Women Fly

I am an aviatrix, a female pilot of fixed wing aircraft.

While other families had Life magazine or National Geographic on the coffee table, our house had Aviation Week.  There were no flight shows missed and we would sometimes go out to the airport just to watch the planes take off from the observation deck.

My father was obsessed with aviation. I imagine him as a child in the midst of Great Depression hunger, longing to fly away. It was a dream he longed after his whole life but went unfulfilled. He had been accepted into flight training by the Navy but because he developed hypertension he was forced to quit. He was only in his early 20’s.

One of my clearest memories of my dad is standing alone in Uncle Phil’s back yard at a family BBQ. A Cessna flew overhead in the bright, calm summer sky. We both watched it go by, my hand an echo of his as we both shielded our eyes from the sun.

When he looked back down, he hesitated in thought for just a moment. He turned to me with a look as if what he was about to do was something wholly unexpected, something that had only just occurred to him. He asked me, “Do you want to learn how to fly?”

It never occurred to me that I could, that women fly. In the early 80’s, it probably never occurred to him either. But what you must understand is that I was his daughter which meant I could do anything. My father believed that I could have flown to the moon and back if only I had been born with wings. I replied in 10-year-old girl excitement, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” He said, “Ok, when you are 16, I will pay for you to take flight lessons.”

Another morning, about two years later, I woke to a noise outside my second story bedroom window. I looked down to the driveway and there with a sky as bright and clear as that afternoon had been, under the tree of heaven that sheltered my room from the sun, I watched paramedics lift a gurney with my father’s dead body into an ambulance. Heart attack.

That was in August 1985. I was 12 years old, on the cusp of 13. All through high school, I told everyone I was going to learn to fly. In 1995, I took my first flight as a student pilot. Three years after that, I was a certified flight instructor with a commercial certificate with multi-engine and instrument ratings.

All because my father believed I could. And because he believed, I believed.

And because I believed, I flew.

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, June 2018

 

 

Life’s a Beach

We arrive in Pensacola
Florida in the usual fashion
Hurried desperation relax
Camp in the woods
Early morning sound of sea
Roar in the distance
Pink swimsuit
Red plastic pail, blue shovel
Smell of new overwhelmed
It means one thing:
Sandcastles
March in flip flops
Too hot black asphalt
Burned feet camp store
Dunes
Taller than my eight-year-old self
Green grass grows waves
Wooden boardwalk wind
Gulf of Mexico
Definition of heaven
White sand beach
Ocean solitude
Clear water sun
Sand dollars

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, November 2017

Endless Summer

When I saw it, I knew. It was van Gogh. I knew it not by his distinct style, but by the raw emotion that radiated off the inanimate canvas. I stood at the opposite end of the gallery and cried.

It was endless summer.

Specifically, it was “Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun” hanging in gallery 355 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Experts believe it depicts autumn, November in Saint-Rémy, based on the vibrant orange and yellow paint. It was created just seven months prior to his suicide. It stands as the only time art has moved me to tears. And what moved me was how he captured the sunlight.

I know that blazing day.

I forgot about endless summer. Life became as adult life does, a series of days in which there is work to be done for the sake of survival, and a shot at happiness one day when the bills stop exceeding the money. When you’re young, all things are possible if you can just decide what you want to do.

Endless summer of youth.

There was a large field behind the grade school with a gravel track and baseball diamonds. It was June and it was covered with dandelions. Some had turned to seed. And I lay there, relaxed. No hurry, no worry… uncommon for me. In that moment of breeze and blazing sunshine that broke behind the passing clouds, the dandelions glowed as if they were lights themselves. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt one with creation.

All was right with the world.

Laying in the field behind the school in the last days of junior high, dreaming of the life to come, blowing cottony seeds in the wind like candles for wishes. What does the future have in store for me? Will I be happy? Will I be loved?

I, so consumed with grief at the tender age of 12. I, who sought solace in the arts and nature. I, who buried myself inside my own head, inside my dream world. I was ill prepared for the hard realities that would become my life.

But that girl… she was in love with the promise of endless summer.

Life back then, it was hard. I never felt safe or like I belonged anywhere. I knew I would escape to high school. I was convinced that it would be a better experience for me. I was wrong. I was wild and out of control. 13 years old in massive grief with a fuck-off attitude. Not much has changed.

While other girls were concerned about the brand of jeans they wore or their hair and make-up, I was trying to come to terms with my father’s death and the upheaval in my family. I couldn’t relate. I couldn’t see the value of the trivial concerns of others. I still can’t. But innocence was how I was supposed to be. That was stolen from me at too young an age.

That girl… she cried for van Gogh.

We make our choices and try to live with the consequences. Once I was in college, I worked my ass off. I never wanted to be financially dependent and vulnerable to anyone else. People hide how abusive they are… people die. So, as I watched other young people be young, while I held my face to the grindstone, time slipped away. Those years I was meant to be light and free, gone.

But twenty years later, I took up cycling.

That first summer ride along the bluff of the Mississippi River under the sparse clouds and impossible blue sky- that light made the leaves look silver; the heads of flowers, tiny lamps. The sun outlined every detail in the fabric of life. The endorphins rushing through me sucked all the color through my eyes and etched it into my brain.

Endless summer means peace, it means being fully present, it means being shocked into the now by the astonishing beauty of the natural world. It is being in harmony with the flow of life without distress. And on that day, it was OK for me to hope, OK for me to want love. I did not have to be embarrassed by my longing of dreams forgotten.

That endless summer day split my flaming heart.

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, June 2019

Hear this blog post on Soundcloud