Thursday, August 14, 2008

" okay pig pen."

"...she has written so well, and so marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us..." -- Ernest Hemingway on aviator / writer Beryl Markham.

Two excerpts of Markham from "West With the Night" (1942): the first as she prepares to fly alone across the Atlantic:

'It is too much that with all those pedestrian centuries behind us we should, in a few decades, have learned to fly; it is too heady a thought, too proud a boast. Only the dirt on a mechanic's hands, the straining vise, the splintered bolt of steel underfoot on the hangar floor---only these and such anxiety as the face of Jock Cameron can hold for a pilot and his plane before flight, serve to remind us that we have not 'conquered' the air."
"Here is a sprig of heather," said Jock, and I took it and pinned it to a pocket of my flying jacket.'

And later, after she crash-lands, having crossed the Atlantic in her Gull aircraft:

"On the following morning I did step out of a plane at Floyd Bennett Field and there was a crowd of people still waiting there to greet me, but the plane I stepped from was not the Gull, and for days while I was in New York I kept thinking about that and wishing over and over again that it had been the Gull, until the wish lost its significance, and time moved on, overcoming many things it met on the way."

Below, the last minute of an approach and landing I made some weeks ago. Landing a paraglider is tense elegance; there is no engine, no second chance. You cannot power your way out of trouble. You must get it right the first time, every time.

Assistant Flight Instructor George McPherson talks to me on the radio.

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