A Pioneering Flight!


Johnny Miller died the other day. He was 102.

He was born just two years after the Wright Brothers flew their historic flight.

Miller had an extraordinary life in aviation. He learned to fly by teaching himself in a World War One Jenny and was proficient in Gyroplanes and many other aircraft culminating as a captain for Eastern Airlines flying jets.

Even though he reached the century mark two years ago, Johnny Miller stayed as active as he could. A couple of years ago, when I was interviewing him for a documentary called Gyroplane Refrain, I offered to help him bring his Bonanza out of the hanger, but he said, “No, I’ll do it” and then at nearly one hundred he flew it to two perfect touch and go’s.

I marveled then at his youthful spirit and I wonder what makes some of us old at fifty and some of us young beyond ninety.

Health, I’m sure, has a lot to do with it, and I suspect the inner attributes of a youthful demeanor: enthusiasm, attitude and the joy of adventure are part of it. And perhaps pride in still being able to make perfect landings.

It was Longfellow who once wrote:

“for age is an opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is fitted with stars, invisible by day”.

Reportedly Johnny Miller’s last words were: “I guess my flying days are over”. No, Johnny, I think they have just begun. Your spiritual flight has made the Eternal Light much brighter. Requiescat In Pace.

Listening


Some thoughts today on listening.

Listening is difficult for most people. We have somehow erroneously learned that the one who asserts, spouts or comments first is more likely to make a point, win an argument, or impress someone with alleged wit or wisdom.

Accurate and truthful communication requires clarity and simplicity and it requires listening. It means stopping to hear with a receptive mind and then processing what you heard. It’s an unfortunate condition that most people only hear what they want to hear because they don’t listen. How many of us, while looking like we are listening, are inwardly thinking of what we are going to say?

Competition in our culture puts a premium on self-expression. What we lack in knowledge, we sometimes make up for by talking fast, shouting or arguing.

Good listening is a virtue and a courtesy. It helps us to connect to the inner truth of a person. When that happens, serious conversations can go deeper. Arguments over meaningless accusations end and issues are more clearly understood and verbal conflict is reduced.

Maybe if we do it, it would spread to the television talk and interview shows. What a concept — LISTENING instead of interrupting!

A Solitary Hike

Some thoughts tonight on a solitary hike up a steep mountain trail. It wasn’t just hard walking, it was climbing and clinging and grabbing as I ascended a difficult nearly verticle path.

It was an intermittent misty and rainy day with a cool ambiance that more refreshed than chilled. Fog drifted up the climbing ledges in gossamer wafts of white and gray as the rain coated and washed the ascending trail into a slippery challange. Granite boulders, some the size of houses, festooned the path as I crawled, slid and climbed through rocky cuts, tiny cave like openings and up and down in crude rocky cuts and chimney climbs.

I loved the purity of the climb. The rain kept all other hikers, but one, from the slippery rocks and pine needle puddles and so it was just nature and me. Pristine and primal with occasional surprising vistas of the cliffs and lake below bursting through framed granite and conifer sculptures.

It was renewing and inspiring and an experience filled with fragrant ceremony for the eastern mountain laurel was in full bloom. Each pink and white blossom celebrated, not only with the mist of the day, but with seeming appreciation of just being the beauty it was.

I met a weasel who acknowledged my encroachment upon his home and path and a tiny wild finch who stayed much longer than expected singing on a branch not more than two feet away from my still and silent watch.

It was a glorious day.

When I got home and read the newspaper headlines I wondered, what are we doing to ourselves?

Floods


Some thoughts today on the week of middle America rain.
Flooding and destruction brings out numerous emotions in people.
There is understandable fear. Predictable panic. Tears. And the silent sorrow as the living wait for word of a missing loved one or for a body to mourn. People have died, some swept away by raging waters.
There are the questions of why and blame. Weeping with anger at God or circumstance, when the bottom of your heart and home is gone, is only a momentary relief.
Feeling compassion and comfort through the actions of others provides a greater comfort.
We watched the images of loss. We watched the rescues, the outstretched hands of help, and even hugs of understanding for those in shock and disbelief.
We saw horror and heroes.
We saw confusion and complaints.
But in this natural tragedy, we continue to see the greater gift of America. Visual and generous examples of community, cooperation and concern for others. What a gift.