Now Is the Time to Take Flight
First published in Moondance, March, 2009 – June, 2009
Lately it seems as if a chaos-making sludge has seeped into the inner mechanics of the world. Each morning when I wake up, one more thing I took for granted is gone or changed. A job and funds saved for my family’s future have vanished. Predictable, safe weather patterns have turned to floods, avalanches, and tornadoes. The loyalty and affection of longtime close friends have dissipated as turmoil brought fundamental disagreements to the surface. Some days it seems as if my footholds are washing away in a muddy landslide of uncertainty.
My first instinct is to burrow deeper into the soil of everyday life, to busy myself with details of what absolutely must be done each day. I focus my attention on the ground to find nurture and comfort from Mother Earth. I grasp at seeds of what I know I can accomplish and plant them in hopes of re-growing some kind of stability-like cleaning out a closet or preparing for a visit from my sister who I know will always be true.
And why not? Like everyone else, I think of myself as a creature of the Earth, like the beavers or squirrels or trees. My feet walk on her paths and my mouth eats her fruit. I took my first steps on the ground, and I will be buried in the soil when I die.
Still, the very tumult that sent me deeper into daily life now shakes me out of my Earth-bound self-image. Earth may be my home, but when my eyes rise to the heavens, I wonder if this, perhaps, could be the time to fly?
In my mind, I go to my outside garden, to the place where I feel closest to that which is eternal. Then I imagine myself slowly rising into the air. Soon I envision my house, my neighborhood, and my town. I go higher and pick up speed until mountains, oceans, and tidy squares of farmland appear below me. I soar over cities of people making art, villages building clean water wells, and families walking together, hand in hand. I breathe easy again.
My imaginary flight has left me feeling renewed. But why?
My mother, who became a pilot in her forties, spent her middle and later years zipping around the clouds in her little plane whenever she had the time. Flying was her way to cope with a childhood of poverty and years as a Navy nurse during wartime. In her airplane, she could forget the upheavals she had witnessed and just be herself as her Creator had made her. When she looked down, the Earth became a place of peace without human-made suffering and conflict.
As Earth-bound as women may see themselves today, they have always flown. Some of the oldest paintings from Neolithic times depict women emerging from walls with wings. While no one can know what was in the minds of these cave painters, it could be that the women were emissaries sent to the world of spirits during times of distress to beg or bargain for a good hunt or harvest, or a mild winter, or an end to epidemics.
Closer to our own time, ancient Europe is full of statues of goddesses who are part woman and part bird. Goddesses from all over the world and from many eras are associated with the sky, the sun, the moon, and the stars. And who can deny the mystique of the greatest woman pilot of all time, Amelia Earhart? Flying is not something unusual for women to do; we have stretched our wings almost since time began.
I understand why winged women are needed now just as much as in Neolithic and ancient times, maybe more. When I fly, I see the bigger landscape beyond whatever is troubling me. An aviatrix knows the beauty and abundance of all the earth as well as the galaxies above her, too. When I am part of the sky and the constellations, I feel time moving slowly across eons instead of slipping away too quickly. I understand that I am not one person trying to cope, but am part of one generation among many that has overcome other challenges just as great. I see that the world, as bad as it may seem at times, has made immense progress toward peace, justice, and respect for all beings.
While finding my place in the sky, I also gain my rightful niche on Earth. I see that I am part of the great cosmic adventure unfolding on the ground. My dedication to the continuation of life on Earth is strengthened because I have had a hand in creating and nurturing it. I know that I must turn inspiration into action. I am able not only to take in the totality of life on Earth, but also to help life move ahead by walking into my house and making dinner without worrying so much about the future.
Women who can be both intimate and visionary are the true “wise women” of our time. They are the corporate executives who not only provide for the material needs of their employees and customers, but also understand that their business affects those who supply the raw materials or stitch the seams. They are the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and teachers who show children how to look beyond and rewrite society’s outdated and unjust rules. They are the stateswomen and public servants who demand compassion and justice in our local and national policies. As our world tumbles toward change for worse or better, could it be time for more of us to take flight?