flying history

Katie is trying to learn how to take selfies!
Katie is trying to learn how to take selfies!

My mother and her parents loved to travel but were afraid of flying. During my childhood we never flew anywhere so I didn’t notice this and it somehow never came up in conversation. It didn’t even occur to me when I was 15 and my father was offered a job in Greece and my parents decided to move us there. We traveled across the mighty Atlantic Ocean on a cruise ship, the TSS Olympia, from New York to Athens, with a stop in Haifa, Israel.

My first flight on a jet, from Athens back to New York, was memorable. It was just me and my sister, nervous and holding hands for most of the trip, on my 17th birthday, on a 747, shortly after the Greek army had deposed Col. Papadopoulos in a bloodless coup. Our parents were to follow us a couple of weeks later. The perimeter of the airport was surrounded by tanks, reminding us of the fear we felt at dawn weeks earlier, when we awakened to the sound of tanks rolling down our street and military music playing on loudspeakers.

We loved getting pictures of Katie and her parents while we were away on our trip!
It won’t be long before she masters the technique!

We were in the middle of a row on the plane and did not get to look out the windows. There was a stop in Rome, but we didn’t have to get off. However, when we landed there my ears started to hurt, a sharp, stabbing pain. The pain subsided a bit as we flew on to New York, but returned with a vengeance when we landed there. I didn’t fly again for 34 years!

My mother made a dear friend in Greece, a Canadian woman named Carol who was married to a German man, Ernst. Mom overcame her fear well enough to fly to Lebanon with Carol & Ernst and my father, and to visit Carol & Ernst when they moved to Germany, and to Ukraine with my father and his sisters to visit the land where his parents were born.

My grandparents remained fearful of flying. When they came to visit us in Greece, to economize, they sailed on a freighter that accepted a few passengers! It was a rough and tumble passage, and I loved listening to their stories about their adventures on board. Grandmother died without ever having flown, in spite of her son’s repeated efforts and offers to take her up into the sky. He was a pilot, after all.

When Grandfather was 90-something my uncle persuaded him to fly from Cape Cod to Florida to spend the winter down there with him. Tim & I met Grandfather and his physical therapist at the airport to see him off. The captain was the son of the physical therapist, who had kindly arranged everything, and he came out personally to welcome my grandfather and then pushed his wheelchair onto the plane himself as we waved goodbye. Right then and there I decided that if Grandfather could face his fear so late in his life, I could do so as well.

"Daddy, where's my menu?"
“Daddy, where’s my menu?”

Grandfather’s physical therapist also had made him a sandwich and put it in a zip-lock plastic bag. When my uncle called me that night he told me that when he asked Grandfather what he thought about the flight, Grandfather went on and on about the zip-lock bag. He had never seen one before and was marveling at the technological genius of its design! Never did say much about the flight itself!

Finally, my opportunity to try flying again came along when I was 51. Larisa, Tim and I flew down to Florida to visit his stepdad, who was dying of cancer. Much to my surprise, I loved it! Being a dreamer without much aptitude for logic, science and technology, I found myself in awe of the human minds who had figured out how to fly and it still seems like nothing short of a miracle to me every time we take off or land.

And the curve of the world passed
With all of that flying
Above the mighty ocean
Now we all are arriving

Grab the carry-on baggage
Join the herd for the mad run
Take a place in the long line
Where does everyone come from?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve flown in the seven years since, sometimes even by myself, to Florida, Georgia and North Carolina to visit family. It’s still a thrill! So last month Tim & I boarded a Delta 737 in New York and flew to Frankfurt, Germany, our once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit his brother and sister-in-law and to visit Venice and Norway with them. Seven international flights in a month!

It was dark for the flight over, and uneventful. But I had a window seat and a flight tracker so when we caught up with the light over Europe I got to see all the fields and forests in Germany as we began our descent. Some fields were bright yellow – I later learned these were growing rapeseed. After we landed it took us less than a minute to go through customs.

As we shuffle on forward
As we wait for inspection
Don’t be holding that line up
At the end lies redemption

Now I’m stamped and I waved through
I take up my position
At the mouth of the canyon
Saying prayers of contrition

A few days later we took a cheap flight on a budget airline, Ryanair, to Venice. It was cloudy so I couldn’t see anything, and it was definitely a no-frills, sardine-in-a-can experience. On the trip back to Germany three days later, however, the sky was clear and we flew over the Alps, much to my delight! It was amazing looking down on those snow-capped peaks.

Please deliver my suitcase
From all mischief and peril
Now the sight of it circling
Is a hymn to the faithful

Forgive me my staring
For my unconcealed envy
In the hall of arrivals
Where the great river empties

A few days after that trip we flew from Frankfurt to Oslo on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). Even the inside of the plane had that Scandinavian feel, light and airy, you could even see through under the seats. After a magical week in Norway, we flew from Bergen to Stockholm, and on that flight, out of the blue, I got such a sharp stabbing pain in my nose, cheek and temple that tears were squirting out of my eye. At first I thought it was a sudden migraine, but I suspect there was something off with the air pressure. It brought back the memory of the ear pain flying home from Greece all those years ago.

We changed planes in Stockholm and then flew back to Frankfurt after having the best Swedish meatballs ever, right there in the airport restaurant. And unfortunately the pain came back on that flight, too.

Its hand carts and quarters
All the people it carries
To be greeted with flowers
Grandfathers and babies

The friends and relations
Leaping over hemispheres
Transcendental reunion
All borders vanish here

A little over a week later I took a 12-hour Sudafed before boarding the Delta flight from Frankfurt to New York, just in case. Not sure if it was needed but there was no pain on the return flight home. I love Delta because it has a flight tracker at each seat. I was able to identify the English Channel, Great Britain, the Irish Sea, Ireland, and stateside, my beloved Cape Cod, as we flew over. We also flew over Nova Scotia (thinking of Sybil then) but I couldn’t see the land there because of the clouds.

Too bad customs was overwhelmed when we arrived after having such a great flight. It took us almost two hours to get through the maze of lines and scanners and official agent desks! I’m glad my sister and brother-in-law did not give up waiting for us to appear through the arrivals door!

We are travelers traveling
We are gypsies together
We’re philosophers gathering
We are business or pleasure

We are going or coming
We’re just finding our way
To the next destination
And from night into day

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Transcendental Reunion) ♫

It’s good to be home. We continued to receive pictures of Katie in our email almost every day while we were gone. Thank you, Larisa! I have thousands of pictures to go through and many posts to write about this trip which I will get to, even if it takes me all summer. We went to the nursery to get flowers for the balcony and nasturtiums for  Zoë to nibble on. We ate at our favorite restaurant and went down to the beach. Tim went to the eye surgeon yesterday and we found out that he will definitely have to have cataract surgery for both eyes in July. At the same time the surgeon will fix his astigmatism so he may not need glasses for the first time in his 62 years! That will be something else indeed… Life returns to normal…

lure of life

"White House at Night" by Vincent van Gogh
“White House at Night” by Vincent van Gogh

Tonight, the moon came out, it was nearly full.
Way down here on earth, I could feel it’s pull.
The weight of gravity or just the lure of life,
Made me want to leave my only home tonight.

I’m just wondering how we know where we belong?
Is it in the arc of the moon, leaving shadows on the lawn?
In the path of fireflies and a single bird at dawn?
Singing in between here and gone?

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Between Here & Gone) ♫

slim yachts of the element

1.16.12 ~ Eastern Point
1.16.12 ~ Eastern Point

A lifting gale of sea-gulls followed them; slim yachts of the element,
Natural growths of the sky, no wonder
Light wings to leave sea; but those grave weights toil, and are powerful.
~ Robinson Jeffers
(Pelicans)

1.16.12 ~ Eastern Point

In this world you’ve a soul for a compass
And a heart for a pair of wings
There’s a star on the far horizon
Rising bright in an azure sky
For the rest of the time that you’re given
Why walk when you can fly?
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Why Walk When You Can Fly) ♫

1.16.12 ~ Eastern Point
1.16.12 ~ Eastern Point

photos by Tim Rodgers

winter solstice

“Yule Goat” by John Bauer (1882-1918) Swedish Illustrator
“Yule Goat” by John Bauer

Keep me safe and hold me tight 
Let the candle burn all night 
Tomorrow welcome back the light 
It was longest night of the year 

We press our faces to the glass 
And see our little lives go past 
Wave to shadows that we cast 
On the longest night of the year 

Make a vow when Solstice comes 
To find the Light in everyone 
Keep the faith and bang the drum 
On the longest night of the year 

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Longest Night of the Year) ♫

LADY dear, if Fairies may
For a moment lay aside
Cunning tricks and elfish play,
‘Tis at happy Christmas-tide.

We have heard the children say –
Gentle children, whom we love –
Long ago, on Christmas Day,
Came a message from above.

Still, as Christmas-tide comes round,
They remember it again –
Echo still the joyful sound,
‘Peace on earth, good-will to men.’

Yet the hearts must child-like be
Where such heavenly guests abide.
Unto children, in their glee,
All the year is Christmas-tide.

Thus, forgetting tricks and play
For a moment, Lady dear,
We would wish you, if we may,
Merry Christmas, glad New Year.

~ Lewis Carroll
(From a Fairy to a Child, Christmas, 1887)

God Jul!

Winter Solstice: December 22, 2011, 12:30 a.m.

December 21, 2012, 6:12 a.m.

Christmas ~ Midwinter ~ Yule

Movement ~ Rebirth ~ Renewal

Seasonal movies:
Three Wishes for Cinderella
Christmas Story

Merry Christmas!

a life story

“Symphony in White No. 3″ by James McNeill Whistler

Gather up your telegrams
Your faded pictures, best laid plans
Books and postcards, 45′s
Every sunset in the sky

Carry with you maps and string, flashlights
Friends who make you sing
And stars to help you find your place
Music, hope and amazing grace

Maybe what we leave
Is nothing but a tangled little mystery
Maybe what we take
Is nothing that has ever had a name

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Your Life Story) ♫

a guiding light

“Moon Evening. Lighthouse” by Anna Ancher

So there will be no guiding light for you and me
We are not sailors lost out on the sea
We were always headed toward eternity
Hoping for a glimpse of Galilee
~ Emmylou Harris
♫ (The Pearl) ♫

And I can tell by the way you’re searching
For something you can’t even name
That you haven’t been able to come to the table
Simply glad that you came
And when you feel like this try to imagine
That we’re all like frail boats on the sea
Just scanning the night for that great guiding light
Announcing the Jubilee
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Jubilee) ♫

arrows and circles

“Psyche” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
“Psyche” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Sometimes you get there in spite of the route
Losing track of your life and what it’s about
The road seems to know when to straighten right out…
I could wonder if all of it led me to you
I could show you the arrows and circles I drew
I didn’t have a map, it’s the best I could do
On the fly and on the run
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Elysium) ♫

except for the wind

"The West Wind" by Winslow Homer
“The West Wind” by Winslow Homer

There’s a Mary Chapin Carpenter song, Zephyr, that keeps tugging at my heart the past couple of months. The lyrics may be about romantic connections but they stir up feelings about family ties for me. (Some of the lyrics included in italics.)

Why do crickets chirping in August sound so sad to me?

I don’t know nothing, nothing today…

“Good” stress vs. “bad” stress. How do we know which is which? When Tim was going through his cardio-rehab program I attended the group discussion about stress with him. The nurse moderating the discussion stressed that if something seemed stressful to you then it is stressful, no matter how anyone else might feel in the same situation.

“Good” stress: Tim came home from his trip to England with an assortment of cheeses and wanted to have a cheese tasting party. An incentive to clean the house!!! The party was wonderful!!! Our home is so clean!!!

“Bad” stress: unrelenting for the past few years… I used to be known as a meticulously clean homemaker, who often rearranged furniture and redecorated, but I no longer have the energy or the inclination to stay on top of things. A homebody by nature… Well, that’s not entirely true…

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel yourself tied down
Hide-and-earth bound
But there’s no tether, on a zephyr

Because my father’s and my aunt’s situations are so distressing to me, when I find myself with “free” time I usually read or blog or redecorate my blogs, which is so very soothing and relaxing. Forget the housework. But it has been nice writing this today in a house a good deal cleaner than it’s been in a very long time.

I tried to be constant just like a star
I tried to be steady and yar
But the storms keep breaking over my head
I’m aching for blue skies instead

What is “yar,” Mary Chapin? Sounds like a sailing word… She must mean yare, which is pronounced “yar.” I love looking things up! An adjective “describing a boat that handles with little effort. A good sailing design, quick and capable.” I have the feeling I should have known this. It sounds like a word my grandparents might have used. “Steady as she goes,” I do recall. Steady and yare, steady and yare…

Wish I could handle things with just a little less effort, because

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel your heart tied down…

…All of the wings I’ve ridden back home to you
All the things I’ve given I’ve wanted to
All that you see has always belonged to you
Except for the wind…

Yes, my dear family, little ones, elderly ones, and dead ones, I’ve freely chosen to give them all I’ve had in me to give. Even if it’s hard, love keeps me from flying away… As Louisa May Alcott once wrote, “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Steady and yare…

Love is all there is and time is just sand
And I might just slip through your hands

I took Auntie to the surgeon for a consultation again. More skin cancer to be removed, this time from her leg. It makes me remember when my children were young and Auntie was newly retired so she came to our lovely little beach with us all summer long. Time is just sand on the beach, and time often stood still on those endless days.

Those were good times, watching the kids’ swimming lessons, reading novels, chatting, soaking up the sun, damaging our skin.

The time a seagull pooped on our umbrella and us laughing at the antics of the kids dragging the umbrella to the outdoor shower in a futile attempt to clean it off with water… The times the gulls stole our fries or those scrumptious $1.50 each kraut-dogs… Melting ice cream dripping down sticky, salty bellies and legs… “Watch me swim out to the raft, Mom!” Marveling about the fact that we could hear their conversations out on the raft but they could not hear us calling them from the beach. Sound travels only one way over the water. I can still hear their voices sometimes…

The outdoorsy kid always in the water. The creative kid, drawing on or sculpting in the sand. The future social worker coming for frequent cuddles and eating all the slices of cantaloupe when no one was paying attention. The time Grandma & Grandpa came for a picnic and we all took a walk and saw three baby swans riding on a mother swan’s back as she swam around the salt pond… The year the kids were interviewed by a newspaper reporter about the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish population explosion…

Larisa K. Rodgers, a sixth grader, became a victim Monday. “All I know is, it hurts,” she said. Larisa was swimming at Eastern Point Beach when she was stung on both thighs, dashed out of the water and ran to the first aid room. “It rashes up really big,” she said, though she needn’t have explained. …. “I’ve noticed more,” said Larisa’s brother, Jonathan, who has his own method of measuring the jellyfish problem. He says he gets stung about once a summer, but this summer he’s been stung three times.

[Source: “Beware of the blob! Jellyfish numbers increase,” by Steve Grant, The Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, 13 August 1992, page 1]

As I’ve been for many years, I’m still grounded, but…

I’m a zephyr on the inside
And it’s a hard ride when you feel your life tied down
Hide-and-earth bound but there’s no tether…