Thursday, July 2, 2015

On Change - What an Airplane Taught Me

Playing on the playground as a child - I never thought, as I went airborne off the monkey bars, "I'm going to learn to fly one day".  As a small child I wanted to be either a doctor or a spy, or perhaps doctor spy.  I would grow old, marry Illya Kuryakin and that would be that. (Seriously, I still have a major crush on David McCallum).

Then someone took me for a ride in a small plane.  I was hooked.

Aviation - such a simple word, actually.  Webster's compact dictionary states is defined as "the operation of aircraft". That doesn't even begin to touch on it. Yes, that's the basics of it, getting from point A to B for most people, but more than that, it's a grab bag of adventure, a fascination through history. It is a leap, for better or worse, that people take into the unknown.

Even when we pilots aren't flying we tend to hover around the airport, like moths to a flame, just showing up to have a cup of coffee and grasp the collective knowledge of those that have gone before us, taking in the stories, the tall tales, the wisdom. The knowledge that is passed on, from veteran pilot to youngster, from instructor to student is partly a flame, the warmth of awareness of what we recognized in each other, the pulse of blood within the hand that reaches out and offers to share the knowledge and wonder.

I remember when I was first learning to fly a tailwheel airplane. The pilots all hung out together, and in odd moments and at odd times, with no prior planning, all showed up at the airfield to just sit and trade stories, waiting for the clouds to clear. I was the youngest person there, it seems that the yearning for such a planes as these grows with maturing, sprouting as you discover what is in you that means something. Like any other passion, flying these airplanes is a passion often accompanied by a preference for that which surrounds its winged form, which in its absence still speaks fondly of it, in hallowed tones and animated stories.
I was privileged to join them. To learn from them. For there's just something about flying one of the old classics, like the Cub. You'll freeze in her, you'll sweat like a sumo wrestler in her, dodge seagulls, balloons and summer rainclouds in her. There's no glass, no EICAS, no autopilot; simply a pure seat of a pants adventure that hearkens back to simpler times in far away places unchanged over time. Such old aircraft are less "video game" and more "courage" an attitude that might in some be considered reckless were it not as second nature as breathing.

From these pilots I learned the technical aspects of things. But I also learned so much more. For flying has a way of slipping out of its technical boundaries. Certainly one has to learn from their peers about lift and weight and thrust and drag.  There's mechanics and weather and navigation, There's an extensive and complex science to it. And there's many an airman who treats it simply as that, an efficient mode of transportation. The same sort of pilot that may buy every toy and bell and whistle for their four seat plane, lest they get bored on a long flight.

But that's just not in the nature of this airman. It's probably the reason I love old trains and old tools. Give me a simple Cub, a stick and a few instruments. In this simple code of life, quiet and remoteness stand guard over courage heightened by solitude. This is my own compass north, the self in isolation; honor, resolve, emotion, thought and reason held in until they are amplified within me, becoming music to a life open to possibility.

For I'm in that other group, for whom aviation now is no longer a means to a living, or a call to duty. Aviation is simply magic; a reflection off of a brilliant white cloud that shines in my eyes. I hear the sound of the engine, and in the back of my mind can explain how it works, about compression, and bypass ratio and fuel nozzles. But also in my mind is simply the pure sound of it, the throb and hum of the motor, and with that sound, that deep, throaty rumble that lets the heart mend.
I could explain how the center of pressure relates to Mach tuck. I can tell you that a JT12 engine sounds like a mighty eagle unless it's night and over the water and then it sounds like a stuttering sparrow. I could explain continuity assumption and boundary layer. But right now all I want to tell you is what it is like to be there, suspended above rivers and streams, blue and green and hard edged ridge tops, thinking about nothing but the improbability of being up here at all, the sheer brilliance of being aloft. I'd see the shadow of my craft passing over a town far south of my home, a flock of Canadian Geese in formation below me, honking their encouragement. A few scattered showers gave way to clear and I remained silent, reading the signs of the sky, a poem composed of cursive contrails and feather-like exclamation points of white and amber light.

The being and cadence of the sky is more than Mr. Webster's definition, it's more than transport for those that hear the sky's calling. When we look down at the world it's like looking at an alien world, a place where we work and lay our head, filled with people we love, but still always somewhat foreign. For we're only truly at home harnessing the rumbled roar of an engine, the wind in our hair.

Operation of an aircraft - yes it is. It's also something that has shaped my life, even as I hung up my professional wings,, remaining always in my waking thoughts and sleep, a siren call that resonates somewhere in my private self, even as earthbound I find myself more at home.
But for a model of my favorite airplane I ever flew, you'd not know I was a pilot from my surroundings.  My writing desk is old and light y an even older lamp, under which small tools are scattered about. Narrow shelves are filled with the books I never had time to read back in the day, the letters on their cover an open invitation. On one of the shelves, some butterflies that were my Aunts.  I look at them as I look on the bones of old aircraft in the desert, of forms so fragile, yet so strong, displaying a beauty and a power unmarred by that final stoppage of motion. Forms that move me, even as they are forever stilled.

Someone asked me if I had any regrets about hanging up my wings so young, when I still could have put in another 20 years in industry.  I have none, for as satisfying as it was for me emotionally, intellectually, I was ready for new challenges  Now life changes for me yet again.  As I've written of before, there's been a huge consolidation of teams, offices and lines of business, and my group is being absorbed into another within my agency. My position as Team Lead going away. Another one like it is not open, not anywhere geographically close.
I loved being "Gibbs" and was resigned to hitting the road as a minion again with no further increases in pay which would hit me on retirement.   But yesterday a call was made to me, with a tentative offer. Someone very high up, wants me to do something different. Instead of "Gibbs" - I would be "The Director". More money, more meetings, more attorneys, more expensive suits, but an intellectual challenge, and an office that would be in the city where my husband and I live, if not immediately, within the year.  I love field work, but physically there's a reason the probies are half my age. It's time to launch into something new I think. I'll at least go talk to them about it when I return to work next week.

No regrets. Because it's one thing that aviation taught me.  It's more than what you do - it's how you view the world.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dinner as Black and White - Road Recipes

The beer bread was a hit, so how about a loaf made with Guinness!  A little recipe for you as I travel back home. Just use the beer bread recipe and use Guinness and add 1/8 teaspoon of Rosemary to the batter.  Cheers!

Guinness Bread with Rosemary
Guinness Quick Bread (Recipe in the comments)
A quick bread, made with self rising flour, sugar, Guinness, crushed Rosemary and melted butter. It smells incredible as it bakes, turning out a golden crusty loaf, tender on the inside, that's perfect with soup or stew or sliced cold for breakfast.
Delicious, inexpensive and five minutes to stir up. Some food choices are as simple as black and white.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Happy 95th Dad.

Time for an update from the trip out West to see Dad after a little side trip for work.

The little part to the right was built from the original structure, a small cabin that partially burned on some land my cousin owned.  It was restored - Big Bro making a number of trips down as that happened, then my cousin L. designed the addition to the left, which in the last few years, came to completion. The kitchen is my domain and is set up to make about anything you can think of without a lot of wasted space or extra "luxury" kitchen items (there is NO microwave).
The foundation and slightly blackened original 100 + year old beams are about all that remained of the original structure.
It was a wonderful place for we kids to gather with parents coming down for Thanksgiving each year. But with my brother's death and Dad's rapidly declining health, I didn't think we'd get Dad out there again with limited vacation days all around.  But Dad's nursing assistant offered to drive him there (two day drive) and get him settled in with his meds and other needs, and then my cousin and I could take over for the rest of his stay before one of us drives him home again.
Mountain air, open meadows, no traffic. Behind them (not pictured as the sun was too bright) is a nice peak that usually has snow, but not this year, it's been really really dry. At a little less than 5000 feet elevation it gets nice and cool at night thought it was unseasonably warm during the day this last week.

My room's still the same with the big bed and a loft to the left with another sleeping area.  No space is wasted in this place.
Yes, those are the little toy horses my cousin and I played with as little girls.
Big Bro on his visits back in the day? Well, he was a bit different.  He didn't want to bunk in the house with the girls or on the sleeper sofa where Dad would stay when he came for Thanksgiving.  No,  during our summer vacations here, Big Brother bunked in the BUS.

No- not just ANY 1941 bus.  THE TWILIGHT LOUNGE
It has room for someone to bunk, both people and a dog - a fridge, sink, heater and fan, room to eat and drink and little port a potty out back.
A toast would be made here, late in the night - to the best brother ever, and many wonderful summer adventures.
My cousin is more like my sister than a cousin.  Her parents died when we were barely out of our teens so the summers together we had as families, just continued.  We did everything together, frosted their hair (oh no - there's photos of that) got sunburned, boogie boarded, hiked and played and laughed.  Oh, how we laughed. Being the older of us, she took me under her wing as a mentor and taught me many things, including how to ride a horse.
But there were a few years, with jobs and travel- we didn't see one another, and then came this place on L's land, a refuge for everyone from the stresses of city life.
It fits us - we are SO much alike, very outdoors kind of gals, who love horses and dogs and all sorts of animals. . . .
as well as all of those memories of growing up out West.

So many memories,  starting with the prune fights we used to get into with  our brothers on Uncle G's ranch, they got into ALL kinds of troubles.  Now  it's just the two of us here and we're still getting into trouble.
I will wake up first, being on Central time.  A check for bears wandering out of the National Forest next door, then  I will grab the laundry and make breakfast.
MMM.  eggs, chicken and apple sausages and homemade ciabatta bread made into toast!
Then time to sit out on one of the patios. All four sides of the cabin have a small deck so there is ALWAYS shade.
We both loves bones and rocks, so there's LOTS of them around.

A Cactus made out of horseshoes.
All the posts were decorated with our favorite things.  

Yes, I'm a little weird.

Hey -ANYONE can decorate with plastic flamingos and begonias.
But with acreage right on the edge of a huge national forest, there's room for all kinds of decor.
I think this was Big Bro's doing.

A stop for lunch.
Then it was time for some chores.

Buddy the horse, who travels to and from here in his own trailer, goes out to his pasture after an apple and carrot. Buddy is twenty-one and has a good life here and his other home down in the valley where he stays in the winter months.
After Buddy is settled, the place goes to the dogs.
 Look - it's Scout the neighbor's dog.  I think he's noticed the place is occupied with people and dogs.
 Come on Scout!  Up to our house! 
Luc - half Great Pyrenees and half Border Collie sniffs for deer while Scout chases Shasta the Australian cattle dog Rescue around the yard.
After we  got the enchilada casserole, quiche and Italian ragout from the sun oven,

friends started arriving with all KINDS of goodies -  everyone brought a little something to eat or drink

The neighbor butchered a young goat two days ago and shared the fresh meat. We marinated some in aged balsamic and oil for 24 hours, then slow cooked in the sun oven with a roasted vegetable sauce.
Green chili and cheese enchilada casserole.
Dad was so happy to see everyone as it had been a year since all the family was together with neighbors and friends joining in for a celebration.
Only one person here is related by blood, but we're all still family (though I'm the "baby", adopted pretty late in Dad's life).

You don't have to be related by blood to love someone. 

Dad is a much loved member of this clan of family and friends.
Happy 95th Birthday Dad! 
I hate when everyone has to go. 
But Dad had a wonderful birthday to remember always.
Thanks for the visit!