“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
When I was in Vegas last month I saw a Cirque de Soleil show and watched as acrobats soared through the air over my head on trapezes.I was transfixed by the weightless moments between the performer letting go of the swing and being grabbed out of the air by strong hands. I could imagine all too well that heady feeling of being suspended between the solid ground and the endless sky above. If you hit the ground, you could die. If you could fly up into space, you would be lost forever.
Leaving the show venue, I turned to my sister and said that I wished I could be an acrobat and fly through the air with the greatest of ease though I admitted I was too old to run off and join the circus. I felt an uncanny familiarity with the sensation of flight and wasn't quite sure why it seemed like something I used to do.
A couple of days later, I remembered that my sisters and I used to play a game of our own invention we called statue. I would place my hands in theirs and they would start turning in circles, faster and faster, swinging me around until my feet left the ground and the world faded into a dizzy blur. It's impossible to hold your breath and scream at the same time, so all I could manage was a high pitched squeal. Then when they could turn no faster and spin me no higher, they would just...let go! For a moment, I was flying, weightless between the hard, unforgiving ground and the nothingness of space. It was exhilarating until I hit the ground and all of the air left my lungs. I was supposed to stay in whatever position I landed like a statue, and my form would then be judged and given a score. Upon reflection, obviously this game was just another poorly veiled attempt for my sisters to rid themselves of me.
At that age, I had such an urge to fly like a bird above it all. Since I lacked wings or anything else that would enable flight, I let my sisters spin me through the air risking great bodily injury. And I climbed. I scaled the tallest tree in the yard to the very top where the branches swayed in the breeze and were nearly too thin to handle my weight. From that high vantage point, I looked down upon my neighborhood. Everything appeared so much smaller and insignificant. I could see how it was all connected. This is how it all would look to a bird in flight, I thought.
Then when I was grown and had left childhood games behind, I took my kids to the climbing boulder in the nearby park, so they could see what it felt like to climb high above it all and look down upon the world too. There we met a rare and unique individual by the name of Dimitri. I can only imagine that he escaped from the circus. He scrambled up the boulder with ease and leaped from the top, somersaulting through the air before landing on his feet. He carried a sketchbook filled with charcoal sketches - smudgy scenes of distant cityscapes which were stunning in their originality. I thought, this is what it is to be a true artist - this ability to leap into the air fearlessly without a net. To draw with abandon, without thought of the outcome.
On my plane ride home from Vegas, the Fasten Seat Belts light came on and we were warned by the pilot that we were in for turbulence. Moments later the plane suddenly dropped and we were all momentarily suspended in air, prevented from hitting the ceiling by our tightly fastened seatbelt while cups of water hit the ceiling and rained down on us.
It is frightening to fly without knowing where you will land or having a safety net. I often think this is the problem with much of my art. I cannot waste time on work that will not sell. I support myself with my art and for that reason it is safe and careful for the most part. I am like a balloon tethered to the ground, so it will not soar up into space. To safely fly, you need hands available to catch you if you start to fall, or a seatbelt to hold you if you should fly too high. If you have these things, thank your lucky stars. If you don't, be careful.
When I returned home safely from Vegas, I took a walk in the park, that same park where the kids climbed and Dimitri flipped through the air, and I saw the swings. Moments later, I was soaring through the air. At the top of my arc, I was weightless for a moment and felt incredibly free. I do remember how to fly.