I See Dragons

Wow, I have neglected my poor blog.  Why would I do such a terrible thing, you ask?

There are many reasons a blog fades into non-existence.  In my case, it was a combination of other projects – three books, a 4 season series currently in production, and tons of audio narrations – taking precedence; general health and family issues like moving to a new state and a disastrous campaign against an insurgent army of fat cells laying siege to my midsection (I shall win the war!); and a sudden notion that my blog should have a theme (or be coherent) coupled with a rising fear that I had no business fashioning myself as a writer in the first place.

It’s amazing what my brain whispers to me in the dead of night.  It’s even more unfathomable that I believe any of those whispers in the morning.  I seem to forget that being a writer is not a destination, it’s a journey.  It took me this long to realize that comparing myself to any one of my peers is pointless.  Not only have we reached different points on our career path, we are on entirely different roads.  The only person to whom I should compare myself is the person that I was yesterday, and the only person I could hope to be tomorrow is a better version of myself today.

In this spirit, I have decided that TotallyTawn shall be a place for me to flex my writing muscles by allowing myself the freedom to grow, learn, and enjoy the journey.  I will tell stories, reminisce, share things that I have learned, and maybe brag just a little bit every now and then.

You may have noticed my new cover photo: I see dragons.  One of my favorite things to do is to find “dragons” hidden in the clouds.  If you walk with me, I promise to point them out.  I’ve also spruced up the place, so feel free to hang out with me for as long as you like.

Oh, look!  There’s a dragon now…

Guest Post: My friend’s Eloquent Facebook Rant

Time for a rant.  It’s been a while.

I am continually amazed and frustrated by our common lack of concern and care for other human beings. Everyone has excuses:  “I’m too busy”; “Too involved”; “I don’t want to get involved for fear of recrimination”; “I’ve become bitter and don’t care anymore”; or my favorite, “I don’t have any money, either.”

My question is, what if were you or yours that needed some sort of of assistance? What would your expectations be and what have you put out there? The tables change drastically then. Then, all we hear about is how no one did a thing, no one was willing to help.

Apathy begets apathy. Karma exists.

I’m not saying there aren’t good people out there that do good in the world every day, there are millions of them. They don’t blow their own horns, they don’t do it for the glory or recognition. They do it for the personal satisfaction they feel when they know that they have helped someone survive this messed up process we call life, if only for one more day.

During my “Boot Camps,” one of my standard goals is to find someone that needs a kindness, and offer it. This isn’t something that I only do once in a while – I strive to do this every single day.  It doesn’t always come back in the way we want or in our time frame, but I promise that it does, if you chose to acknowledge it, respect it for what it is.

Yesterday, I encountered a situation where some people required assistance, and so I offered mine. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was necessity, because I could not have gotten up this morning and faced my reflection in the mirror had I not done all that I possibly could.  This kindness has already come back to me in spades. Not only do I feel great about my accomplishment, someone else has reached out to me in my time of need and is helping me to improve my life.

Is the return always immediate?  Certainly not.  It may be years before your good deeds come full circle.  But that isn’t the point. The point is to try.  We may fail, but that the failure itself teaches us what to avoid if we are wise enough to learn from our mistakes.

The world doesn’t always need grandiose gestures. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “Thank you for the job you do”; “I need you”; “I want you”, “You are valuable”; or even “I see your struggle and although I can’t help in the way you need, I’ll stay by your side and hold your hand when it’s really hard.” Sometimes it’s picking up someone’s coffee for them, or just listening when they have hit the ropes and they really need to rant about how unfair it is.

One of my mom’s favorite quotes was, “No man is an island.”  As a child, I never understood what it meant.  But these days, it resonates with me. You can’t do it alone, shouldn’t do it alone.  But yet we expect those we don’t know or don’t particularity care for to do so.

I don’t necessarily have the solution, I just know that I have a compulsion to try. I struggle daily with being in a position where it would be so easy to say, “I’m just too busy.”  I REFUSE to give in to that. I REFUSE to allow Karma to put me and mine on that list of the uninterested!

What will you choose today?  And tomorrow, for that matter?  I’ve already made my choice.

Walking Log #2 – Oh Look! A Bunny!

Today, I learned that sometimes there are simply too many distractions to allow my mind to incubate anything useful – or even coherent – during my walk.  Here are my notes:

Dreamed of giving birth in the shower.

I should print “Darkling Drake” so I can have a hard copy to review

Leaves a brighter green against the dark blue clouds

Hey! Don’t poop on me bird!

Yep. Picking up that candy wrapper.

What if I don’t think of anything when I walk?

Shit, I’m tired.

There are baby birds in that nest!  Aw!

Yeah.  Maybe this whole “take a peek inside my head while I walk” idea isn’t as genius as I thought.

Walking Log #1 – Here there be dragons

I had a crazy idea.  You see, each time I go for a walk, I snap a quick picture of something that interests me.  Today I thought, what if I wrote about my walks and shared the photos and whatever else might come to mind?  Well, it’s my blog, isn’t it?  Why the hell not?  So here goes.  I don’t know if it qualifies as poetry or not, but maybe someday it might.  Even if it doesn’t, it was fun and that’s really all that matters in the end.

Sent from my iPod –

Trees bending, wiggly, tickle fingers my way
Crimson bushes, heart-shaped, then not
Breeze pushing, increasing the pace
Millipede-leg tree leaves dancing wildly
While conifer partners softly sway
Sudden scent, lilacs
Pounding pulse on concrete
Vivid purple spikes
Spindly spider, Dragons in the clouds

Home.

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I see a dragon taking flight, head held up and back on it’s long neck, with a faint wisp of smoke curling from it’s snout.

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I see only the dragon’s head, mouth gaping, eyes sunken, and horns trailing back to the right of the frame.

A Tale About a Whale

A very good friend of mine once said, “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.” He was referring to his Maui Wowi Hawaiian business, but I think it also applies to most anything. But it’s a funny thing about fish in bowls:  it isn’t necessarily true that a fish will only grow as large as the tank will allow.

Long ago, my parents once had a 40 gallon fish tank, in which – among the mollies, neon tetras, and tiger barbs – they kept the required bottom feeder, a Plecostomus. We called it the P-fish because we couldn’t pronounce plecostomus. It was tiny when we first brought it home from the pet store. Many years later, not so much.  In fact, my kids were able to re-dub the monster fish it had grown into “The Whale.”

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A reasonable facsimile of The Whale

I kid you not, this thing was immense.  At least a foot long.  It once jumped out of the tank and fell down a flight of stairs and survived. No, it thrived.  It outlived generations of fish, and probably ate quite a few of them toward the end.

When I inherited The Whale, it had to have been about 1000 years old in fish years, and it was way too big for the tank.  I contacted a local pet store to see if I could sell it or even donate it just to get rid of it. They weren’t even remotely interested.  They informed me that this particular type of fish will outgrow it’s tank every time, and I would be very lucky to find a new home for it. My only recourse? Release into the wild, serve it up for dinner, or wait for it to die. None of these options were very appealing.

I plead the 5th as to which route I took. However, IF I went with the first choice, I would have consoled myself with thoughts along the lines of, “It’s not like I released a python into the Everglades,” or “I certainly didn’t flush a baby alligator down the commode.” This thing was essentially a catfish that needed a bigger bowl, and IF I had it in me to do something as potentially illegal as introducing this creature into a foreign ecosystem, I would have taken precautions to be sure that its new home would be big enough to guarantee that we wouldn’t have a real whale to contend with in about 20 years time.  If I had gone with the second option, I would have consoled myself by thinking, “Everything tastes good fried.”  The third choice wasn’t really a choice at all.

I’m telling you this tale because, lately, I’ve begun to relate to The Whale. I’ve been feeling like a fish who has outgrown her tank, and been unexpectedly released into a much, much larger body of water (allegedly). Once I started writing, I was suddenly a minnow in an immense sea of bloggers, writers, authors, editors, and publishers.

It’s exhilarating – and scary as hell – even more so than flying had been at times.  Just like the proverbial “small fish in a big pond,” I’m going to have to learn the waters, grow, and just keep swimming – or, in my case, writing – so that one day, the sea won’t seem to be such a big, scary place after all.  Either that, or start eating mayonnaise so that I taste good on toast.

I have friends who tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book.  To them I say: “Come on in! There’s plenty of room and the water’s fine.  Just stay away from the mayo – I’m sure it’s gone bad by now.”

D is for Dead Reckoning

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Where are we? What does the GPS say?

“DEAD RECKONING – In pioneer flight before radio, beacons, and accurate maps, flying distances much by instinct and guesswork, and referring to whatever landmarks were below, was quite routine. The “dead” part simply meant “straight,” as in the nautical “dead ahead,” and pilots often relied heavily on the IRON COMPASS for cross-country flights over unfamiliar territory.”http://www.aerofiles.com/glossary.html

In my opinion, dead reckoning is a lost art. Pilots have become so dependent on technology, that even when their destination is in sight, they still obsessively consult the aircraft’s GPS to verify their position. Some don’t even glance outside the cockpit anymore, except when forced to for takeoff and landing, content to monitor the flight systems as autopilot does all the work. I honestly believe that this behavior is nothing short of laziness, and that the pilot is voluntarily rejecting of the joy of flight.

As a freight pilot, I was encouraged to fly the aircraft manually. As a charter pilot, I was forbidden to hand fly the aircraft above 10,000 feet. The difference in skill level between my freight colleagues and my charter coworkers was remarkable, and I place the blame firmly on the glittery allure of technology.

One of the most interesting examples of this assertion comes from my days as a flight instructor. Prior to signing off a student to complete their required solo cross-country flights, I would do my best to get them lost and force them to use dead reckoning to make their way home.

My normal tactic involved practicing unusual attitude recovery. The student would close their eyes while I placed the aircraft in either a steeply climbing or rapidly descending turn. They must then safely return the aircraft to straight and level flight after I instruct them to open their eyes. At some point during these maneuvers, I would reset the gyroscopic heading indicator 90 degrees so that when it showed we were going east to return to the field, we were actually southbound. We would fly south until the student figured out that something was wrong, and then I would let them use whatever would be available to them when they were alone to find their way home. We did not have GPS in those old trainers, so they were forced to use dead reckoning.

Only one of my students was not fooled. He was my oldest student – in his 70s, I think – and dead reckoning was nothing new to him. When I tried my little trick on him and asked him to go ahead and take us home, he pointed the aircraft in the right direction without hesitation.

I was astonished.

When I asked him how he knew he was going the right direction, he pointed out the window and said, “That’s Morris to the south of us along the river. The airport is east.”

“But the heading indicator says that we’re going south,” I said, still confused.

“Does it? I never look at that thing. The magnetic compass will never steer you wrong if you give it a chance,” he responded.

That day, I was the one who got schooled, and I have no doubt that I am a better pilot for it.

    – This post is dedicated to Joe Witkowski. Thank you for sharing your love of flying with me. Rest in peace, my friend.