Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Gift of Flight

Sometimes, especially when I find myself ensnared in the metal trap of a traffic jam, one of hundreds just like me, each of us caged inside our respective vehicles - hands on wheels, eyes straight ahead - my mind tends to wander right out of my car and away to the wildest of places.  I often find myself playing the solitary game of “what if”.  No doubt, you are familiar with this game, perhaps even playing it yourself on especially boring occasions.  One plays the game simply by imagining scenarios that are wildly divergent from the usual routine of one’s life, mulling over the myriad of resulting possibilities that arise from questions such as.....“what if I won the lottery”... “what if I had been born on another continent”.. “what if my parents had been wildebeests”....  you know, that sort of thing.  

Trolling through the index of all the most entertaining “what ifs” the other afternoon as I sat on the highway going nowhere fast, I came to the inevitable “what if I could have a superpower, which one would I want? ”... one of my favourite what ifs from childhood.  Considering this proposal from the prospective of an adult instead of a child caused me to reject the answer I always gave as a little girl.  In those days,  I would have wished for the ability to fly, which of course, remains a tantalizing prospect to ponder.  However, now I realize all too well the sort of inconveniences the gift of flight would bring to the recipient.  I can just picture it... there I would be, happily swooping over the fields, diving with the seagull, racing the honeybee,  only to return home, land upon my rooftop,  and behold a crush of horrid reporters and film crews lined up in my street, anxious to record my latest excursion for the nightly news, or worse.  It is easy to imagine that one might eventually become a prisoner in one’s own home, unable to ever lift off for a spin over the treetops without a most unwelcome audience of shutter clicking note takers. That would be a serious downside to the owning the ability to fly and, for myself, one quite impossible to overcome.

Of course, these were problems I never considered as a little girl as I watched Mary Poppins drift through the foggy skies of London holding on to nothing more than her parrot head umbrella, touching down lightly at Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane with every hair in place.  Her entire descent seemed utterly plausible to me.  I looked on, transfixed, as Peter Pan sprinkled fairy dust over the Darling children, enabling them to easily follow him right out their bedroom window.... turning at the first star on the left, going straight on till morning.  
Seemed simple to me.

Being the child that I was, naturally the time came when I had to try this out for myself.  I can clearly remember the sunny afternoon when, as a six year old,  I stood with my dog atop a neighbour’s stone wall about fifteen feet above their back garden thinking.... I bet I can fly, too.  I just bet I can.  So strong was my conviction that of course, yes, I jumped, leaving my little terrier alone on the wall, no doubt wishing fervently that she possessed the gift of speech, for surely she would have attempted to talk me out of it.  But with the anticipation of sailing far up over the pine trees shining like fairy dust in my head, I jumped without giving the matter a second thought.

And it was as though Isaac Newton arm wrestled Tinkerbelle in that briefest fraction of a second that I hung with my hope in midair. And of course, Isaac won.  Most decidedly.  Gravity wasted no time in claiming me for its own and I crashed to the ground below, which would have been the end of the story had my left leg not landed on a nasty piece of rock, breaking in three places.  The poor leg was placed in a cast and I received quite a bit of attention, which was rather thrilling for awhile.  Everyone assumed of course that I had simply slipped and fallen - a typical childhood accident.  Only my dog and I knew the truth, and we weren’t talking.

I suppose this event should have doused me with doubt and convinced me that magic and dreams are just faint wisps of smoke to be blown out by the gales of reality.  But my failed attempt only showed me that I myself did not possess the particular gift of flight.  It never once made me doubt that Mary and Peter had it.  I simply turned my thoughts to all the other gifts that perhaps could be mine.
Like time travel, for instance. 
 Now there’s something I’d most definitely like to try.

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
C. S. Lewis