By lex, on October 18th, 2008
Three flights today, and the weather was nearly perfect. The great blue bowl of sky permitting one or two low clouds to linger in solitude on the margins, just to make us grateful for the rest of it. Like the dark blot on a canvas that serves only to emphasize how very white the thing itself is. Because otherwise we might forget to notice.
The first flight was a father/stepson team bracketed by a generation on either side. Grandma as game as a lady of her years could possibly be, wives of the aforementioned gentlemen and two striking young ladies. The whole gaggle laughed and grinned through the briefing, so clearly in love with each other and entranced by the moment that you felt grateful to be a momentary part of it. Because love and joy are also beautiful things, even if sometimes they seem to stand out in relief to all the rest of what the world holds for us. Like that dark spot on the canvas, or the scudding clouds on the coast, only in reverse.
Al was our second guest pilot, and he too was thrilled to the gills at all of it, everything. We caught up to one of the company’s Travel-Aires on the way home and flew in brief formation, the three of us, the big radial engine biplane in the middle like an elder queen flanked by middle-aged equerries.”That’s next,” he said, nodding to the red winged regent.
Finally there was Brian and Erin, grandchildren of Eire, himself a Marine infantryman from Camp Pendleton, herself a red haired, green eyed beauty, of some twenty-three summers, fairly bursting with femininity and the kind of grace that comes naturally, if thoughtlessly, to the very young. Chief Pilot Bronco had left me the first and last brief, and his reward for my labors was that he would get to fly with Brian while I would shepherd his lady through the vaulting blue.
She was nervous at first, but gained confidence in time and eventually laughed with unhindered glee at the sheer novelty of it. While I forced myself to turn with effort to the task at hand.
Sometimes you ride with a greasy haired slob with jailhouse tats in a wife-beater t-shirt who tosses his french fries into the plastic bag after two turns on a hot summer’s day, fouling the cockpit’s cramped air with the sound and smell of his misery. Sometimes your mind is fogged with the scent of a fully blossomed 23-year old woman four feet behind you, with a laugh like tinkling glass – the kind of thing that might make lesser men yearn to be 25 again, and single.
In between flights I sent a brief text note to the Kat, who was riding “Showman,” a former Grand Prix jumper that had once sold for $175,000, but whom age had chipped away at to the extent that he patiently suffered the attentions of teenage girls at a school barn who dream teenage girl dreams of greatness and find themselves amazed to be in the presence of it, even at the dying end. He proudly carried the Kat to three ribbons today in challenging events, and her joy was very nearly complete.
She found out after the event that he and the only other horse at her school able to jump three feet or better had both of them been sold to the daughter of a wealthy family, Showman for $50,000 – a trifle compared to his former worth, but so far out of the reach of even a former naval officer’s daughter as to render comparisons meaningless. She is shattered, flung down from the heights of the preceding moment’s joy, and there’s nothing that a father can do but give a shoulder to cry upon, murmur the small little things that come from the heart but do little more than convey a caring presence, let time work it’s wonders, and hope that nothing in this hardens in her heart.
The world can be a hard place for little things, and there will be worse no doubt to come – you can try to shelter them, even as you know that in the end the world wins out. Its patience outlasts your protections.
But sufficient to each day the evil therein, and the joys as well. Ups and downs. You can’t have the one without the other.
We all learn this in our different ways.