Thursday, April 15, 2010
Up, Up and Away
This week marks the 49th year anniversary of the first time man traveled in space, so the record goes. But I say nay. From pogo sticks to spaceships, men, women, and kids have risked that first leap into space, probably as long as gravity posed the challenge. Me too.
Growing up on Magnolia Bluff in rainy Seattle, in the shadow of the Cascades, with Mt. Rainier glowing to the right, and Mt. Baker to the left, one of my sweet childhood memories is donning my brown rubber galoshes and jumping SPLAT into mud puddles, the bigger splat the better. Flat-footed, and poorly coordinated, I swelled with rapture at that little lift. I never ran out of mud puddles, for the woods across the street yielded small rivulets leading eventually to Elliot Bay.
At age 12, I accepted my girlfriend’s taunting to leap off my front porch onto the front lawn. Four or five feet down. It was a rare sunny day, and to enhance the experience I turned on the lawn sprinkler. “You go first,” she dared. For a few seconds the sense of floating in air exhilarated me. Then I hit the soggy wet lawn, skidding three or four feet on my heels toward the edge of the steep rockery. The best part of that experience was the books and paper dolls neighbors brought for distractions as I lay in bed, casted to the right knee, for the rest of the summer.
Later I tried horseback riding, ice skating and skiing, accomplishing the basics. Predictably my myopic eyes, chubby torso, and timidity were not conducive to taking the next step, jumping in air.
As a sophomore at the University of Washington (1949) I took my first flying lesson in a small plane owned by the student flying club. Five minutes into the lesson my tummy said whoops! Even though the instructor insisted I hold the stick, he was mighty relieved to get me back to earth so he could mop up the cockpit. Enough of that!
In my thirties, in the hospital with what turned out to be typhoid, I was on morphine for a few days. I never wanted to come down! Yet it was more like floating, than like soaring.
Later in life I tried windsurfing in Hawaii, at which, lacking good arm strength, I was a giant flop. I experienced helicopters over San Francisco bay, hot air ballooning and dirigible flights. None of them quite filled the bill.
A few years ago Jeanne Squires, Jan Hagan and I were exploring the city of Lyon, France, an addendum to a wonderful trip through the Rhone Alps with French Escapade. Jac and Valerie were our incredible leaders. Thanks to Valerie’s to-die-for French cooking I was bulging at the seams. Hiking around I discovered an old carousel. I swooned. “This is just my ticket,” I realized. “It goes up, and it comes down, over and over, with safety and joy, and besides that, it is a thing of such beauty.”
When I got home, I completed the painting above from a photo Jan took. It hangs opposite my bed. It’s the first thing I see when I sit up in bed in the morning. It never fails to make me smile.
So I dedicate this blog to dear Jac and Valerie, who introduced me to the charms of France. They later came here and helped me hang my painting. Their presence in my life spans the ocean and makes my spirits soar.