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Lost to the Clouds

  (I would rather have written that title, ďLost In the Clouds.Ē)

I woke up this morning from a dreamóthe same old dreamóabout being lost. Itís always different, of course: Iím lost in a city (always a different city, I think) or, like this morning, on a boat, and I cannot figure out how to get off. I wander from building to building, or room to room, and never seem any closer to . . . What? I donít know. Where I belong, I guess.

The dream is so common for me that Iíve tried to figure out what it means. I donít do that very much with my other dreams. I know that they are just the activity of my mind, busily trying to sort out the subtler aspects of my days. They donít have to mean anything; even though they arenít random. I just donít have time to put the puzzles together.

But the Lost dream keeps trying to get my attention, like our dog used to do when she wanted to go for a walk. Sooner or later Iíd have to drop what I was doing and tend to her needs. With my dream, I can forget it and go on with my life, even knowing that it will again appear. But then something reminds me.

This morning, I was looking for something to read. I have a stack of books and magazines that wait for me to read them, so I picked up a book from the top of the stack. It was an old one that someone had given me to get it off her hands: A Gift of Wings, by Richard Bach. Iíve read most of his books, but not that one. I like his passion for flying, his way of describing the feeling of flight. This is a collection of essays, mostly magazine articles he wrote many years ago.

You know the feeling of aha! that comes sometimes, answering a question you didnít know you had asked? Something inside you clicks.

Something inside me clicked, and I again felt the Lost dreamóthe lost dream. I vaguely remembered some details from the dream, the wandering from place to place looking for a way to get off the boat, but they werenít important. Maybe such details never are. Itís the feeling that matters.

In the first chapter of the book, Richard Bach is describing why some people love to fly. He begins with an incident he had talking with a salesman on an airline flight from San Francisco to Denver . He had asked the man how he had gotten into the work he was in, and the fellow responded by going all the way back to his time in the navy, and telling how alive he had felt then. And then he summed up the twenty-three years since then in about ten seconds, ďAnd Iíve been here ever since.Ē

Further on, Bach wrote about people who fly for fun, asking them about what they get out of it. And he observed, ďDo you notice that when these people talk about why they fly and the way they think about airplanes, not one of them mentions travel? Or saving time? Or what a great business tool this machine can be? . . . Ask what they remember of their life so far and not one of them will skip the last twenty-three years. Not one.Ē

At that point I had to put down the book and turn to the keyboard. What would I answer, if he asked me? What would I say about my life? Would I be able to sum up my last twenty years in ten seconds? Something in me drooped a little. I know that feeling that Richard Bach writes about. Maybe not as clearly as he seems to. There is something about being in the sky, feeling the motion of a small plane, being able to maneuver, to turn, to climb, to watch the ground pass slowly beneath youóor so it seems at that altitude, even as you watch the shadow of your craft speeding along the ground. The solitude of flight is a big part of it. Although you are in control, it feels as though the world is a slow-motion movie and you are but an observer. Thereís a disconnect of your life with your environment, like being intoxicated. Itís probably a matter of getting used to it. In the meantime, itís profound.

There have been several things that Iíve wanted passionately to do in my life. Flying is one of them. Playing music. Making films. Writing. At least Iíve been writing. Writing is a way of experiencing something without actually being there. Iíve written a little about flying, but itís clear to me that the writing about it is second best. Reading Richard Bach reminds me what Iím missing.

Why do I dream about being lost? My life is satisfying. I love and am loved. I feel appreciated by those who are important to me. I am rich, far beyond what I expected for this time of my life. I have purposeóor rather, I have purposes. No doubt if I had really wanted to fly airplanes, or make films, or play an instrument, I could have. Iíve never felt a desire for fame or great wealth.

Maybe weóor some of usóare born with a yearning. Not a yearning for anything in particular, but just the capacity for a particular kind of feeling. Someone recently has suggested that there is a gene for seeking God. Itís almost a universal thing in all cultures, a need to acknowledge a Higher Power. Maybe this yearning is like that, a kind of forever-unsatisfied desire that some of us manage to attach to something, and some of us are just left with the feeling. We spend our lives trying on things the way we try on a coat to see if it fits, and if nothing fits the feeling, we go back on the road.

Maybe thatís what happened to my father. I think he spent his life seeking something, and as far as I know he never found out what it was. I used to think that he waited all his life to be recognized. He used to make up stories about himself, spinning yarns that some people believed, and his being recognized always seemed to be a part of them. He even wrote a book once, about a doctor who led a group of people to some wild place where they built a community and a life of great value. I was a teenager at the time, and even I could tell that the story was just wishful thinking. The doctor in the story was him, of course. The book never found a publisher. My father was not one to persist in an enterprise.

On the other hand, maybe my Lost dream is just a response to changing situations. I just sent my latest book of essays off to a printer, and have just finished an edition of the newsletter that I write and publish for our co-op. Iím in between projects, more or less. Maybe itís nothing more than that. Iíll go back to my reading. I can fantasize with Richard Bach about flying in the clouds.

 

Donald Skiff, May 19, 2007

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