November 01, 2022

We don’t walk far, but where we walk is pretty.


There I was, fog so thick I couldn’t see the instruments.  Only way I knew I was inverted was my flying metals were in my eyes.  But I knew I was really in trouble when the tower called me and told me to climb and maintain field elevation.



It’s 58℉ and raining.  All day.  It’s the kind of rain that drizzles, gets you wet, but doesn’t pound at you with watery buckshot as if Mother Nature was blasting tiny water balloons your way.  There is next to no wind and no lightning.  This is the kind of weather I used to like to fly in, during my flying days.  In pilot speak, it’s 2 miles visibility with a ceiling of 600 feet, which was the minimum that the company I used to rent Cessnas from would allow me to fly in.  The temperature is warm enough that the chance of picking up ice is negligible and the winds are light enough that there is no turbulence to worry about.  I would leave from one airport and fly to several others in the area to “shoot approaches.”  That is, come in to a runway as if I were going to land, then go around, without even a touch-and-go, and move on to another airport and another approach.

In order to be able to fly, legally, in instrument conditions (weather conditions that require the use of flight instruments), one has to maintain proficiency by flying a certain number of hours and approaches by reference to instruments only.  Usually this means simulating instrument conditions by wearing some kind of vision limiting device (a hood or special glasses) that allows the pilot to see only the instrument panel (an additional safety pilot is required who can maintain a lookout for other planes).  But when the weather is “bad,” you get to practice in the real thing, and Mother Nature usually has other interesting circumstances to throw your way that you have to deal with.  Anyway, this is done in the clouds and rain on instruments only – there is nothing to see out the windshield or windows except a dense white fog.

There is a real beauty to the experience.  It’s also very cerebral, and challenging, what with concentrating on dials, needles and GPS readouts, deciphering their meaning and manipulating the flight controls in an appropriate manner in response.  Then, in the last few minutes, the plane pops out under the clouds, you can see the Earth six hundred feet below, and, voila, as if by magic, right there in front of you, exactly where it’s supposed to be, is the runway stretching out in a long straight line, ready to accept you to her tarmac bosom.  At that point, you put the “balls to the wall” (a pilot’s way of saying “pedal to the metal”), climb back into the clouds and go to the next airport for another type of approach.

But that was then and this is now.  Now, I’m walking the apartment grounds with Waldo, in the rain, because my leg still hurts.  I’m afraid that if I walk further than about a half-mile, I will make it worse and have a setback in healing whatever is causing the pain.  So, no rail-trail – yet.  My leg hurts a little more when we’re done walking, but the worst part is lying down and trying to sleep.  There’s something about the position that makes my leg throb bad enough that I’m awakened from whatever sleep I can get, after only about two hours or so.  I am so ready to put all this behind me, to pop out from under the overcast caused by whatever it is that ails me.  When that happens, I’m going to look out at the rail-trail, stretching out invitingly in front of me, welcoming Waldo and I back to stroll in the woods, the moss, the ferns, the grasses and everything else that awaits us there.  And there is no way in hell I’m going to climb back into those clouds for another go ‘round.  I’ve had more than enough.

Waldo prances around, chasing sticks and stalking rabbits, tail wagging, obviously having a good time.  But he’s not getting enough exercise.  He needs to get out there and walk, for six miles, twelve miles, or even sixteen.  At least occasionally.  I can tell because he pulls more vigorously at the leash and is asking to go out every two hours or so.  I do what I can to satisfy his need to burn off border collie energy, but it’s not enough.  He, too, is ready to return to our former lifestyle.  Sigh.  “Waldo,” I tell him, “no storm lasts forever.  We’ll be back to our old haunts soon.  Be patient.”  And he seems to be.

More patient that I am, maybe.


We even have a sassafras tree out back.

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