I would like to share a private dream with you - as yet unfulfilled;
I've always wanted to fly. Preferably in a small plane, over Africa, Asia, anywhere that is rich with landscape, colour and wonder. To be a skilled aviatrix is something I don't see happening for a while, time being one reason. But sometimes the dream catches me softly and I allow myself to smile in its familiar hold.
I want to know what it is like to control and master a delicate and precarious engine. I want to know the feeling of human melding with wing and horizon until you are one motion. Most of all I seek the dream of soaring skillfully, as if I was born in the air.
May I present to you three aviatrix (except Amelia, I intend to write a post for her alone) who were not only capable of all of the above but were TRUE examples in their courage, dedication and quest for adventure. These are real pioneers. They had no publicists, pop songs or photoshopped spreads, they were only themselves. Lovely.
A brilliant and feisty girl from Texas, who after being denied flying lessons because of her colour, saved and travelled to France in 1921, where they allowed women and African-Americans to obtain the difficult international pilot's license. She was the first American woman to gain it. She returned to The States, aged twenty-nine, to much acclaim and continually worked hard to be a flyer, activist and lecturer across the country. The first African-American aviatrix proclaimed, "I refused to take no for an answer".
This was true for Elly Beinhorn-Rosemeyer (see last post). She started off as an only child with a thirst for life and a desire to break through the city walls surrounding her. Long distance-flying became her dream despite opposition. In 1931, aged twenty-three (two years after gaining her license) she flew solo from Europe to Africa, carrying a mosquito net and water. On her return to Germany, she pointed to an Atlas and said that she would like to try, "Somewhere on the right"; this was Elly. She then flew over Mt. Everest, Bali and Australia then returned to the African coast, the last time with her husband. She turned in her license aged seventy-two voluntarily, knowing she had tasted her dreams.
Imagine the early days of aviation. You are like Columbus in a small drag plane. All you have is a compass and basic instruments. In front is an open cockpit window and no roof. The wind rushes past your face, bellowing at you, as you lift and lift higher into the air. Surrounding you is the sky, intimate and vast.
Ascha Donnels, Californian aviatrix, remembered on her ninety-ninth birthday:
“I could imagine that I was sitting on the edge of a cloud, looking out over the whole world. In those days there was no smog, and you could smell the fragrances of oranges, whatever you were flying over, at all altitudes."
I wonder what it was like; below you have left not only reality as you know it, but the thoughts of the age. Very few people if any believe you should be up there. To them a woman in jodhpurs is hideous, let alone a woman in a plane. They cannot believe your choice and yet, some of them admire you for it. A lonely place is knowing you are doing the right thing although few understand.
But up in the air, the wind is knocking the truth back into you, "It doesn't matter" and it really doesn't. You are electrified and more free than most on this planet. You inhale adventure and light. The engine roars its encouragement, you go higher, "This is the world and I am its dove". Everything seems minute below, but you feel oddly protective of it, somehow more enchanted. It is true that distance makes the heart grow... not fonder, but aware of good.
I think that flight taps into our consciousness in a manner few things can match. On the one hand, it is spectacular to roam the planet as a winged being.
On the other hand, it serves as metaphor: Striving and reaching higher than you thought possible; facing oneself at a dizzy height; finally, mapping your journey and taking charge of destiny. Wherever it takes you, at least you follow a map and compass. So this is my dream to be one with the sky and use my compass wisely. I hope you have enjoyed your flight.