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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