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Spin on out down your Western rim,
Metal sweet and fire at will.
Spin on down out your raging wind,
Fire sweet and sing in the spring.

A long weekend spent luxuriating at home. The picture window admits much sun in the afternoon, shedding rainbows over the white plaster walls and the lazy, yawn-prone cat. Coffee is ready in my mug, the sprawling red-and-ivory of the carpet is vacuumed, and the spring is gentle enough to allow me to open the windows.

No news is good news. Peaceful news is good news. Lazy cat is a good cat: of late he's learned how to open the blinds. Unfortunately, he only does this trick after midnight.

I've got plans to attend the memorial, I've got plans to go to Mission next weekend with Zephronias in pursuit of good cheeses and tea. In the meanwhile, I continue on with pushups, crunches, and squats each morning, allowing me to rise refreshed and ready for my new role as a technical writer.

Breath in. Breath out.

It's a good life.

The other day it was crows at dawn. Tonight it is frogs. A delightful chorus in the pond at the back of the house. A pond that grundoon and I helped restore last year. It pleases me that the frogs found it, and sang around it each evening, because it's right outside the room that Christine was in for the last three weeks. We both liked frogs, the guardians of the wetland and the forest. It was a fitting place for Christine to be at the end.

I apologise to you all for once again sharing my sorrow, but it helps to get it out of me, out there. I feel like a man who has just one thing to say and keeps saying it. Please bear with me.

It's been one heck of a day. Hella weirdness. Of course, there is a backstory, and it goes back to last Thursday. That was the day that the mortuary called to tell me that the death certificates were ready to collect, so I hied me to the Yolo County Recorder's Office in Woodland armed with my firm jaw and a box of tissues.

I remember the office well - it was where, almost seven years earlier to the day that Christine and I went to get our marriage licence.

I waited in line, remembering that exciting, eager wait for the bit of paper that said we could wed. Happiness filled us then, we were like...well, we were like the young couple ahead of me. Yes, as I was lining up for my love's death certificate, they were in the line getting their marriage licence. Shining eyes, happy smiles, the kisses, the loving touches, the holding hands. It was all so familiar, and it wrenched me.

So there I was seven years on, completed application in hand, trembling at the memory and envious of the couple's obvious delight. His sister was there, taking photographs, documenting this lovely moment. I dared not catch their eyes. I was filled with something. Not sadness for me, not quite. Nor joy for them, though I appreciated their joy. It was hollowness, emptiness and pain.

Thankfully I did not have long to wait. I presented my form, my ID. The clerk attended to her computer. My wife is another number, now. She looked up, embarrassed. To cut the story short, the mortuary had jumped the gun. They'd filed the paperwork, but not paid their fee to the County. She was very sorry, but could not release what I needed. It was not her fault, she saw my hurt, wished she could do more. Hollow no more, my emptiness filled with anger. I called the mortuary. They were of course very sorry. I am angry. I told them what I just told you and said that they could now come and get things sorted out and bring me the paperwork once they were done.

Sometimes an apology does not cut it. I could not grieve, just could not. My anger was in the way, and I carried that all through the weekend. All I had was deep sorrow and anger and nowhere to take it. Grief needs space and time, and that had been stripped from me by a stupid bureaucratic error.

They came today, with the certificates, with Christine's ashes.

I am cold. Tired, cold and still sore at losing so much time. If I disliked bureaucracy and crass idiocy before, I loathed it now. I will never forgive you. Never. You stole something from me, and can never give it back.

This evening a bunch of us sat to organise the memorial. It will be big, we think. Family, noders, colleagues, ballet dancers, market customers, friends all. We arranged for chairs and songs, figured that five minutes was the longest we could reasonably offer for folk to speak. We organised for food storage and preparation. Parking, refreshments, sleeping, music. How different this was from the harshness and impersonality earlier.

I feel a little better now; at least in that loving company I could cry with people who loved. Christine and me they loved, and Tessie and one another. Tess and I have been crying together. It helped us both. Tears are a blessing when shared.

Memorial update

The memorial is on Sunday 15th April; you are all welcome. Bring tears, bring laughter, bring instruments (there will be music) and bring food to share if you want supper.

Your tears will be a blessing too.

Today's commute was nice, I rode two green-light waves up 4th and 3rd avenues from Bay Ridge up the the Battery Tunnel. I was frankly amazed at my good fortune, but the scrum that is Manhattan brought me back to Earth (although the guy in the E350 that cut me off at the tunnel entrance actualy knew how to handle the car, an exception in Mercedes drivers IMHO). After that frenetic scene, going up the passive-agressive playground that is the Palisades Parkway makes me wish for auto-drive and an in-car bar. I did point out to a fellow driver (in a nice way, really) that they had a tail light out, so I think I am up in the Karmic traffic force.

I'm still trying to get used to the change in pace from the newsroom to the corporate office. I'm so used to the high-pressure environment of a newsroom today, as it is as pressure-cooker an environment as any in business today. Between the voracious maw that is the web and the pressures on print to cram more information into fewer pages while creating supplements and secondary content vehicles to give the salespeople something to sell, editors today are under more pressure than every before. Now I sit in an office and write press releases, call up editors to pitch articles, and present papers at trade shows. Lots of work, but I miss the feeling that everything I touched was an action item that had to be done AT THAT MINUTE.

But I do like the company I work for as marketing director, a manufacturer of power electronics, and I am still active in the electronics industry. It is a much more secure and relaxed (and considering I'm talking about a marketing position that tells you a lot about publishing today) than my editor job, so here I am.

At least now I have the time to take a real lunch every day.

Hop #2 today.

The first hop was re-familiarization and fun memory. This hop was the restart of working for it. We stayed in the traffic pattern today - 10-15kt crosswinds on the runway, gusting. A bit bumpy at pattern altitude. Ended up making 3 landings and 2 go arounds - one go-around called by FI for practice, one by me because I had brought us in just too high.

This is a well-remembered part of flight training. After you are amazed at the fact that you landed an airplane (or Kept The Shiny Side Up, as pilots say) you go out, bit in teeth, ready to take on the world. Then you come up against that same runway, with a bit more wind, and you realize all over again that the ground is big and hard, and your airplane is so very small.

I call it Incipient Ground Panic. Everything is fine as you come around the pattern, although usually in this case you're (okay, I am) not experienced enough to realize when I'm not really in a good position. I turn base, and things are still OK but perhaps a bit on the margin- too fast, in my case today, usually. This is for a few reasons. One, turning directly from climbout into the traffic pattern with a consistent wind blowing and gusting makes for some easy-to-make misjudgments about pattern turns - it's easy, with a 10-15 kt wind, to leave your turn to base just a *little* too long, and end up way the hell out over the river, fighting to get the airplane lined up on the runway and realizing that you're low and that you didn't announce to traffic and that the crosswind is forcing you into a crab all at the same time. This is not an excuse - this is just what piloting is all about. It's totally doable - and I've done it, in the past - but since I haven't had to handle that kind of input and management workload for a long time, it's stressful being pitched back into it. I'm still not instinctive with my airplane, which means every time the wind or a prior mistake throws me out of position, it takes (precious) attention and effort to get the airplane back where I want it to be. Since I'm working from long memory and not recent experience, I'm correcting these things in serial, and by the time I'm back where I want to be in terms of altitude or speed, something else has usually gotten out of whack.

I got better as the day went on. I don't think I pulled off a completely successful landing all day - I would tend to start overcorrecting as the ground grew close, too-large control movements fueled by that sense of panic at the nearness of the Hard Bit. I don't know what the runway should look like on final without thinking about it, so I'm letting myself get into not-great positions before I realize it and start to correct.

But as I said, I got better, in what my instructor admitted after we landed was a wind state which, while it shouldn't be a problem for a commercial pilot, was a bit gusty and strong for a student pilot, of which I certainly am a wet-behind-the-ears example. That cheered me up a bit. Anyway, each landing (including the go-around I called) I was really 'in command' longer and closer to the ground before needing his advice and in one case his help on the controls to bring it in. Closer and lower, closer and lower. Although the wind was not technically much worse than my last flight, on that one I clearly remember the airplane staying where I put it and not bouncing or swiveling on final nearly as much.

The real problem - I have to get over my fear of the ground. It's my friend, and the airplane wants to go back there; I have to remember to keep the nose down as I approach to keep my speed up so I don't sink faster (counterintuitive until you've done it enough - if you think you're starting to sink too fast, push the nose down rather than add power!) My final touchdown wildness I figured out afterwards, in debriefing - I am not remembering (in my hands and feet) that on final, the rudder controls direction and the ailerons correct for drift. I was instinctively trying to 'steer' the corrections with the ailerons, causing the airplane to both bank (much more incorrect and nerve-wracking when on short final) and also causing it to get blown sideways worse, because i'd end up correcting the upwind wing high and getting blown sideways. Then I wouldn't have enough airspeed and time to get the airplane back into proper attitude and re-centered over the runway, and I'd start panicking slightly, requiring him to talk me through it and in that one case help fly it down (although I did tell him, that time, I needed him on yoke - he didn't have to step in).


Left the airplane with not airsickness, but that sort of tight, sweaty feeling that tells you your inner ear, while still under your command, is having second thoughts. Had to go find a Subway and have a nice bland turkey sandwich and a Coke to keep the gut stabilized - spending the whole hour in the traffic pattern coping with wind hadn't done me in, but I definitely felt it.

On the plus side? The plus side. I did land the airplane two and a half times, in what my FI admitted was not-great conditions. I did handle traffic pattern ops mostly correctly (only forgetting to announce a couple of times, when I had my hands full). I did improve, getting closer to full confident landings. I did figure out why I was getting into trouble close to the ground - crosswind plus incorrect control inputs for corrections. I have a plan of correction I can test next hop, hopefully Friday. I didn't get airsick. :-)

And leaving the airport, I was driving down the local two-lane when people started honking at me impatiently - and I realized I was unconsciously keeping my car to the proper taxiing speed, a fast walk. :-)

So. I have scheduled an FAA medical exam (required to solo) and have started working back through my Cessna Private Pilot's Manual, using the current ASA Private Pilot Test Prep on my iPad. I think back to when I started flying, and imagine what my reaction would have been had you shown me an iPad then, and I just laugh. Onward.

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