When the going gets tough, the tough go traveling!

An excerpt from Adventures By Sailplane

B.S. (By Sailplane) B.C. (Before Cancer)

“Make no mistake; your greatest teacher will not be what you expect. Your mentor will embody love, light grace, and compassion. However, your greatest teacher comes imbued with rage, darkness, fear, and judgment.”    -Joseph Campbell


Summer 1995

I have this incredibly complicated relationship with my sailplane. It is made up of impatience, anger, love, fear, possession, burden, repulsion and attraction all at once. We are one, yet we are separate. Our lives are inextricably linked, here on the road, and in the sky. Through her I move in a circle of people who share my passions. Through her I am restricted in my time and attention to other matters. She is an inanimate object, but she breathes my desires. She depends upon me for her life, just as I depend upon her for mine.

Learning to fly is infatuating. How unearthly to think that you can soar in the air, like a child in a dream. How incredible to  possess a plane that makes it all possible. Tales of Icarus come to mind, and I take heed, because what goes up does indeed come down.

There are times when it requires studious effort to keep my feet firmly planted. I am a pilot, I can fly. I am a pilot, I cannot fly.

I can keep the glider up all day. No matter what I do, I fall out of the sky.

Ups and downs. Lift and sink. Ego and insecurity. It takes a certain detachment to see the greater picture, to have a sense of time and continuity and progress.

For the moment what I see is my progress at this point in time, and I am flying. I am moving forward into unknown air. I do not know what what I will find.  Weather briefings provide an overview but they cannot predict my flight. I have to hope that my preparations to date will be enough to keep us both safe. For Whiskey Oscar and I are one in the air.

And one on the ground. Separate but together. On the ground she is a burden. Stuffed into a long and ungainly trailer she has no purpose in this form. She provides me the company and rationale for my trip, but she is a responsibility of sometimes staggering proportions.

Love, hate, push, pull. Come close, go away. I love my sailplane. I love to fly.

Life wish, death wish.

For  a time I wasn’t sure. I looked over that precipice and Death stared back at me. Here I am. Right here. I am fear. Come and get me. This way. Forget about flying, you are too afraid. No one cares. Let it go, let it go. Let your fear come in.


My flying is a life wish. It pulls me forward into new air, into new realms, pushing me, challenging me, making me work for all I am worth. And then it rewards me with the accomplishment of new skill. I work hard, sometimes not understanding just where I am going, but eventually I will learn what I need to know. Eventually I will understand this task I fly, this route I have taken.

Love, fear, possession, burden.

I possess this exquisite plane. I know every inch of her fuselage, every curve in her wing. I know every chip in her gelcoat and how it was caused. I know from washing her down every day after flying, just where the mud tends to cluster, just where the bugs tend to splatter on her leading edge. I know how the bolt in her elevator drops and settles. I know just how the fittings feel when they are properly secured. I know how she flies.


I worry about every noise and groan. Each chip needs repair. Insurance is due in June and payable in one large sum. I worry about her trailer, her canopy. Dust which can grind down the plexiglass and leave a scar. Wax which protects her body from the wear and tear of UV light. Tires which need attention. Brakes which need adjustment. Monthly payments the size of a small mortgage.

She is so beautiful. She is freedom, she is accomplishment, she is art in motion. She is fast and swift, so sleek in the air. She speeds instantly, she spins abruptly and dangerously. There is an edge in her flight, an edge you do not pass over. Past those limits she is not my friend. She becomes a wild creature that frightens me.

How do I sort out the contradictory feelings toward a piece of machinery? But she is not. She has soul as surely as she flies. She is my mirror, my reflection , my aspirations. She holds my fears, my love, my life in her tiny cockpit nestled between endless expanses of wing. She is my flight, my will, my destiny.

And where do we fly from here? What do I want? Where do I want to go? Talk to me Whiskey Oscar. Talk to me.

Long arms of white sit in their cradles in the trailer. Her fuselage lies motionless. Silence is her only reply.

Sometimes she simply frustrates me.


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