?" I left when the shadows began to roll out from under the grand spruce trees at the west end, feeling the good kind of tired from physical work. 

I shake my head and wonder at all of the lunacy, troubled to have the world tip so badly. I know so many kind people who are frustrated, finding the crevice between the political agenda and the needs of the human heart difficult to straddle. There is nothing for it but to remain passionate and loving, but perhaps with a new intensity, vibrant and robust enough to counteract the startling and divisive meanness . If that should be our demise then so be it, but to give up, withdraw from protecting and caring for this beautiful earth, and the kindness here, well, that's a complicity I can't endure. There is too much at stake here.






Monday, 17 July 2017

Pacing


There are mysteries winding through this world of ours that bow and arch just out of my reach. They hit the ground, change a thing, and then vault into the ether, leaving their handiwork for us to puzzle over. One of these mysteries messed with a friend of mine not too long ago and I have been pacing and trying to figure ever since. 

One minute, a fellow is primed and busy, and the next he has a hard disagreement with machinery. His familiar reality of the world and time tips into a completely new paradigm, confusing and gut-wrenchingly strange as he wakes into it. And here I am, at my desk watching the rain-soaked leaves of the trees nodding and shifting in the last thoughts of the evening sun. There he is, in the hospital room, rallying, but with a helluva fight on his hands; unfair on a herculean scale. He is surrounded by family. They are mighty, but also wonderfully soft; kind like he is. Damn it if there is anything I can figure to do.

I am on the outer edge of that family's social circle. I had only met the man twice. Everything about our meeting was strange, like it was important for some reason. To have been there on the day of the accident; to know that there was only a trickle of a few hours until the beginning of the biggest challenge of his life, bothers me, worries at me like some idea or a theory that I just can't see. I can't solve for x. I can't find the criminal. There is nothing to swing my sword at.

So I meditate, and I send my love to him and to the whole family, and I pace. I try to sort it out but it won't sort. I know others have been through similar scenarios but this is not the time. I don't want to hear of those. Maybe later, but right now, this is the one I am lost in. This is the only mystery I am trying to solve. I imagine most of his friends are twisting themselves in an effort to find an answer also.

Nothing for us but to wait. Still, I clench my jaw. I grab the sides of my head and in a flash, try to imagine what in hell he is going through at that very moment. I can't imagine. I can only sift through what I am learning about the world and myself from this, and continue to try to tap into that one good stream that connects us all to send him and his family everything that I can. It seems a pathetic gesture, but in the confines of time and healing, there is nothing else.


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Me Now There Then


On a recent sunset ride, I heard the songs of spring frogs, males hollerin' for their honeys. It sent me back to when I was a kid on the farm. I remember hearing my father pulling into the driveway one evening, home from the city. I went out and saw him standing behind the car, the trunk open, his hands were on his hips and he was looking out towards the pond. I remember his shirt and tie, his brown suit pants and leather shoes. He was handsome, but troubled. He had something on his mind. I walked to the back of the car and saw a new bike lying in the grass, pink with white tires and a white banana seat, my size.  He didn't know how to give it to me and I didn't know how to take it, but I eventually pulled it to standing and rode it up and down the driveway for the rest of the evening. I listened to the frogs in the pond singing their hearts out.

It would be nice if the rules of reality were forgiving. It would be nice to be able to slide back in time on the sound of one of those frog songs, step through back into me at that time, knowing what I know now. I would put the bike down, thread my arms into my father's and ask him what was on his mind. I would do the same with my mother and get the two of them to open up and talk to each other. I would sit with them in the kitchen until the barriers got cracked and crumbled. I would help them navigate their awkwardness at vulnerability and we would begin a new, vibrant dynamic, loud and boisterous like those bloody frogs. As a result, my father would still be here. Both of them would still be living at the farm, the house renovated to let in gobs of light. They would be fiercely in demand by grandkids and good friends for nothing other than fun. They would have a goat or two and a passel of dogs that would cause trouble on the evenings when they would host a theatre group in the barn; their own Chautauqua. Mom would have swapped out her apartment upright for a proper grand piano. Dad would write and fish, and my heart wouldn't ache so much.




Friday, 2 June 2017

Carousel



The leaves are out on the big maple tree across the yard from my apartment. It's not a tree with a single, grand trunk, but two good ones, then limbs and branches continuing off of those. Its silhouette makes a compelling puzzle of the night sky; stars and planets winking at me through the breaks. The sky seems to rotate faster than you think. Of course, it's not the sky that's moving but the illusion is part of the show.  Each wink marks time as it threads through the tree, like fairy lights around a fast carousel. It is easy to dread this speed; easy to fret about what needs to be done as if it makes a difference, as if the constellations will change because you're worrying. 

It would be curious to hang on tight and accelerate the spin to see into the future, then back the ride up to the moment with the help of a reliable carni. But the thing I'm realizing is that the glory is in the reveal, the process. It demands getting yourself to a place where you can see and really be in the world as you maneuver through the quotidian tasks of the day. Then, and only then, can you experience the ineluctable discovery of the very thrill of you;

 YOU ARE THE PRIZE!  

Once you grok this, your life turns into the sensual, exhilarating experience it was meant to be. This doesn't mean that there is nothing but cotton candy from here-on-in, but there is less emptiness, less of a compulsion to simply make it through the day, become numb. 

As Bill Hicks said, "It's just a ride."

If you're head is down, mind toiling, seething, you're going to miss the best parts, plus...plus you'll probably drop your fucking ice cream.