Flight Lesson – 24

imageTwelve months gathered around the Thanksgiving table, each one was asked to say why they were grateful and what they brought to share.  Sitting by their friends, in cliques of seasons, winter began. December fell frozen in thought, “I am grateful to have been a Lifeguard Pilot. I share all the lives I saved.”  I raced through eight-day weeks and twenty-five hour nights, declaring priority with people coding in my hull, to bring broken bodies back to safety.  January rang in resolutely, “I am grateful to have been a Co-pilot.  I share all the assistance I gave.”  Your right seat companion, your second set of eyes, I thought thoughts before you said them.  Privileged to be your partner in flight.  February smiled seductively and blew a kiss across the table, tracing a heart in its breath.  “I am grateful I have been a passenger.  I share all the admiration I gave.”  A sleepy head on your shoulder, I looked up at you starry-eyed.  I couldn’t imagine the courage it took to be a pilot.  You made me feel so safe I lost all fear of flying, flying with you.

Spring broke in, shifting seats and changing positions.  March roared, “I am grateful I have been an explorer.  I share all the freedom I gave.”  I traveled the world as an endurance flier, a barnstormer, a bush pilot, a record setter.  I sought for the sake of seeking.  Broke rules, raced space and time, risked my life in search of something I knew was there but had yet to find.  April stood and danced around the table.  “I am grateful I have been a tailwheel pilot. I share all the grace I gave.”  Gliding across grass, I waltzed with the wind.  Cashmere coated currents and chiffon covered wings swayed in sync to Nature’s lead.  I learned how to enchant the aircraft with the dance of my feet.  May leaned in and wagged a finger at March and April. “If you ever filed a flight plan, or followed the airways, it would be easier for me to watch out for you.”   Relaxing back into its seat May said seriously, “I am grateful I have been an instrument pilot. I share all the patience I gave.”  The tortoise to your wild hare, as constant as time, I scanned things seen and unseen clockwise.  Half wizard – half tactician, I put chaos in its place.  Prioritizing speed, sink, and distance, I forecasted the future of each flight by calculating the trends of the instruments.

Summer warmed the conversation and June bubbled up out of the blue.  “I am grateful I have been a seaplane pilot.  I share the harmony I gave.”  A union of air and water, visible and invisible currents combined as one come alive.  The lapping of water on the fuselage, the reel of step taxi turns, the rush of waves colliding with amphibious wings.  You completely swept me off my wheels.  July sat on the fence deliberating, lost in the middle of the year.  “I am grateful I have been an ATP.  I share all the knowledge I gave and had yet to learn.”   At the pinnacle of my profession I was humbled by the challenges I faced.  Sworn to protect my passengers, I picked my path through the storms. Trusting I would find the wisdom and perseverance to bring us all safely home.  August whispered sweetly in July’s ear, “I am grateful for you. I am just a student pilot and need you to guide me. I share all the humility I gave.”   I tried and failed.  Sent a thousand wrong transmissions.  Crash landed, face-planted on the runway, and got up and tried again and again. With each failure I sought your approval. I wanted to grow up and be like you.

It fell on fall to speak last.  The most brilliant of all seasons, September wanted to impress and jumped up on its chair.  “I am grateful to have had a first flight.  I share all the wonder I found there.”   Every inch of me tingled, jingled, glittered, quivered, imploded then exploded on my first flight.  I couldn’t believe my senses could feel so alive.  You changed my life.   October rose and stood shoulder to shoulder with September.  “I am grateful to have been a Pilot.  I share all the pride I hold inside.”   A feat so great, once earned it cannot be taken away. The FAA can take your medical, your certificate, even your right to fly.  Once a Pilot, you are a Pilot for the rest of your life.  November asked the seasons to stand in solidarity together. “I am grateful I have been a Flight Instructor.”  You started with me and you end with me.  You doubted everything I said from the first day we spoke. I knew someday you would see what I saw in you.  Even if you didn’t choose me as your CFI, I believed in you. “I brought all the inspiration I gave to share.”  A Thanksgiving toast to us!  Here’s to the hearts and minds we won, the hopes we signed off on, and the certificate’s we risked to make dreams come true.  It is better to give things others will be thankful for, than just to be thankful for what has been given to you.”

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