Prepare to Die

Without fail, a week before I am scheduled to take a flight, an inner voice matter of factly informs me that I am likely to perish on the upcoming flight.  That grim warning sets in motion an irrational and neurotic search to convince myself otherwise.

My fears center  mostly about the weather and what turbulence I can expect to encounter on the flight.  I begin to look at long-term forecasts for my place of departure as well as arrival. En route forecasts are hit or miss since the flight plan is not set in stone. There’s a very good chance that if the arrival/departure cities are “in for it” I’ll find a reason, not necessarily disclosed to anyone, to postpone or delay my flight.

Tornado/thunderstorm activity is to be avoided at all costs, so this means if it’s during the spring/summer season of thunderstorms, I make certain that landing doesn’t occur in late afternoon, a more frequent period of storm activity.

I have literally flown dozens of times.  For a while in my youth, I gave up flying after a grueling flight and traveled only by train for a few ridiculous years. This being America, it was not a sustainable solution. I’m better than I used to be, but it’s still not a piece of cake. It’s an endurance test. I congratulate  myself in showing courage and at least haven’t taken a vow never to fly again like some scaredy cats do.  It’s a necessary means to an end and I’ve determined I must endure it if I want to travel.  My mind has trouble concentrating on two issues at once, so playing music I like can help some to distract, but truly not enough.  Kind of like the Lamaze method for breathing during childbirth.  Better than nothing, right?

If the flight is smooth, no problem. I even fall asleep. However, when the seat belt sign is illuminated, I am on guard.  I check outside the window to see what’s going on.  If it looks stormy, I’ll pull the shade down, tighten my seat belt, pop a tranquilizer and mutter things to myself like “This too shall pass.” If the flight attendants are asked to be seated, that’s an indication that we’re not in a game for sissies.  Time to check out the facial expressions of the attendants and hope to receive some consolation from the fact that they are not showing an ounce of fear. I think those facial muscles must have been cut when they sign up for the job.

I have been known to refuse to board a plane if it looks like it’s going to take off headlong into a storm. By all rights, I’m sure the airport should be closed.  My husband has departed without me, unable to contain his disgust with my cowardliness.  All he’ll say to me is, “The pilot doesn’t want to die.”  My reply?  “How do you know?”

I rationally understand that turbulence isn’t dangerous as long as my seatbelt is tight across my lap.   On an instinctual level, in extreme turbulence, I KNOW a plane could easily fall apart. Just like breaking a neck if you’re jerked around too much.

I compulsively count to 5 right after liftoff because a friend of mine who’s a pilot told me that period of seconds is really the only period of danger during a flight. That’s easy enough as long as the plane lifts off relatively soon after barreling down the runway.  If the prelude to the liftoff seems to be taking too long, that could in my mind. be a sign of trouble. So far, the planes I’m riding in have always lifted off.

I’ve tried drinking alcohol which helps a bit, but not for long if the adrenalin is coursing through me.  If it’s pretty rough during the flight, I’ll sneakily take a Xanax, not telling anyone I’m traveling with, because I know they think I just get dopey, which is undoubtedly true, but better that than to be trembling in fear as far as I’m concerned.

I came of age singing Come Fly with Me” and Starliner.  I can easily get into that mode if “weather wise it’s such a lovely day.”  What’s more thrilling?

I know most people do not consider flying their favorite activity. I think we all have our own reasons.  Let’s face it, if God really meant for us to fly, we’d all have wings.

New Ways to have Enough fun on Vacation while approaching 80

I’ve learned to redefine what it takes to enjoy a vacation. Enjoyment and enough being the key word here.  Non stop activity has largely vanished as something to be desired or enjoyed while vacationing.  It’s been replaced  by a more laissez faire point of view.  

In the mornings, no longer do I have to hit the streets running which is good because that would literally be an impossibility with asthma and hip bursitis.   It’s rather delicious to linger in the morning for much too  long  over my cup-o’tea.  I can  leisurely check my email, stare at the beautiful color of apple green that I painted on an outside wall, and idly wonder what happened to the butterflies that were supposed to be inhabiting the butterfly garden in front of my house.  They were here en masse the last time we visited.  At some point, it will feel right to take a shower and consider making  the bed while deciding which colorful t-shirt to wear to complement this bright and  sunny day. Continue reading “New Ways to have Enough fun on Vacation while approaching 80”

Key WEST Many Years Later

What is it that attracts us to a place?  Does it remain the same through life?

Last year, after a long hiatus, my husband and I decided to vacation in Key West.  We used to come here for a yearly getaway while living in college and then when newly married. In the 1950’s it seemed more remote than it does today, traffic and development have increased with few benefits that I can see.  It could be easy to fall into the “you should have seen it 50 years ago syndrome,” but my memory is not keen enough to have a clear image of what it all used to look like.  All that I really recalled clearly was the lure of the oceans surrounding the keys.  Depending on where you live and your life experiences, Key West probably means different things to you than it does to me.

If from the West Coast, probably nothing.

If from the East or Mid-West:

T shirt shoppes, bad art galleries and thousands of cruise passengers looking for Paradise on Duval Street?

If of a certain age:

Lily Pulitzer? Sloppy Joes?

yummy Lily fabric designs

Ernest Hemingway/Tennessee Williams/literary history (It’s almost an obsession here.  Stay away from his house if you’re allergic to cats.)

If still in college:

Drunken revelers?

To everyone:

Gorgeous sunsets? water, water? blue, aquamarine, turquoise.  JImmy Buffett

 

Key lime pie? Stone crabs?

Kermits key lime pie, do partake!

cigars?sponges? wreckers?

overseas railroad?

roosters?  Roosters and chickens can appear anywhere at any time.  It adds to the Bahamian feel of the place.  Sometimes they frighten me if they all of a sudden crow loudly when I don’t see them in nearby bushes. I imagine them snickering at me from their hiding spots when they see me jump in fear.

I had a few hazy memories of Key West in the early ’60’s, nothing that matches  the current reality. No matter.  Many of the things I’m drawn to are intact.  This trip, I was blown away by the numbers of historic buildings here.  Stuff rarely got torn town so that most everything that survived the fire of the late 1880’s is still remaining. Thanks to the lgbt community, the once dilapidated remains have largely been restored and probably never looked better. Key West now has the largest number of wooden historic houses of any town or city in the USA.

Continue reading “Key WEST Many Years Later”

Between Heaven and Earth

After recovering from three somewhat harrowing days driving a rental car on the road in Japan, we learned , despite the high points of the trip, not to do it again.  I also relearned that there is a very small margin of error between life and death on a snake like one lane curving  road where a head -on collision could catapult you from one world to the next and was possible at any time.

At Koyasan, while walking through the cryptomeria pathway lined with tombs of the dead, I learned again to value the time I have left, before I rest for eternity with the millions who have passed before us.

 

 

 

 

On the far too narrow one lane road leading us out of Koyasan, I learned that beauty can exist in unlikely circumstances. The road really should have been just a pathway along the small river, but it actually was chosen by Google maps as our way to get down the steep mountain.  It even had a route #!

Despite the knowledge that each curve or one wrong turn of the wheel could presage our final moments, I could not get over the thrill of being in this beautiful area.  The intense beauty overcame my fear. The foliage lining the river’s path was at its peak of fall color.  The river itself, about 25 feet beneath the road, was populated by beautiful boulders and rocks, the river, crystal clear, running a path between them. It invited me to linger, but my husband had a sense of urgency to get us to a wider and undoubtedly safer road. Some bikers rushed past us, but other than that, we’d meet one or two other motorists about every 20minutes, which is to say, we were mostly alone in this splendid landscape on this treacherous road.

the river below.

 

Then, suddenly this journey into an alternate universe was over.  We welcomed the first houses that appeared and celebrated escaping alive.  Maybe I’m being overly melodramatic, but I don’t think so!  Soon, the junk big box architecture that is too prevalent outside of most cities took over our visual field.  We’ve lost so much of the natural world.

The sacred place of Koyasan was meant to celebrate nature, as is Shintoism. I am grateful we got to participate in the celebration, somber as it could be at times.

Life is precarious and glorious.