"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!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Reincarnation


The Canadian Geese are starting. Sergeant Guillaume, in charge of the Uxbridge Chapter of the Fifty-Six-Trillionth Brigade of Wildly Annoying Canadian Geese, or, WACG, is rousting younger prospects, feathered Branta Canadensis with leadership potential for the coming migration south. This morning, I overheard the sergeant talking with a squadron of three hopefuls as they flew over my roof this morning. 

"Okay men, necks out, feet up. Look sharp."

"I'm not a man," the starboard flier said.

"I beg your pardon?" Guillaume yelled.

Louder this time from starboard, "I SAID THAT I'M NOT A MAN. I'M A FEMALE. I'M A GOOSE. NOT A GANDER." 

Guillaume looked over to her. "Ah. Right." He turned and looked to the two other geese on his port side. "What about you two?"

The private closest to him responded with, "About what sir?"

"About what I was just talking about," Guillaume said, irritated.

"Aaa, we couldn't really hear you. You know when someone's talking but they're facing AWAY from you and the sound is all garbaldy?" the private whined.

"Garbaldy? What is your name private? " Guillaume demanded. 

"Salieri, sir," he stated.

"First name?" Guillaume snipped.

"Antonio, sir," the private offered, as quick as he could.

Guillaume faced front and they continued flying for a moment. Then, he turned and asked the name of the third private, in formation behind Salieri.

The private did his best to force his head even further forward, almost wishing it to move ahead off of his neck in order to deliver the information.  "Frederick, sir," he said, just this side of yelling.

"Last name please," Guillaume asked, pissed that he decided to give up drinking when he did.

"Banting, sir. Frederick Banting." 

Guillaume coughed, though geese don't normally cough. He shook his small, bulbous head and furrowed his imaginary eyebrows. He reached into his B-3 flight jacket and popped a cigarette into his beak, then patted his pockets for a lighter. A flame appeared in front of his face, held by the starboard goose. He extended his head toward it and pulled on his cigarette like you would a straw. The end caught. There was smoke. Guillaume nodded to the goose. She closed her lighter and put it in her pocket.

"Thank you private," he said, keeping his seed-shaped eyes looking ahead. "May I ask YOUR name?"

"Of course, sir. It's Arc," she said.

"Arc, eh? Arc. Arc." he repeated, then looked over at her. "Oh God," he spluttered.

"What is it sir?" she asked, slightly unsettled buy the look on her sergeant's face.

"You're first name, private–it wouldn't be Joan, by any chance, would it?" he asked.

"No sir," she replied.

"Oh thank the lord," he said, almost singing.

"No, it's Joan-of, sir." 

"Fuck me and the pond I was born on," Guillaume said, out loud, but as a prayer to himself.

"Oh no. What did I do?" Arc asked. "How is it that you know who I am?"

"Oh, now, don't worry. It was just a hunch," he said and raised his shoulders and tilted his head in a nuthin'-to-see-here kind of flourish.

"A hunch sir?" she asked.

"You have an unusual name," he offered, more seriously this time.

"Do I sir?" she asked, her voice rising in question, then, "Yes, I suppose it is odd," in agreement and almost to herself.  She paused. "IS it odd sir?"

Guillaume squinted because he had smoke in his eyes. He drew hard on the cigarette, pulled the smoke into his beak and then inhaled it through his nose, er, the little nose-holes on his beak. "Arc? –may I call you Arc?"

"Yes sir. Of course sir," she replied, crisp and shiny.

"We're geese, right?" he said, like it's no big deal.

"Yes sir. We are sir. Most definitely," she affirmed.

"Well, why ...STEADY FELLAS," he yelled. "GOLF COURSE AHEAD. WATCH FOR BALLS. AND HONK JUST BEFORE ANYONE FOLLOWS THROUGH ON A SHOT."

The squadron increased altitude and continued on course.

"Well, did someone put something in my coffee this morning? I've got Antonio Salieri and Frederick Banting on my port side, and Joan of Arc on starboard. Seem odd to you?" he asked.

"Sir?" Arc said.

"Those aren't regular Canadian Geese names," Guillaume said with a bit of in-case-you-didn't-get-the-memo dusted on top.

"Funny, sir," Arc answered. "I was just talking about that with Ella this morning at breakfast."













Monday, 21 August 2017

Eclipse


Wasn't it nice for everyone in the path of the eclipse to take a breath and look up? Even the U.S. President, who did so without any safety glasses? Nobody was yelling at each other. There was only the sound of the crickets trying to figure out if their shift had started or not. There is a clue here. You'd have to be blind not to see it.




Friday, 18 August 2017

Nausea


Cycling the other day and stopped at the top of a small hill to check my phone. I looked over and noticed the sign at the Quaker Cemetery with the quote from scripture:

          Be Still And Know That I Am God. 

Within three seconds, I was a sobbing mess. There was a sound I made, an almost primal howl that startled me. I got off of my bike and undid the cemetery gate as quickly as I could and walked in. I needed to get away from the road and hide my weeping from the traffic. I leaned my bike against the fence and walked deep into the gravestones, my hands holding the top of my helmet as if I was preventing my head from flying off into the ether. This came out of nowhere, or wait, maybe it didn't: 

I can't listen to the news anymore. I started dialing that back when Trump took office because it was effecting my health. I get my news from specific news feeds, The New Yorker, and lately, my dear school mates south of the border who are living in this nightmare surrounding the Charlottesville riot. The level of hate unleashed by Trump and the Nazi right is vicious, and terrifying in its righteous ignorance. It is visceral, and it makes me nauseous. There's a shattering, brittle edge to this hate. It skirts any of the tenderness, the soft poetry of the human heart that I believe we all have. This  wonderful vulnerability is wasted, compressed and locked away to make room for the bellowing, hard hollers of clumsy minds, steeped in the ugliness of the worst kind of privilege. It is shameful, and brutally easy. 

I walked among the Quaker headstones and of course, thought of my father. My frustrating relationship with him as father and uber-Quaker has left a trail of guilt and regret that I wrestle with daily. The Charlottesville riot would have broken his heart as I feel that it broke mine. I am frustrated and impatient with a world that I figured was done with this atrocious kind of blinkered thought. 

         Be Still and Know That I am God.

I saw this all the time as a kid. It used to drive me nuts because of the lack of balance in our house. Now, it's as if it's calling me back to my roots; something. Do I believe in God? I don't believe in a biblical God, but I do think that there is something. I do believe in spirit. And I believe in the power of love, the graciousness of considering others, and the deep, core setting that we all have for meaning and connection. 

This weeping clearly didn't come from nowhere. Things aren't right here and my body knows it. My soul is struggling with it. I walked out of the cemetery, and over to the Meeting House. I wept at the loss of my father, and I wept for my two boys who are kind and loving and don't deserve to be exposed to such hate: This is not what I wanted for them. It's not okay. 

But what to do? Well, nothing worthwhile has ever come from hate, so keep creating in the name of love, absolutely. I do feel, as emotionally difficult as these days are, that it is important to stay plugged in and current so as to better protest this lunacy. Don't ignore it. Don't be complicit. We know this from history. 

The second most terrifying words, next to any Nazi hate speech are,

 "Oh, well, there's nothing I can do about it!" 

In fact, those words may be even more chilling.





 


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.