Learning To Fly

Hello friends!Tonight’s feature image is titled “Fire Cloud 101008” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

Once upon a time a young boy stood on top of a windy ridge and opened his jacket. He placed his hands firmly into the pockets and held the jacket out as tightly as his little arms could muster. He was convinced that he could become a living kite. He didn’t fly of course. Even if he jumped as high as he could the wind simply refused to carry him.

I suppose that I’ve been obsessed with flight ever since I can remember. I tried everything that my imagination could conceive. I would run down the hallway as fast as I could and launch myself into the air Superman style arching my back in order to create more lift. I was less than ten years old and every time that we had library days at school I would look for books on airplanes. By the time I was leaping into my bed I already knew about the Bernoulli principle for lift and wing warping for steering. I didn’t really understand the mathematical formulas involved in the books but I figured I’d get the hang of it once airborne.

If you want to learn how to fly like a super hero you need to practice. At one point we had access to some old mattresses. We piled them up a few feet from the porch and would jump into them. Each jump was an effort to expiriment with a new flight technique. I even tried holding onto a couple of balloons. No dice. The mattress stack won again.

The next best thing to flying in the air is flying in water. I knew that because I saw astronauts on T.V. practice weightlessness in a pool. I didn’t have a pool but I did have a lake. There was a high embankment near the official swimming hole with more than enough room to get a run at the edge. I tried everything. The three step and leap into air, the dead run and leaping from a fishing pier. Finally out of desperation I stumbled upon the secret. The combination of a cape and goggles. The beach towel was about the right length so I tied the corners around my neck and lowered my goggles into place. I took a deep breath and held it for a moment. Then a second breath without exhaling. I was inflating myself like a balloon. I backed up into the hot, sharp gravel of the parking lot and ignored the pain as I exploded forward. As I got the wind at the edge of the embankment I arched my back and felt gravity forget me. I was flying! In my initial excitement I lost concentration and gravity found me again but I know that for at least a half of a second I was flying not falling! Overjoyed with my success I giggled and lost the balloon effect. The splashdown not only dislodged my goggles but ripped my makeshift cape from my neck. Thankfully the water wasn’t too deep and after catching my breath I was able to retrieve the towel. Subsequent attempts to duplicate a split second of flight were unsuccessful and I knew it was because the cape got wet and heavy.

The real magic of childhood is not believing that impossible exists. As adults we accept that certain things cannot be accomplished and we give up rather than waste time. As a young boy I worked with what I had to achieve a goal and refused to give up because I believed in the dream. As an adult I know it takes a machine to get airborne but the point is that if a person wants to achieve a goal they’ll find a way to make it happen as long as they don’t know that it’s impossible. They will study and practice and improvise until it happens.

I hope you have enjoyed tonight’s semi-fictional story but more importantly I hope that you continue to work on making your dreams a reality. Even if it means buying an airline ticket and leaving the cape behind. It was only a few short years after leaping into Summersville Lake with a towel for a cape that I achieved my goal of flying by taking the yoke of a Cessna 152. A flight that actually passed over the spot that I used to leap from.

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Crossroads And Transition

Where do you go in your dreams? Are you at home or in some distant world that is alien to your waking self? Are you ever at a crossroads? I’ve read that dreaming about a bridge is symbolic of transition. Dreams about a crossroads is symbolic of making a decision. Do we take the iron ribbon that pulls us straight forward or travel up the mountain and find our way to the bridge? What if there’s a third choice? A pathway that’s not obvious. If you look closely at the road into the mountains there’s a sign that indicates it’s the wrong way. But the railway is built for travel by train and since I’m in the Big Blue Truck that route is also an invalid choice. But, just out of frame is another bridge.

The Low Road And The High Road

The real world likes to present us with false choices. We can see where we want to be but there seems to be no way to get there. It’s in these time that we need to step back and change our perspective. It’s very likely that the third option is just outside of our field of vision.

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Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Crossroads In The Gorge” and is available for purchase by contacting me on Facebook or by using the Contact Form on my website. (Note, I do not share or sale contactinformation. EVER)

Tonight’s bonus Image is titled “The Low Road And The High Road ” and is also available for purchase.

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Anything Is Possible

My West Virginia Mountains are home to some of our nation’s most creative problem solvers. The 3 rivers area of Gauley Bridge is no exception. In 1954 there were two problems. One, an old Greyhound bus that was no longer able to do bus stuff and a rock in the middle of the river with no fishing camp. Enter problem solver Walter “Bruiser” Cole. I have to admit that I never met this person and I have never been to his unique fishing camp which still looked like a Greyhound bus when I was a kid. I have never been able to figure out how he got it out onto the river either. But it’s been an icon of Gauley Bridge my whole life. I do remember talk in the 70s about the State trying to take his little camp away from him in a clean up effort. They called it junk! Such a unique and artful form of recycling and the State wanted it to go away.

In 2016 there was the worst flooding our area had seen in my lifetime. The News reporters call it the one thousand year flood. With all the damage to our entire state I thought for sure that it was the end of the bus on the the rock. But, on my next trip into town there was the little camp right there on the rock just like always. It kinda became a symbol of hope for me. If that camp could withstand the fury of both the State and nature in such an unlikely location then anything is possible as long as you’re anchored in the rock.

Today, the little camp has a new red,white and blue paint job and an extra room built on. From the front it doesn’t look as much like a Greyhound bus as it once did but the bus is still parked in the middle of the river.

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Overcoming Produces Beauty

I’ve said it before about how much I love twisted and crooked, gnarly trees. The curls sweeps of the wood speak of challenges that were overcome to survive. I’m not sure what caused the arabesque in the trunk of this one but the moment I saw the double curve I fell in love with the tree. No doubt that it had to have carried the weight of at least one or maybe two larger trees as it grew. I also have no doubt that it’s unique shape prevented it from being harvested at some point in its history.

Sometimes God allows us to go through struggles that we don’t understand. We might wonder how much longer a situation will last. We might think that the burden we carry will pull us down. But if we just keep going and we don’t give up we can make it. Sure, there’s going to be scars and we may not stand as tall as some of our contemporaries. But, that doesn’t make us any less beautiful. It makes us overcomers and it makes us unique.

As I looked around at the surrounding forest there were hundreds of trees that were straight and tall. Some of trunks were so thick that you and your best friend couldn’t reach all the way around them by joining hands. But they all faded into the background. The only one that stood out and begged to be photographed was the one who was unique. One day this tree will fall just like the rest of them. As a woodworker I can imagine some bent wood furniture being made from crooked trunk. If it ever happens it will be a centerpiece in someone’s home where the others couldn’t compete with the graceful curves produced by overcoming the struggle. Don’t ever give up. Bend and adapt to overcome and you’ll grow into something special.

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What Was The Question?

Tonight’s image is an old mile marker that’s found along an abandoned road near the Meadow River in West Virginia. Apparently it marks mile number 42.

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Universe have already begun to snicker. For the rest of the world here’s why. In the book and subsequent movies a large supercomputer named Deep Thought was built to answer the ultimate question of “What is the meaning of life, God, the universe and everything?” After billions of years Deep Thought came up with the answer 42. The irony was that the people who built the computer were long dead and by the time the answer came nobody could remember the question or why it was asked. Now, to be honest I have never read the book and was only present while the movie was playing. As such, I’m only familiar with the trivia. But when I heard the story I began to appreciate implication.

We as humans seem to be hardwired to want to skip learning experience and go straight to mastery of just about everything. We want the “cheat codes”. So much so that we often put more efforts into gaining the cheat than we do experiencing the win. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide the scientists and priests who spent all that time looking for the meaning of life did so at the expense of living life to its fullest. This is the folly of trying to win at all costs. It’s the struggle that makes the victory sweet. If you skip the struggle then the victory is hollow and you never really get to experience it fully. What’s more is that you tend to be so focused on the goal that the importance of the original purpose is lost.

Maybe I’m making that very mistake myself in trying to make my point. Let me close by simply saying that life is an adventure. One that you’ll miss if you try to skip ahead.

Oh and the answer to the question asked by Douglas Adams? Well, I have an opinion of course. The meaning of life, God, the universe and everything is that we were created by God to know the love of our creator. That’s it. It’s that simple. No need for advanced AI or billions of years waiting for an answer that’s as vague as the question. Just talk to him and listen for answers.

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A Walk To A Thinking Spot

The mid morning sun has driven away most of the clouds. As I walk the gravel road that leads into the forest I’m aware of almost everything that moves just inside the trees. Several squirrels and a few chipmunks scurry around looking for the first of fallen acorns. The birds flitter from branch to branch. The buzzing of insects is all around. A few leaves tumble down from the canopy. The sounds of nature fill the air. The rapids in the Gauley River below roar and the voices of the other park patrons blend into the chorus. There are five females, two males and three children all near the playground. I can’t see them. But I know that they are there. I can follow the concentration of the bird noises which grows softer where the humans are present. Deeper into the forest the chaos of the outside world fades away. I can smell the horseshoe fungus growing in a black locus tree. The smell of Wintergreen tells me a large birch tree is nearby. As I drop over the hill the forest opens up into a small clearing. A stump left behind by the park rangers is the perfect spot to enjoy the solitude. A place where the unbroken chain of thoughts and contemplation can lead me to a place where inspiration lives. And then it happens. An idea is born and it grows into a dream. And the dream was wonderful. I’ll open the little file in my memory and tuck the dream safely away for now. I began to walk back to my big blue truck occasionally peeking into the file in my memory checking on the little fledgling dream. He has to be kept safe and warm while I prepare a place for the dream live.

If your mind can conceive and your heart can believe, then your will can achieve.

Our dreams are possible only if we work to make them real.

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Hangups,Errors a And Blunders. The Mistakes We Are Trained To Make.

Nobody is born being an expert. We might all have different aptitudes for various skills but it’s practice that makes perfect. Even if we achieve the skill level of “expert” that doesn’t mean that we are free from simple human error. Suddenly being faced with the undeniable truth that you’ve made a royal screwup is God’s way of keeping us humble. In other words, oopsies are the great leveling force of the universe. Remember, it was experts that built the Titanic and amateurs that built the Ark.

When I saw the collection of lost fishing tackle snagged in the overhead power lines my first thought was that someone’s kids had been on their first fishing trip. This inspired the meme below.

But after some thought I began to consider the phenomenon of “muscle memory”. If you are trained to cast a line with a high arc you might not think to adjust your cast while standing under the power lines. Your reflexes would kick in and your body would react out of pure instinct. You would do the right thing but at the wrong time. This kind of mistake happens to all of us and it happens more often than we care to admit. It also happens during the thought process and when reacting to something that someone else has said or done. I think that’s why it’s important to be quick to forgive. Jesus said to let he who is without sin cast the first stone. While there’s different interpretations of what was being implied in this statement I believe that at least in part Jesus was pointing out that errors in actions often include errors in judgment and nobody is immune from this. The experts in the law were reacting out of reflex without examining the circumstances. It’s the same kind of mistake we all make every day.