Yellow Bucket of Rust

sunrise-pala-temecula

Sunrise at Pala Near Temecula (Photo credit: pdpolena via Source / CC BY)

Whirrr-eell..WHIRRR-EELLL – WHIRRR-Eeelll.. The variometer squealed in rising & descending tones, alternating between barely audible and a screech as terrifying as crumpling styrofoam.

You might be wondering why I was strapped into a canary yellow rust bucket. Baking under that Southern California sun, as my flight instructor and I waited for our tow plane, I was was wondering the same thing.

Yet, once we were airborne at three thousand feet, where that cool, rarefied air streamed all around our fuselage, it all comes back – I remember what it feels like to almost be a creature of the sky. Not something struggling to get up in the air, but something that really “slipped those surly bonds” and soared.

hawks-soaring

Photo credit: birdsaspoetry via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

“Look over there,” my instructor pointed out. A small circle of red hawks had gathered over a small hilltop. Lift – that sweet warm, rising air which extends our flight time.

Of course, I was still paying for every minute of my instructor. But at the same time, each minute we logged up in the air got me closer to my solo qualification, and the longer we stayed up, the less I needed to spend on another tow fee.

Soaring in a glider also finally forced me to get the feel of flying – something I never had developed in powered aircraft.

yellow-glider

Photo credit: The Library of Congress via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

No, Schweizer 2-33’s aren’t much to look at – they don’t have the sexiness of the Grob, which is what movies typically used. But they do allow student pilots to cheaply fill up flight logs and get their glider certification, aka “ticket” – to take that dream date.

Over time I realized that something was missing – maybe I had numbed myself with one too many roller coaster rides back in college. In any case I didn’t get sea-sick or air-sick like my other buddies, because my inner ear just didn’t work as well.

Seasoned flight instructors tried unsuccessfully to get me sick.

On the one hand it was great to have this tolerance, or whatever it’s called. On the other maybe it made me less sensitive to the bumps and feel of flight that good pilots have.

Years later, I finally developed some sense of “feel” on the mat in aikido and on the dance floor in tango.

Here’s the thing. How we do one thing is how we do everything. And the sad part is that while we would rather not feel sadness, or those emotions we consider “negative,” people like Jenny Lawson, who deal with severe bouts of depression, pay a high price by becoming numb to other feelings like joy and happiness.

As much as I hate to admit it, that old yellow bucket of rust was more than a few cheap thrills. She taught me a thing or two about flying, but most of all, that I still had a lot to learn!

Soaring at Warner Springs

Crunches mix with the sweet juices released with each bite of fresh white corn. This reminds me of the fresh ears I would buy after a day of soaring in Warner Springs. Picking out a few at a crossroad farmstand, I’d get a bag with the avocados just picked off the nearby trees that were also a steal .

corn

Corn – Photo credit: zqf503 via Pixabay

 

Friends make fun of the way that I eat corn. I like to plow through the kernels row by row like a typewriter. No one ever made fun of how Ernest Hemingway ate his corn, I’m sure. Okay, maybe there’s a huge difference between the prolific writer who embodied manliness, and me. But, hey, give a guy a break!

On the drive up, I had noticed the makeshift shack for selling local crops about halfway to the airport. I snapped out of my daydream.

Things had gotten complicated in my life between work and family. I was glad to leave it all behind, if only for a bit.

Driving between hills covered by remnants of some giants’ boulder wars, I got lost on the rural two-lane that snaked between hordes of avocado trees descending on the surrounding valleys.

Breathing deeper and taking in the warm Southern California sun put me into a zen state of mind. Only the thought of dinner plans broke this trance.

The engine whirl of a climbing white and goldenrod Cessna made it clear that I was getting close to the airfield, where I’d meet my instructor.

When I wanted to forget about budget reports and Powerpoint presentations, these weekend mini-escapes were just the cure. No obsessing about bills or child support payments – just finding lift among the red hawks.

sky-hills

Photo Credit Unsplash via Pixabay

It’s amazing – the things that humans are able to do. Put together an aluminum can with wings, tow it with a rope.. and FLY!

At the same time it’s funny how we have to take lessons, get certified and signed off on what birds do naturally with hardly a thought.

Funnier still was that my instructor was really a kid. Younger than me, he was also much more laid back than the hardcore instructor pilots back in navy flight school. But we still briefed and did our pre-flight checks in much the same routine as the military.

But, unlike the lunchtime patterns of showers in Pensacola, Florida by which you could set your watch, Warner Springs really had only two shades of summer – hot and hotter. So, the trick was to drink more water than what escaped your pores. If you didn’t crumple into a dust heap by the end of the day, then somehow you succeeded!

On the way home I had to stop off for a slice of pie at Julian. In spite of the heat the warm smell from inside the shop still made my mouth water. Fresh out of the oven, the crusty delight of berry goodness easily melted the frosty scoop of vanilla ice cream.

julian-pie-company

Julian Pie Company via Yelp

Racing the sun that was quickly disappearing behind the surrounding hills, I stopped off for my dinner ingredients. At the time I had no idea that what I was really doing was making summer memories of my time in San Diego.

It’s funny how moments like these seem so ordinary at the time, and it’s only later that we polish them off for the gold within.

What summer memories are you making right now?