Choosing art that we love

There’s one painting you keep going back to, again and again. There’s something about it that gets you in a place where you just stand and smile at it. There’s a connection. You might be drawn to the way it’s been painted, the colours, the subject matter, but more importantly it makes you feel something.

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Fear of Flying

For many years I’ve had a fear of flying. Not the phobic kind that requires medication and a British Airways therapy course but the kind that gives you a sense of dread, days before your flight. I wouldn’t say its stopped me travelling. Mine has been a quieter dread, culminating in a near panic attack as the plane (let’s just call it a tin can suspended thousands of feet above the Earth) has made its nerve-shaking descent towards a tiny strip of runway.

 

Before my recent trip, I rediscovered my Dad’s RAF log book from the late 60’s. We were based at Brize Norton at the time and it was like a little nudge back in time as I read about his journeys on his Belfast as a navigator to countries across the globe. Written down, it was all so matter-of-fact; aircraft type, flight details, units – the language of logic and numbers. I remembered how I loved watching the aircraft through my bedroom window which faced the runway, sitting in the cockpit of the Belfast making a nuisance of myself and how I knew the nicknames of the planes. “Look Dad, there goes a ‘whistling wheelbarrow’ I’d shriek with delight and pride as an Argosy flew overhead with its twin tails. Nothing pleased me more than to impress him with my knowledge. He was like a god to me in his uniform.

 

These are distant memories and over the years my dad became less of a god and more of a real human being with all the incumbent flaws but recalling them seemed to do something interesting to my brain. I had invested in earphones and music downloads to help ease my nerves but as we made the dreaded descent I found myself experiencing a moment that some might call ‘religious’. 

 

I looked out of the tiny window and instead of feeling that we were in mortal danger of our lives, I felt safe. We weren’t hovering dangerously about to just drop out of the sky – we were being carried and were sailing the airstream like a glorious trophy to the clouds. I thought of my dad who did this as a job, day after day and I made a conscious decision to enjoy it. It was a moment of sheer beauty – who needed to be down on the ground when you could do this? We were inviting the wind to hold and support us as we changed our altitude. The screeching of the landing gear doors opening and the wheels lowering were thrilling. The banging and the roaring as the plane wheels touched the runway and all the machinery required to keep it down and actually stop filled me with awe. As the brakes ground and I felt the pulsing of them taking us to an abrupt finish, I had a sense of exhilaration but also gratitude for giving up my fear and placing my trust in my past and in the present moment.

 

My dad passed away a few years ago, in Portugal, the destination of my recent journey. There’s no way of saying this without it sounding melodramatic – crass even, but I felt him there at that moment. Out of sight but resplendent in his uniform, navigating me home, while the five year old in me cheered, “Again! Again!”

 

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