delicious, a little
flaky memory from so long ago,
sweetness, red clouds and gusts in my hair with
  pumpkin pie.


Where are we coming from, she took her eyes from the window and asked me. I answered, middle America, but it was not the answer she was looking for.

The clouds were stringy that day; I know this because she pointed it out. Told me a story about being a child on long drives to Texas and imagining a mouse trying to keep up with the clouds outside her window. The sky was blue but the sun was setting quickly, turning it all shades of reds and oranges and hues of purple.

I kept thinking, why is she asking where we are coming from, when she should be asking, where are we going? I didn't get it. She didn't get it. We were two feet away from each other but we were going to miss each other by miles.

I wanted her to tell me more about the clouds. I thought if she would only keep talking, ten more minutes, ten more stories. I tried to tell my own story, something that did not quite relate enough but had to do because it was all I had. But she turned her eyes back out to the window, she shut up; she shut me out.
Looking down I had noticed a thin cloud layer close to the ground. It was not a large layer, it didn't extend all the way to my destination. It also wasn't a smooth layer, there were peaks, valleys, little fingers of cloud extending upward. I scanned the gauges, I needn't have looked though, everything felt perfect.

Close encounters with clouds are usually either very serious matters, when navigating through them on instruments, or brief encounters when climbing out of a cloud layer to endless sunshine on top.. I have been extremely fortunate on very few occasions to skirt along the top of a layer in darkness lit by the light of a bomber moon, reveling in the feeling of speed and the illusion of being just a few feet off of a solid surface. Once I flew into a dazzling sunset casting long shadows on the clouds below and, as Bax wrote, "The golden light is level with the chord line of the wing and every rivet stands in its own little shadow of strength." I wish I could write like that. I settled for racing my own shadow.

This was... enticing.

"What airspace is that?" I think to myself. The top of the solid layer is just around 1,000 feet. It's Class G, 1 mile visibility and clear of clouds are the only requirements! I chop the power and head down to play.

Flying often demands professionalism, accuracy, skill. Sometimes, however, you can let all of that go for a short period and marvel at creation from a unique perspective. I circle around tall spires, speed along in twisting valleys, bank steep around outcrops of cloud seemingly formed just for my enjoyment. Good for the soul, this is.

After a half hour or so I remember that I was on my way to meet someone at Castle airport in Merced, and they will be waiting for me. It is with disappointment that I set climb power and climb back to my cruise altitude and continue to my destination.

On the short remainder of the flight to Castle I think briefly about the what-ifs, what if the engine had quit, or, what if another pilot had seen the same opportunity and we met rather rudely.

If that happens, I reason, I should die happy.

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