Homo Sapiens: poor clod-hopping, hairy-footed ape. How long have we raised out simian eyes from the dirt at our feet skywards, and longed to take flight with the birds and the angels? And after a brief hundred years in which we have soared beyond the hopes of the most ambitious bird, how blasé we have become. I sit flicking, with studied disinterest, through a magazine as we take off. I distract myself with inane drama from Hollywood - absurd shoot-em-ups - as we slice through the air: the azure beauty of the Pacific, or the breath-taking frozen expanses of the Arctic all ignored below.
The first time I ever flew I was twenty-four years old. How many times had I been to the airport and always driven home again as my siblings came and went around the world? I, no doubt, looked like all the other passengers as we filed obediently aboard that day, but was there a heart that beat with more excitement? - I was getting on the plane this time, I was going to fly, and I wasn’t coming back.
The businessman beside me read his newspaper. How often I wanted to grab his arm and exclaim, ‘Look! Look! Look at the little sheep, the tiny houses! Look at the farms, the hills! Look - the Alps, the snow, the sea!’ I wanted to, but I could not draw myself away from the window long enough to do so.
My father learned to fly in a Tiger Moth. A man needed to fly to ward Imperial Japan from our pacific shores.
When I was growing up, there was a percentage of the vast number of books filling the house that were volumes of adventure stories written ‘between the wars’ - hard-bound volumes with thick, creamy pages spotted with age which my father had grown up on: adventure stories in which intrepid gentlemen of the British Empire battled unscrupulous and cruel foreigners with Germanic names - and natures - all of them airmen - the books full of aerial battles in ‘flying machines’; biplanes and triplanes, guns blazing; daring escapes; epic air journeys. I read them all.
As a child I had no interest in contemporary music. Rock and pop and such were a realm beyond my concern. There were however a few of my sister’s albums that I did respond to. I would shut myself in the lounge with the light off, lie on the floor and listen over and over to the two or three things that somehow struck me. Today I could probably whistle and sing the whole of Days of Future Passed by The Moody Blues. And how I loved Al Stewart! How I soared on the wings of his music.With your photographs of Kitty Hawk And the biplanes on your wall You were always Amy Johnson From the time that you were small. No schoolroom kept you grounded While your thoughts could get away You were taking off in Tiger Moths Your wings against the brush-strokes of the day. Are you there? On the tarmac with the winter in your hair By the empty hangar doors you stop and stare Leave the oil-drums behind you, they won’t care Oh, are you there? Oh, you wrapped me up in a leather coat And you took me for a ride We were drifting with the tail-wind When the runway came in sight The clouds came up to gather us And the cockpit turned to white When I looked the sky was empty I suppose you never saw the landing-lights Are you there? In your jacket with the grease-stain and the tear Caught up in the slipstream of the dare The compass roads will guide you anywhere, Oh, are you there? The sun comes up on Icarus as the night-birds sail away And lights the maps and diagrams That Leonardo makes You can see Faith, Hope and Charity As they bank above the fields You can join the flying circus You can touch the morning air against your wheels Are you there? Do you have a thought for me that you can share? Oh I never thought you’d take me unawares Just call me if you ever need repairs Oh, are you there?
In the end, flying is not about travelling as cheaply and as fast and as uncomfortably as possible from point A on the planet to point B. It is ever a dream of a greater and inner journey in which we fly through skys beyond that which we see above our heads.I shall collect flower-poems From the garden of Light. Therefore, I am flying in the sky With the southern winds. I have no one with me. All alone, endlessly I am flying, And I am all lost in the beauty of teeming clouds.
The above poem is by Sri Chinmoy. Read more of Sri Chinmoy's literary works at Sri Chinmoy Library dot com
Hear a snippet of Al Stewart's Flying Sorcery at music - barnes and noble dot com (Heck, why not just go right on and buy the album?)