Thursday, September 21, 2017

To Everything There is a Season

After selling Annie in March, I became a bit of a vagabond for a couple months, while trying to finish up loose ends with my Private Pilot License.  In an effort to get things done fast, I pitched my tent at the Paul Bunyan Campground at the end of Runway 33 at Bangor International, where I could easily commute to my rental plane, and build the necessary time and experience to get 'er done.  It was an okay arrangement, until three days before my check-ride, when the starter on my new car died. With last minute studying and flying to do, and too far to walk to the General Aviation terminal, there was no time to
Paul Bunyan, the original Maine Man
arrange repair, so I did what was most logical for someone with my brain structure: I had my car towed to the airport parking lot. Sleeping in the car the night before the big day wasn't the most brilliant idea I've had recently, and I was worse for wear during the checkride and oral exam the following next morning.  But, all's well that ends well, and now I'm a Private Pilot.

Trail in Carrabassett Valley
No time to rest on my laurels, though.  With a plane to adventure and explore in, and so many new places to see in Maine, I've built more flying time in the last six weeks than I had in all the previous months combined since my first flight on January 10th, 2016. Flying up to the mountains for the first time is imprinted in my memory, and I keep going back, chasing that originally high.   Rangely, Twitchells, Eastport, Millinocket, Stonington, Islesboro...  I go in search of a challenge on most days, and if there's nothing particularly challenging on a given day (weather, wind, short runways with tall trees at the end, etc) then I at least pick a new place to fly to, or where I know I can enjoy a hike.  Sugarloaf is one of my top destination these days, with plenty of trails handy to the airport. The only down side is that it seems like such a waste to have an empty seat beside me. There must be someone out there to share this with.
August in Sugarloaf

April in Sint Maarten
So, these days I'm based in Bangor (though I've upgraded from the tent).  I'm building flight time when the weather allows, meeting a few interesting pilots from around the world in the lounge at the General Aviation terminal, studying for my Instrument Rating, and also (and this shouldn't come as a shock), sailing!

I've logged a few thousand miles at sea this spring and summer, from the Caribbean to Rhode Island, Bermuda to New York, Baltimore to Rhode Island, and various trips along the Maine coast to Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket. A good friend told me for many, many years that OPB's (Other People's Boats) were where it's at, and, I finally have to admit Wojtek, you were right.

Meanwhile in Bangor...

July in Bermuda
Being in Stephen King's neck of the woods, I felt like I was in a lost scene from Stand By Me a few Fridays ago when jogging past 5 young teenage boys making their way to a footbridge crossing the Kenduskeag River. They were on their way to go bridge jumping. How nice, I thought. Kids out being kids, and not sitting at home on Facebook, or otherwise glued to internet, television, Playstation, or sneaking their parents liquor.  The bridge is the rebuilt remnants of an old covered bridge, and the original, broad granite-block pedestals still stand in the middle of the river as support.  One of the boys grabbed a long stick from the forest, and once they got to the middle of the bridge, it was his turn to climb over the side onto the granite, and coax out all their 'river shoes' from their hiding spot.
May in Newport

More often than not as I walk the river, it is little more than a trickling brook, just enough water to keep the rocks wet.

The boys donned their shoes, and began climbing over the rail to take their positions.

"Are you sure it's deep enough right now?" I asked.

"Oh yes, we've measured it. At the deep spot, it's twelve feet deep right now. Don't worry, we're being careful. Come on, you should jump in with us! Before you're too old."
I laughed. "I'm already too old!"

"I wouldn't put you a day over 18", said the blond one.

How cute, I thought.

Kenduskeag River, Bangor
One turned to me and said, "You're not going to call the Police, are you?"

Again, I laughed, "No. Why would I do that?"

"Some girl last week thought it was illegal to jump from the bridge, so she called the cops on us. But, there are no signs that say that anywhere. The police showed up. The policeman said he was coming down to make sure we were having fun."

If you're not familiar with the Duck of Justice, the reputation of the Bangor Police Department, and the writings of Lieutenant Tim Cotton, it's about time you were. Start with this post about Flannel Shirts.

It's been a while since I've seen as a tight bunch of friends as they appeared to be.  They were all quite chatty and friendly, and wanted to talk about a myriad of heavy subjects, such as girls.  And drugs.  They said they know there are a lot of drugs around town.  A lot of heroin, one boy says. Drugs destroy families, he adds. So does alcohol, asserts another. 

"We don't do any of that stuff.  Pot is legal though. Well, once you turn twenty-one. I'm not sure if you're 21 yet or not..."

As old as I've been feeling lately, I'll gladly take the compliment. Even from an obliviously innocent 14-year-old.
~ ~ ~
Sometimes I wonder if it's more than just travel and adventure that I'm forever in search of, or if time-travel is also an element to what I seek. I recently sailed to Nantucket for the first time, and I was so excited to go. With all the whaling history, and Moby Dick lore, I knew there'd be so much to see and learn. Surprise, surprise: time kept ticking in Nantucket like everywhere else I've ever been, and it's not 1850 anymore. It was so obvious once I got there, that of course it was going to be like it was; rich tourists visiting for Labor Day, trying to fit a certain image,  rich younger guys in pink shorts and polo-shirts with stupid little seagulls all over them, and navy cardigans around their necks. All born with silver spoons up their butts, feeling entitled to say just about anything they wanted, to just about anyone. It was definitely an eye opener as to how some of the country's elite choose to live. I was quickly disgusted. Do be sure to visit the whaling museum if you find yourself there, though.  I only wished the museum gift shop sold a reproduction of a vintage 1981 bumper sticker they had in one of the displays: NANTUCKET USED TO BE NICE.

I just have to take a minute to look back to realize how much has changed since arriving in Maine.  It's been a series of unique opportunities, each experience meant to last for a little while, then to never be again. Arriving aboard Annie Laurie in Belfast in spring, to summer in North Haven working for Penobscot Island Air, fight training through winter, then finally earning my pilots license in spring.  This summer as a pilot and boat delivery crew will, inevitably, come to an end, and winter will bring something I can't even conceive of yet.
And after spending last winter in Maine, the only thing I know of my plans this winter is that I will not spend it here. Beyond that, I'm toying with a few ideas.  Trans-Atlantic in a crop duster, anyone?

August in Stonington
Recent days are sometimes long, and seem to just drag on, without having someone to talk through the daily trivial stuff that, in one sense, is quite mundane and on the surface meaningless, but in another way,  is what essentially defines our lives.  Reading my stories, you might think my days are chock full of excitement and adventure. And sure, it is there, but it's by far the bulk of my existence.  There is plenty of in-the-meantime, that will never reach this page, nor my Facebook wall.

Dolphins on Delicia's bow
There's a fair amount of self-imposed isolation, partially for the sake of ambition. Also though, the more time I spend alone, the harder it is to be social, and the easier it is to just remain in my cocoon to avoid the social awkwardness that sometimes adjoins getting reacquainted with regular, sociable life.  It's all a part of an unsettled feeling of never feeling complete, or feeling like I'm where I'm supposed to be (in either Place or Time), or like I've ever reached my goal and can enjoy where it is I've found myself. Why am I always left feeling like it isn't enough? All the while I wonder if the act of taking life so seriously is a habit that can be broken, because I'd be the last to argue with Oscar on his proclamation that life is far too important to be taken seriously.

September in Camden
It's easy to look back and second-guess our decisions when forks in the road were reached, but harder to look back and imagine what might have been, had we been more aware of ourselves, our surroundings, and our situation at a given moment in time. How might that have altered the decisions we would have made? In aviation, there's the term situational awareness; being familiar with and cognizant of all the factors that might pertain to the current situation. Losing track of how different factors are affecting a flight can result in an undesired outcome, in the worst case scenario, a crash. In life, it can be more difficult to determine how the outcome differs from what might have been, or, in fact, which result might have been more desirable.

The wonder of it all, Nantucket Whaling Museum
I guess we wouldn't be human if we didn't allow ourselves to ponder what might have been, had it not been for lack of situational awareness, or if other immutable circumstances had been different. How many ships in the night pass in the run of a lifetime, never seeing each other in the light of day?

I've learned to accept that there is no endless love, and that some moments are not meant to be anything more than a fleeting connection. Sometimes people don't end up playing the role we think they're meant to play in the story of our lives; sometimes we have to accept that they were only ever meant to be with us for a season.

Tomorrow, I'll welcome autumn with open arms.