I step gingerly up, wearing an old silk scarf and borrowed bomber. It’s chilly outside and in, and I sense it‘s like learning a whole new language -- an intricate vocabulary of knobs, dials, switches, levers, waiting for command. I shake hands with the instructor and forget my misty breath, tingly fingers, and all those years of studying French. I listen attentively, and together we light up the deck, red and green, to the syncopated spin.
I slip a foot onto the pedal, imagining a straight line from our two passengers, to the tip of the frozen horizon. Within seconds, we are taxiing down the runway -- my hands taut on the wheel, knuckles just about bursting through leather. I spy windsocks in bristling seagrass, and glance aside, picturing Beryl Markham, among other aviatrix icons. Fast forward, and I am grounded in research, exploring virtual reality and flight training with a Teachers College student, an experienced pilot.
But this is real, I am novice, and it is now, or never. Syntax marked by the bob of wings and gathering of momentum. Heart pounding, one deep breath, light lift, and our tarmac melts away – revealing the pleasing patchwork of Ayrshire -- Scottish greens, blues, and grays threaded lightly together with snow. Higher and higher the Piper climbs, just like a small bird from a sandy shore. A tanker or two breaks through high tide where white caps embroider the Firth of Clyde already a few thousand feet below. To our right, Ailsa Craig teems with birds, and we, in flight, for next Christmas my mother-in-law gifts lessons to my first familial passengers.
In our city apartment hangs a painting of Shieldaig, Wester Ross, showing a cluster of white-washed houses brightened by gold and scarlet gorse. My mother takes liberty with perspective, drawing my eye to a large stone barn, reminiscent of home in England, and then to the subtle, paler shades of Loch Torridon and ancient hills in the distance. Both a land and seascape, it is an aerial view connecting us round-trip. Near this painting hangs another, a closer interpretation of tawny dunes and steely sky, inspired by a snapshot taken on the Isle of Barra; for our wedding anniversary, we land on a remote white beach covered in cockleshells -- pampas grass waving to greet us at low tide.
“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince
Jennifer Govan holds a BA Combined Honors in English and French from the University of Exeter, England, and a Master of Librarianship from The College of Librarianship Wales, The University of Wales. As Senior Librarian, she brings broad experience in research and information, collection management, K-12 collections and services, archives, and outreach through the Gottesman Libraries' Education Program.