In just a few weeks the ice will start to thaw from the lake beside which my parents live, the lake from which I have, hundreds of times, launched my father’s float plane off the water and into the sky.
In just a few weeks there will be stretches of open water large enough for me to successfully maneuver more than half a tonne of aluminum and steel through the last remnants of this bitter winter and into the spring sunshine.
I do not know if my first spring flight will feel different this year, equipped as I am, with the knowledge that the sky has stolen someone dear to my family’s heart.
I do not yet know if the small flicker of excitement (apprehension?) that flutters in my stomach every spring will this year grow into something that feels like fear.
It is part of the appeal of flying, this flicker, this spark, this dynamic connection to the exotic part of me, wild and free, that exists almost entirely these days in my mind’s eye.
The ability to court and then ultimately harness this flicker is addictive. To feel my stomach flutter and then to soothe it with calm, capable and steadfast preparation for flight is to reassure myself that I can conquer anything with proper preparation and steely determination: it never loses its appeal.
I have written before about how age seems to chip away at my courage and nerve. I have lamented this steady retreat of daring and confidence and expressed my fear that advancing years will steal it entirely.
So many of you have written me this week and offered your love and support. One of you, Sara, wrote something so beautiful that I have carried it in my heart for days.
“I know nothing about flying, but I do know something about loss and fear. I know that you can't let fear steal your desire to do something that brings you joy.”
She’s right of course. And so I won’t.
I will fly this spring not in spite of the fact that it has the power to scare me, but because it has the power to scare me.
I will fly because when I open the throttle, aim the plane’s nose into the sweet spot and finally lift the machine from its earthy bounds, I’m not just a wife and mother anymore; I’m the girl I used to be. I’m the girl who’s not afraid of anything: the girl who has the confidence and the power to conquer every obstacle – physical, mental or emotional – that is put in her path.
When the ice goes out of the lake this year I will climb into my father’s float plane and embrace whatever washes over me. And if it feels like an obstacle, I will start the engine anyway, secure in the knowledge that it is no match for my experience, my training and my inner strength.
I will think about a man I admired who met a tragic end far too early and I will remember how he lived his life with bravado and colour and a sense of possibility.
And for the sake of preserving not only his vision, but that of the wild and free girl living in my mind’s eye, I will open the throttle and look skyward.
I will leave my doubts and my fears and my insecurities far behind.
And I will fly.