Monday, March 23, 2009

Bird Takes Wing, with Bungie Cords and Parasail

Our wonderful Bird, also known as Savannah, is home from nearly a week in Florida, where she had a chance to parasail (also known as paracending: a beautiful word.) She describes the experience as incredibly peaceful and quiet. Side-by-side with her friend Mary, they flew over the ocean at 800 feet, watching dolphins leap below.

I have always loved the view of the earth from the sky, and have never had a fear of flying, even though I was once in a jet to Boston when one of the engines caught on fire, requiring an emergency landing. The cabin of the plane was utterly silent as we circled to land; even the baby in the seat across the aisle watched her mother without issuing a sound. Beyond my window, looking utterly surreal, the flames were shooting out behind us. But we had our own Captain Sully, someone who brought us down without a hitch. I prayed. I wasn't above it all; I was involved in fervent, silent begging.

On less dramatic flights, I enjoy the quiet camaraderie in the cabin, and the view of the world below – grids, roads, houses, rivers, mountains, and city lights – and the quiet blue calm above the clouds. My favorite memory is of the trip I once made from Newark to Ireland, en route to living there for a year. As luck would have it, I received an upgrade, and was given a first class seat in Aer Lingus, a little bronze plaque on the wall explaining that Pope John Paul II had occupied that chair during his flight to Ireland in 1979. He celebrated mass before 1.5 million people in Phoenix Park; nearly one in three people on the island assembled there that day. (It's one of the largest urban parks in the world, more than twice the size of Central Park in New York City.)

Sitting next to me was an Irish rock musician. We chatted quietly off and on throughout the night flight, a bit of Black Bushmill stoking our talk. I looked out the window with stars in my eyes, anticipating my precious time in the Emerald Isle, and feeling blessed.

But that was then, and this is now: a not-great Pope (that's an understatement) and a daughter taking wing, with bungie cords, a zest for life, and soaring friendships.


Lyle Daggett said...

When I was ten years old, a friend of mine called me up one Saturday morning. His dad, who had a pilot's license for small private planes, was getting his pilot's license renewed. The renewal test involved going through various flight maneuvers with a flight instructor sitting in the co-pilot's seat. Passengers were allowed. My friend wanted to know if I wanted to come along.

It was a small plane, just the seats for the pilot and co-pilot and a behind them for passengers, where my friend and I sat. We went up a few thousand feet, and did several "touch and go" maneuvers, where the pilot takes the plane down till it just touches the runway, then pulls out and goes back into the air again.

And we did several intentional engine stalls, so my friend's dad could demonstrate that he knew how to get the plane out of a stall if it ever happened.

I was just the right age for it -- if I'd been much younger, I might have been freaked out by it, and if I'd been much older, I might have been too nervous to do it. But I loved it -- it was the world's greatest roller coaster ride.

elena said...

Whoa – what a great story. Thanks!