The pretty good books of Susan Larson


Memories of Flight

new bike

When I was a very little girl I had incessant, intense dreams of flying.  I started my flying career for real at four years of age. I got a pair of skates that I clamped onto my shoe with a metal key. I skated on the cement of the basement of my house, sometimes for hours, singing as I flew around and around.  Flying and singing and flying and singing.

At six years of age I was introduced to that most  miraculous machine, the bicycle. My parents scored an ancient, fat-wheeled (possibly cast-iron) Schwinn for me.  It had pedal brakes and streamers on the ends of the handlebars. I was allowed to ride it on the sidewalk–outdoors! I pedaled on that lumbering bike in ever-widening circles around town– to school, to ‘the stores,’ to the playground– singing away, away, away.

Then horses.  My head seven feet off the ground, practically in the clouds! I sat atop Pegasus, a magic being that rejoiced in its power, barely touching the ground between great bounds, soaring!  Walk! trot! Canter! Gallop! I was told many times that horses were dangerous. Flying is dangerous.  Freedom and power are dangerous. I also took singing lessons from my church choir leader.  More freedom and power.  Nobody told me singing was dangerous, but it was.

I chose singing as a livelihood.  This is a dangerous decision, in the economic sense, anyway. But. Singing is flying; it gave me that airborne feeling. Musical tones, really high shiny notes, came out of me and rose like the moon or a balloon into the sky and hung over the heads of the audience, luminous and round, defiant of gravity.

Then came the aging process, when gravity asserts itself.  Various parts of my face and body loosened and gradually sagged in a southerly direction. My soaring operatic voice went mute and fluttered to the earth. My spine told me to stop galloping around on my beloved horse friends.  I beat a retreat to the bicycle, but this time the bike I rode was a beautiful road bike made of carbon fiber, with many many gears.  I rode it everywhere, humming old tunes in my head. I was a geezer, but dammit I was still moving through the air, through the world, still getting in my flying time.  I was content…

Last winter I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.  This is a benign tumor on the acoustic nerve that affects a person’s balance.  I was told, no more bicycle.  We wait and see if the tumor is going to get bigger. While you wait, please remain with one foot on the earth at all times. Well, could be worse; I’m on the ground, but not under it. I could accept that.  I had done some writing. I could do some more.

Writing is not flying.  It’s static, sometimes almost paralytic, for me.  My back hurts. My feet fall asleep. I don’t hum.  If I play music I don’t hear it.  Writing hurts.  It hurts right now.  Writing for me seems to be all about trying to remember the flying.

Happy postscript:  my surgeon got me into a vestibular therapy program, and my balance has improved; they trained me to ignore the dizzy disoriented feeling that the tumor gives me.  I got back on my beloved bike– I couldn’t even look at it all winter or spring– and pedaled, 3, 5, 10, 20 miles. I am good to go, I think.  I also think the flying will help the writing, because I feel so good during and after those exiting, free, outdoor, dangerous hours. I feel like me.