By lex, on April 6th, 2008
Woke early, couldn’t sleep. Restless, head filled with half-formed thoughts and shapeless anxieties. Things which you stuff away in a box in the course of the day, but which peek out and steal away in the early morning hours when the guards doze at their posts. Sometimes I can stuff them back away and return to lethe. Mostly I buckle up and greet the day. If you can’t get by on five hours sleep, well: You’d better learn to.
There’s a sound the world makes just before dawn. A stirring in the darkness, the birds sense it first. There were many times back in my youth when I’d be out in the tree stand or duck blind waiting for those first rays of sunlight, feeling in my chest as much as hearing the whirr and rustle of things moving cautiously about, some seeking their rest, others readying for their day. All of them aware in their primitive way that Something Else was among them. Potential danger. Even mortality, as best as a wild thing can grasp that concept.
Dawn has an almost anticipatory scent – like bread baking in the oven. Back in the day it sometimes commingled with the panting plash of a shivering golden retriever, wet fur and low moaning. Sometimes it was gun oil, or the purposeful feel of the arrow’s nock against the string. Acorns falling in the forest. Or were they the sounds of deer hooves?
In Southern California in the year 2008, it is the respiration of a sleeping family, the exhalations of the backyard greenery and the sound of the coffee pot attending to its scheduled duty. I suppose we all evolve.
Flew twice yesterday. They are beginning to run together, the faces. The Hobbit asked me afterwards who I had flown with and it took a positive effort of concentration to remember the first customer. An eager young man, amazed at it all, enthusiastic and joyful. With a regrettable tendency to wrap the bird up into a nose-low death spiral. It’s funny what you take for granted. He’s not a pilot, he doesn’t know. How could he?
The second was clearer. A displaced Bostonian, come west for the winter but soon to return to what even I have become to think of as “back east.” A vaguely delineated otherplace which excludes all of California, Arizona and New Mexico but includes parts of Texas and all of the Old South, as well as the Mid-Atlantic states. And which is exemplified by New England and the Northeast. We scarcely know what to make of a place like Illinois that claims, from a decidedly eastern half of the continent, to be a part of the “Mid West.”
Your man was aggressive and trusting. There was a cloud bank out to the west that obscured the horizon to a degree – so much so that he placed the little Varga in an extremely nose-high attitude I had not anticipated, nor yet encountered. I radioed a “knock-it-off” to our competition and I took the airplane back from him as the airspeed indicator regretfully unwound, and wondered, in the growing quiet, just what might happen next. Eased the stick forward and throttled back to idle to take the torque off her. A little rudder to get the nose slicing back through the horizon. Back nose low, back to where the airspeed lives. Hoping that once it got pointed down hill it would stay that way, rather than play the fool and spin across the horizon. The plane recovered nicely, which was a kind of blessing.
We don’t fly so very high, and we don’t wear parachutes. It’s very important to get some things right. It helps to have experience.
The Biscuit buried a friend yesterday. A classmate since 5th grade. He’d gotten himself into some trouble, recently. Drugs and alcohol. Many of them do. It’s a relatively affluent neighborhood, and the only real hardship any of them have ever known is an empty house during the work day, upper middle class ennui and the opportunities that combination brings. I told my daughter a year ago that, the way some of her friends were running? They weren’t all going to finish the race. Some among them would be left behind, eternally young. Lessons to the others.
They found him in his bedroom, their only child. Blue and lifeless. Drugs and alcohol, at age 17. The Biscuit said it was a lovely service. Sad of course. Very sad.
I’m sure his parents worried for him. I’m sure they woke up early of a Sunday morning filled with nameless dreads which they talked themselves out of in time. Kids today, they experiment with things. But they all grow up eventually, go to college, get jobs, have children. They all come back to visit, repaying the old cycle of love invested, and love tested.
Well, most of them.