February 11, 2005

channeling Langston and Lindy

"Dona nobis pacem" says the old song: Give us peace, give us peace, give us peace.

But peace is not a thing to be given.
Peace is taken. Peace is earned,
Peace is held and peace is painfully made.

Peace is forged in the fire of a fierce determination,
Folded layers of decisions hammered for strength
With will.

Peace is built stick by stick,
Peace is balanced, stone on stone,
Stone on unthrown stone.
Peace is fitted together, each part slotted in
Where a place is found.

Peace is not poured in a pure stream from above;
Peace is built up from the ground by those who need its shelter most,
Holding it up,
Shoring it up,
Improvising as they build,
And propping where it starts to sag.

Peace is not the gift of gods or governments.
Peace is earned at the price of sweat, steel will,
Skill, care, unconfidence
And need.

That felt good. It's been a long, long while since I was able to write any poetry except by forcing it, a method guaranteed to produce nothing but doggerel (though still useful for practice). The beginning of this one came to me, though, when I was listening, ecstatic, to news of the Israeli/Palestinian ceasefire, and then, deflated, to the Israeli comment that the ceasefire depended on the Palestinians to maintain it. (Translation: one rebel throws one stone, or one renegade plants one bomb, and thwe're sending the army back in. Given the difficulty of controlling a whole population, I hope I'm mistranslating here.) Maybe because he cared about peace too, but I felt like I was channelling Langston Hughes as this thing above spoke in my head, with its pounding carpenter rhythm. (Or maybe that was Jimmy Carter, but he's not dead yet.) Of course, the words and the finishing still had to come through me, so I'm not blaming any lack of quality in this on Hughes. But it surely did feel good to have it come to me.

I did end up flying yesterday - and I got actual! (That means flying in actual instrument conditions, with a clearance, talking to Center, and the whole bit.) The wind wasn't bad but there was rain and low clouds. Once we were off the ground and I saw how bad the visibility was, I started worrying I wouldn't be able to see the runway well enough to land - fortunately I could once we were down to 1000 feet height-above-ground or so, but we did quite a bit of flying in the clouds with NO visibility at all. My instructor didn't even have me put on a hood (really a visor, worn so you can't look out and can see only the instrument panel). It was some scary shit, especially on the way back when Phx Approach was supposed to be vectoring us and didn't say anything for a very very long time. That was because they didn't need to, since we were heading straight for our home airport on a VOR radial, but the thing is they didn't say anything to anyone else either, which means there's no way to tell that the radios haven't gone out. Which would suck fairly hard in those conditions.

So yeah, it was scary to the point of pounding head and dropping pit of stomach. Of course that's not entirely rational; I had a CFI with me and my instruments were working fine. But they can break, and I'm not comfortable yet with what to do if they did, and anyway, instrument flying is inherently not a safe thing to do. There are mountains out there, and my little Cessna doesn't have a collision warning system to detect them. (Ironic, since that's one thing my company makes.) I do have a GPS with them programmed in, but again, the pit of my stomach doesn't know from GPSes.

I kept telling myself it was good to be doing this now, while there's a CFI along and I'm training in familiar territory, than to encounter it for the first time alone in a strange area. Here, at worst, we could have gone down low and found our way home by following roads and landmarks. Rudder pointed out that also, this is a good time in my training to do this because now some of the other tactics I'll be learning will be extremely memorable. (What to do if the radios go out, for instance.) The pit of my stomach doesn't listen to him, either.

Good experience, though. (I tell myself again.) Next time it will be much less scary. And one good thing was proving again that I'm not ruled by the pit of my stomach, because I flew well, nailed the ILS approach at Casa Grande (best one I've done yet) and did two landings so good the instructor was impressed. There's nothing like a bit of motivation to do it right, I guess.

Posted by dichroic at February 11, 2005 12:19 PM

Congratulations on the successful flight. And I love that poem. Very, very true.

Posted by: Melissa at February 15, 2005 07:18 AM
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