20 June 2009


as in, the passions that move my spirit -- flight, preserving nature from human destruction, the exploration of our world and our universe. this year marks my ten year anniversary as a member of AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. which is rather ironic, in that i've only logged 0.4 hours as PIC (pilot in command). i've been saving for actual flight lessons all this time, and reading everything i can get my hands on -- aviation magazines, books, manuals. the way i look at it, just the study and discovery give me pleasure. when the time comes to take lessons and get my pilots license, that will be icing on the cake. the plane in the photo, by the way, is a Beechcraft Staggerwing, a classic biplane to which a wonderful museum is devoted, at the south end of the municipal airport in Tullahoma, Tennessee (which is also the home to Jack Daniels whiskey). [please note: as always, click on an image to enlarge it for full effect.]

here's a topic that has always fascinated me -- people tend to dream about flying (without benefit of an airplane) in one of two ways. there are those who glide and float effortlessly, soaring and dipping in airy freedom. and there are those who can only stay aloft by an effort of will, concentrating at every moment lest they fall to earth.

for many years i was among the latter. but then, gradually, in my dreams i discovered a third way. it started in scenes where i was running down a hill of ever-steeper slope, so that each bound covered more ground and took me higher above the surface. ultimately this could lead to an out-of-control crash, but that never seemed to happen. then one night in a dream i tried just leaping straight up from a standstill. over the course of subsequent dreams (covering many months), my leaps became monumental, and always well controlled, effortless, taking me hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air, and always landing like a feather. what joy !!!

so back to reality, and the creatures who inspired all our thoughts of flight -- birds. i've been an avid birder for about four decades. while my life list (the compendium of confirmed sightings of different bird species) only numbers about 360, still it is quite varied, since i've gone birding in so many different parts of the country. i have a number of species on my list that would seem exotic to birders who don't travel much outside their home region. and like my cats, i never seem to tire of watching our avian friends go about their daily lives. what a thrill it must be to fly using one's own wings, no? here's a peregrin falcon, capable of speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour while stooping (diving with its wings folded to its body) onto a prey animal which it rarely misses.

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