On the road or with a long weekend, I usually stop in a bookstore if there is one around. So many books - things that have been part of my life since early childhood. I was lucky to have two parents who exposed us to books and music and the outdoors. Learning and discovery were elemental to them and reading and words became a quiet necessity of my life. Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, A Child's Garden of Verse, and my all time favorite, Grimm's Fairy Tales.
Books were my portal to comfort, during those inevitable awkward moments of growing up, a way of immersing myself in the world of an author. As a child, books helped me grow, stretching my mind even further. And through books and written words came friendships. I'd talk about what I read with my classmates, telling snippets of stories and passing around dog eared copies of Asimov and Heinlein and Niven and Herbert. We'd gather over our lunches, laughing about a recent share, Philip Dicks -Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. We'd sit until a teacher made us go back to class, voices raised in excitement for the vast reaches out there, limitless possibilities that, on the cusp of adulthood, we believe existed.
With that, the world opened up to me. I started recording it, in small notebooks of paper, ink drawings, loose photos, added onto their pages, a scrapbook of my life, recorded for eternity with nothing more than an old Mont Blanc pen and a camera.
I remember my first visit as an author to a large Chicago book club where I was asked to join as a guest speaker. I walked in to a room of ladies and gentlemen that acted like I was a celebrity apparently, their library had all of my books. I felt like a kid playing grown up. I'm not famous, I'm just someone that loves words.
Words dazzle and deceive because they are mimed by the face. But black words on a white page are the soul laid bare.— Guy de Maupassant
"Soul laid bare." The sense of vulnerability in those three words is beyond reach. For me writing isn’t just about telling a story, it’s sharing tales of the possibilities of life, my soul laid out for many of you to read. Opening up something within me that made some of you take your own pen and craft your own story. I believe in the magic hidden in people and things, and these notebooks, these words bring them out into the light.
But writing, as in reading, for me is not just intellectual but embracive. I love the way the spine of a book or notebook feels in the crook of my fingers. A book is an aesthetic charm of endless possibilities. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as my fingers gently turns it. Between 1850 and the late 1980s, books were printed on acidic paper. Conservators can't keep up with the costly restoration. Soon, millions of books in thousands of libraries the world over will be lost as their pages disintegrate into dust. Already I mourn for the loss of something that we have no control over, that of the written word.
I love blank notebooks. To me, it's hard to think of anything that represents the clean slate of opportunities more than a pristine, empty notebook. Smythson’s of Bond Street has bound ones with thin, blue, delicate paper that looks like the air mail paper my parents wrote to one another on during the War. The paper is so thin, the ink bleeds through, yet with the ink comes pleasure. The smell of the ink as well as the as the scent of paper itself, is need as defined as the capturing of a personal experience. These are experiences in danger of being lost in an errant click of a mouse. In today's evolution of the tools of our expression, we've lost the very things we can hold on to. Things that can still gather dust and be passed on, to a child, to a lover, to history. So I particularly like the Smythson's ones, the way my handwriting looks on the thin paper, words scrolled from a fountain pen, dense with weight, meaning something, to me anyway, even if two hundred years from now, the paper, and the one I wrote the words for, are only dust and starlight.
I don't read a lot of "popular" fiction. I tend to read a lot of non fiction, of history. I like reading about long ago. I know more about my own life when I know more about the past. It's a sense of perspective; of days full of people that killed, tortured, struggled and suffered, agonizing for things that were of the utmost importance to them; working and living for reasons that may be well the same as ours. Now they've been gone some 500 years and all that is left to us is the essence and quintessence of their lives. To me history is more than a story, more than a book, it's the life, the heart and soul of ages long ago. It's the ultimate myth and inevitably ambiguous, but I do believe, like Lord Bolingbroke said, "History is philosophy teaching by example and also by warning." History not read is like ammo not used, someone once said, and without reading, for myself at least, the past is silence and the future is haze.
So for these many reasons, I hate being stuck somewhere with no book, no notebook or a laptop in which to record my thoughts Let the weather play God with my itinerary, let them send me to Elbonia. I've been stuck in places where my luggage did not arrive at the same time I did, and the only written word I could find in English was a ferry schedule for the River Styx. I don't care where I am, I simply need something to read and something to write in. Words in reserve, a buttress against the whims and dubiety of travel, of growing up, of life itself.
I intended to read tonight, but there is a new little notebook on the side table, I removed the film cover, the crackling sound awakened something in me. I stroked the oilskin cover for the first time, my future turning before me as I snapped open the elastic band to flip through the pristine pages, dreams waiting to burst out onto them. The pages were too perfect; it's almost hard to make the first mark upon the clean, fresh landscape. But then, with the thought of a face, of a hand at the small of my back, I began; splaying the words on lasting paper before they are lost in the ether. Words that are bequeathed to the page before they were forgotten, words that though not spoken, will take a corporeal shape in my heart whenever I close my eyes, even as they themselves, slumber between the closed cover that is their hiding place.
Title: True Course - Lessons From a Life Aloft
Author: Brigid Johnson
Genre: Memoir/Young Adult
The Amazon #1 best seller from award-winning Brigid Johnson - the tale of how one woman's life in the sky forged an unforgettable destiny.
Raised in a small factory town in the 1960s, when aviation was predominantly a male profession, with parents who didn't support her ambitions, Brigid nevertheless learned to fly.
Hers was a busy life of setting limits and learning philosophies of growth and risk well beyond her years, even as she juggled two jobs, college, and a rescue Siberian husky whose wandering spirit put her own to shame.
From first solo to an airline career, and finally a decision to hang up her wings for another profession when her elderly father needed her care, Brigid captures with understanding, humor, and grace the moments that change the path of our lives.
With lyrical expression of her love for flight, she writes old and new stories of family, adventure, and the thrill of taking to the sky.
True Course is more than a memoir or a story of the lure of aviation--it's a story of learning to let the spirit soar and unfurling the wings of personal freedom, an inspiration to adventurers everywhere.
An aircraft engine has as many variances of sound as a human. There are satisfied hums, deep-throated snarls, and the incessant whine of someone who is never satisfied no matter what you do for them. Then, there is that sound, in and of itself, the sound of an aircraft engine over the ocean at night, when there is not enough fuel to turn back, only to go forward to a faraway shore.
The sea is a broad expanse that neither the eye nor voice can span, and when it's calm it lulls you into a false sense of comfort as the engines hum, and you gaze out the window with a clear, unconscious eye. You are not pondering thoughts that come to you poignant and silent, the order of your conscience, the conduct of life, and if there really is a proper way to die. You are not thinking of the operational capacities of a BKM hydraulic pump or your own limitations. No, you are thinking about the really cold beer you will have at the end of a day and the laughter of companionship. That is when you hear it, or think you hear it. That sound.
“Oh, that's not right,” you think and then you hear it again, that asthmatic thump. As you check EPR's and pressures and temperatures, somewhere in your head are the words: “An engine driven, two elements (centrifugal and gear) fuel pump supplies high-pressure fuel to the engine. Loss of the gear element of the fuel pump will result in a flameout.” You feel no fear, only annoyance, at the callous outcry of machinery and cold water that have caught you unawares, making you give up your daydream of cold beer and warm skin and confirming unreasonably, your fondness for narrow escapes.
Then it is gone if it ever occurred at all except in your mind, the engine only emitting a steady, slow hum, like somnolent bees. But your senses are back on red alert, that seeming malfunction that the mind hears on such overwater trips, ministering to boldness as forged as its own pretense of fear. What is it to fly such a vast distance, one youngster asked me once? I replied, “It seems like five hundred minutes of boredom and one minute of stark terror.”
You either loved or hated your ship. Aircraft, in general, are easy to fall in love with, with their ever-present potency and mysterious uncertainty. Even as a child I dreamed of them, watching them fly overhead, the contrails a heroic thread, the sun glinting on their promise. But they varied among even the same make and model, twins of different mothers.
Then there were the mornings where you went out to the flight line and there, on the tarmac, perched four large birds, three of them bright, shining and gleaming, perfect in form. And the fourth, older than the dirt upon it, with a stain of fluid on the ground underneath, the Scarlet Letter of hydraulic fluid (old airplanes didn’t leak fluid, they just marked their territory.) Even if you got a good aircraft, there would be days they could be as unruly as a mule, refusing to start, to move, and occasionally willing to give you a swift kick. It is sometimes the smallest of things that can be your undoing.
But it's not just your own craft turning on you that you have to be concerned about on such trips. The weather over the ocean is its own continent. Perhaps not so much now, but twenty-five years ago, when I was a pup with four stripes on my delicate shoulders that were not yet tarnished, weather planning for ocean crossing was less meteorology and more alchemy. I think about many long flights, our course drawn out with paper, not electronic blips of a satellite fix, a small x marking a fuel stop, a small cross marking our destination, a line marking the path—where we as pilgrims, sought out that holy place, that grail of a full night's sleep.
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Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/True-Course-Lessons-Life-Aloft-ebook/dp/B07S74KFZ1/
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/True-Course-Lessons-Life-Aloft-ebook/dp/B07S74KFZ1/
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/True-Course-Lessons-Life-Aloft-ebook/dp/B07S74KFZ1/
A former commercial pilot, Mrs. Johnson grew up out West where she later received a doctorate in Criminal Justice in order to pursue a career in that field after hanging up her wings. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and rescue dog. Mrs. Johnson is active in animal rescue and donates 100% of her writing proceeds to animal rescue organizations across the United States as well as Search Dog Foundation.
She is a two-time winner (Silver, Gold) of the Reader's Favorite International Book Award as author L.B. Johnson.
Follow Brigid on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LBJohnson8