Friday, March 04, 2005

I'll Fly Away

Psalm 55:1-6 (King James Version)

Psalm 55

“1Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
2Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
3Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
4My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
5Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
6And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.”

It was one short drive for Phil and Nancy; one long flight for Steve Fossett.

Like millions of others around the world Nancy and I have followed the flight of the Global Flyer with great interest. Yesterday morning, after hearing that favorable tail winds had breathed new life into Fossett’s heroic effort, we decided that a day trip to Salina Municipal Airport was in order. So we packed our cameras and binoculars and set out.

It was a beautiful day and the drive through the Kansas Flint Hills was grand. We left home at about 8:20, stopped on the west side of town to get Nancy a grande’ latte at Starbucks at about 8:30, then began our journey in earnest. We passed by McPherson at about 9:10, Lindsborg at about 9:40. By ten we were in Salina; by ten-thirty we had taken our places with thousands of others who had descended on this small city of 46,000 situated on the rim of the Kansas Flint Hills.

All that was left for us to do is to occupy ourselves for the next three hours.

It didn’t take long until I stumbled upon some interesting grist for my blog mill. A young man wearing army fatigues told us that a group of celebrities had already arrived. “Ahnold’s here,” he said breathlessly. “And so is Paris Hilton.” It was clear from his tone that he was certain that this historic event would never be complete without the proper "celebs" in attendance. As an interesting aside, I read the “governator,” whose popularity seems to be slipping, was politicking in California yessterday. As to Paris’s whereabouts I can only say I don’t know, but feel confident enough to say that she was nowhere near Salina, Kansas.

At about 11:30 a tall man, goateed, arrived with his wife and little girl. He was, like many in the crowd, sporting a short-wave radio. He began making pronouncements almost immediately. “He’s over New Mexico right now, then he’s going to fly north past Denver and come in. He’ll make a turn somewhere in Kansas and land south to north. I calculated it all last night and figure he’ll be in about noon.”

Well, there’s a difference between looking or acting like an expert and actually being one. Like the young man who had told us of the celebrities in attendance, the fella’ toting the short-wave radio was wrong on all counts. Fossett wasn’t in New Mexico when he thought he was, he didn’t fly over Denver, nor did he arrive at noon, and didn't land south to north.

But our expert’s banter kept everyone amused for a while and I guess that was the important thing.

At about 11:30 an elderly gentleman and his wife found a spot next to us. Like our earlier expert he was carrying a short wave radio. Unlike the man who had amused us so much earlier with his lack of knowledge, though, this guy really knew what he was talking about. I could tell by the way he’d answer questions I and others had. For instance, when I asked him what time he thought Fossett would land he replied, “I dunno’ really, I’ll tune in to the tower’s frequency and see what they’re saying.” That, I submit to you dear reader, was as close to pure science as I heard all day.

At about twelve-thirty we heard from one of the local media outlets that Global Flyer was going to land at 1:03. That report proved, like our first expert’s, to be about 44 minutes too optimistic.

At 1:20 the airport made an announcement that, because of a wind change, the landing was going to be from the south. I looked back at the man with the goatee and saw that knowing look on his long face. He’d been redeemed, at least in part.

Nancy had been done some walking around and said that we might still be able to get a look at the landing if we moved further down to the north. It would be a long way off, but we could, from there, be able to see the south end of the runway. At about 1:40, as we were making our way north, the airport made another announcement. The wind had re-shifted and the landing was now going to be on the north end of the runway. I wondered as we found a place to settle in, how our resident expert must be now feeling about his sudden change in fortune.

At 1:42 I began to look through my binoculars in earnest. At 1:43 Nancy spotted the intrepid traveler. A few seconds after that I found him as well. Silhouetted against the blue sky, the Global Flyer had the appearance of a small, thin white wisp, more like a cloud descending to earth than a man-made vehicle. As the plane got lower its wings rocked back and forth gently. Then, as he touched down, a cheer rose from the crowd, acknowledging this great adventurer’s skill and courage.

That was it, the end of one journey. All that was left for Nancy and me was to get out of the parking lot, get some lunch, and head home to complete our historic day trip.

On the way home I marveled at how small the Global Flyer actually was. The great voyage, which seemed so much larger than life, had been made in a very small plane. Having seen it, dear reader, I can assure you that Global Flyer is no Star Ship Enterprise. As I related these thoughts to Nancy she told me something about the great ship I didn’t know. “It was glued together…..There are no bolts on the thing.” The revelation stunned me. “No bolts?” I asked in amazement. “Nothing but glue holding it together!” My mind’s eye wandered back to those days when I was a boy putting balsa wood airplanes together. All that held them together was glue and a thin paper shell, and all that it took to make them fly was a plastic propeller and a rubber band wound to the breaking point. I remember building them and flying them. Their maiden voyages were almost always their last. And here in the new millennium, I mused, a small team had basically glued a plane together and flown it around the world. Amazing!

Well it’s now Friday and my mind is back on earth. I’m looking at yesterday in a more earthly light and, incredibly, it makes the flight of the Global Flyer seem all the more amazing. All it took was some glue, a small plane, some human ingenuity, and a pudgy guy around sixty years old to make this historic journey.

Aviation history was made yesterday in idyllic Kansas by a non-descript man a few years younger than me. Steve Fossett, aviator extraordinaire, a slightly overweight, balding man about my age, did the stuff that heroes are made of. It all seems to fit together so perfectly. The good things, the heroic things, reside here in the tranquility and beauty of the Kansas Flint Hills I’ve grown to love so much. The bad things, the unspeakable things, reside elsewhere.

But Thursday’s altruism is now Friday’s reality. Not far from Salina, about two hours or so south, another pudgy faced, non-descript man, a dog catcher, aged fifty nine, has also been making history, doing the unthinkable, the unfathomable. Dennis Rader, Wichita’s infamous BTK killer has been captured, thanks in part to evidence, ironic evidence, that led investigators to the belly of this beast. The imprint of a floppy disk he’d sent to a local television station with information to taunt his pursuers matched the imprint of a floppy disk he had used at Christ Lutheran Church to make copies of a church council agenda His long reign of terror is apparently over.

It’s an interesting morning here in Emporia, Kansas. The morning fog is hiding the sun, the clouds, the beauty of the day that is trying to burst forth. As I sit here and contemplate the ironies I’m also sensing that the fog even seems to have placed a shroud on the heavens themselves. I think of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step,” drawing the parallels to a heroic traveler and a depraved murderer. All it took for Steve Fossett was one small step toward the heavens to begin his historic journey. All it took for Dennis Rader was one small step for him to plunge headlong into the darkness.

I guess that it’s healthy to have grand illusions shattered, isn’t it? Right now, sitting here in the shadow of the morning fog, I’m struck by so many ironies. The same media that could be used to tell us that “Luckies Taste Better” when I was young could also be used to tell us that God loves us and that “life is worth living.” About a hundred miles north of me one man returned from a great journey into the heavens. About a hundred miles south of me another man, who had descended to the very depths of depravity, has ended his long dark journey to the bowels of hell in an orange jumpsuit and shackles.

It’s now mid morning. The fog has lifted and the sun has come out. But the ironies and complexities of life aren’t far away. My mind drifts back to yesterday and I, like yesterday’s hero, feel a great need to fly to the heavens, to a time and place when the ironies will end, when things will be pure and right and just and crystal clear. Yes, the fog of life will one day lift and the Son will be revealed in all His fullness to me. In the same way one small step has propelled one man like Steve Fossett to do heroic things and another to do evil; one small step will one day transport me from life’s uncertainties to heaven’s solid shore.

Like Steve Fossett, I too am on a great journey, learning to fly. And here in not so idyllic Kansas I feel a great need to fly higher. My journey’s not complete, but it will be one day. I must continue flying toward that celestial shore. I must fly above the fog that shrouds the reality of my goal. There, above the clouds of today’s uncertainties, is my goal. I must press on. I must press on. As I do I can hear the strains of a fellow traveler calling me to continue on the upward way:

“Some bright morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly a way,
To a land on God's celestial shore, I'll fly a way.”

Chorus: I'll fly away, oh Lordy, I'll fly a way,
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly a way.

“When the shadows of this life have grown, I'll fly away,
Like a bird from prison bars have flown, I'll fly away”

Chorus: I'll fly away, oh Lordy, I'll fly a way,
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly a way.

“Just a few more weary days and then, I'll fly away,
To a land where Joys will never end, I'll fly away.”

Chorus: I'll fly away, oh Lordy, I'll fly a way,
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly a way.”

My prayer on this Friday, which seems filled for me with ironies, is that you too, dear reader, will press on and fly above life’s uncertainties that may today be shrouding your life.


Dr Mac said...

Jolly Good! Dear Brother.. Jolly Good, Ole Chap! A 'well-done' bit of verbage... Keep at it.

Dr Mac said...

Jolly Good! Dear Brother.. Jolly Good, Ole Chap! A 'well-done' bit of verbage... Keep at it.