Taking Off and Landing

Taking off and landing are functions of style. Once aloft we don’t stop until we reach our destination. If you think writing is all about following rules on how to stop and go, you’re not flying.

The old open cockpit planes were good for your health. Today’s jets are claustrophobic and the air that circulates within the cabin is not fresh. Recent studies suggest old drafty houses are also better for one’s health than the hermetically sealed structures whose designs aim at uniform temperature and locked-in air flow. We should get as much outside air flowing through our inside environments as possible.

Driving a car isn’t about stop signs. Likewise, air fresheners pollute. That’s why Henry Miller titled his book, “The Air Conditioned Nightmare,” even though his 1932 Buick sedan was not airtight, and his destination was the open road across the US.

When we wake up we take off, but our destination is not back to bed, sleep again. When we go to sleep, we land. All day long we are airborne. We wake up, take off – which doesn’t require a destination. But our first thoughts might be for love and sharing, for avoiding conflicts. Slip into our shoes as selfless as the crab out of its shell. Our first act upon awakening ought to be to go outside, or at least to open a window. To awake is to breathe again new air. So too when we write, we don’t want to sing the same old songs in the same old way, following the rules of yesterday.

There’s a mentality constantly on the lookout for conspiracy, as if to uncover the duplicitous explains everything, and then we must punish those who have broken the rules, the comma splicers and the run-ons looking to get away like California stops. Always smug, that mentality, always looking for what’s really going on, behind the scenes, and self-vindication is their reward, though nobody else gives a poop about the guy on the corner who has lied on his handwritten cardboard sign that he’s a sick vet and can’t work. His enterprise is capitalistic, same as most corporations and non-profits, for that matter. Your money is going to go somewhere; why not to him? Always in fear of being taken advantage of, of paying too much for something, of being lied to. The birds of the air and the fish of the sea live more freely, though they too are part of a food chain.

When I worked at the Ross Island Center of Portland Community College, in the late 70’s, early 80’s, the building echoed freshly, three stories with humongous basement and boiler – H shaped, its corridors, with spacious rooms with large double-hung windows that opened without screens to the city. The rooms were hot in the summer, cold in the winter. But the air was always fresh. Then I made a career change and found myself locked into a modern air-conditioned (and heated) nightmare. In my new building, one could not just walk over and open a window – there were ample windows, and lovely views, but the windows did not open. In a sense, they were virtual windows only, like the windows of a jet airplane. The old PCC building is still there, at the west end of the Ross Island Bridge, repurposed now as part of the National College of Natural Medicine, but still bears its original name, the Joshua Failing School, built in 1912. And the corporate building I spent time in, built in 1982, also three stories, but no basement, was repurposed around twenty years ago for use by a state agency.

May your day be filled with windows open, doors freely swinging, and writing, writing that awakes and flies through open windows and unlocked doors and breathes fresh air, though having said all that, the stale air of the evening pub, table sticky from spilled beer, sawdust floor that soaks up the spit, also still attracts the writer, but not necessarily the reader – and there’s the real rub, the real conspiracy, the wake-up call, the epiphany that equalizes.