Walking Away

Small plane goes off runway and crashes in San Diego County; pilot walks away.


My friend sends me this snippet on e-mail, a thin connection to our past lives from ten years ago when I lived in the village near the runway where the small plane went off and a man walked away.

Later, this morning when I am out running—a carpe diem act done during a break in the frequent PNW rain—that runway unfurls itself in front of me, my steps paved by that snippet. A first kiss from my then future hub happened at that airpark where the runway runs short. I hoped to never marry, but I couldn’t pass up someone who kisses like that, beneath low flying planes.

Years later, my hub’s father learned to fly, his long-time late-in-life dream launched off the end of that too short runway. At different times, we all went up with him, since the airpark was a quick trip from our new house. Our 13-year-old son was up in the air with his grandfather on one of those clear days when his grandfather’s hands began to shake and our son, who’d never flown except as his passenger, was told to take the controls and land the plane, on that very short runway. After that my father-in-law didn’t fly anymore. And then he flew away home.

A bright watercolor painting of a view from that airpark hangs on one of my PNW walls, the wild eucalyptus trees dancing to a frenzied symphony of color, all kissed with quick dabs of peacock blue, opera pink, and lemon yellow. It was painted by the artist teaching a workshop at the Studios where my friend who sent the snippet, and I, sometimes went to gaze at a thousand random repurposed pieces all welded together to form a fence with many gates.

The snippet about the single-engine Bellanca Citabria that overshot the runway at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday doesn’t print the name of the man that walked away, but I picture him. He is my friend, and my father-in-law, my husband and my son. He is the artist painting the view from the top. He is me, and he is you, amazed to walk away from the wreckage and live another day.

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