Ever wish you could fly?

only-a-witch-can-fly-coverAll my life I’ve wanted to fly. On the tops of mountains I lean forward with the urge to jump, and the same with tall bridges, and the roofs of tall buildings.

I don’t want to die. No no no, I don’t want to die.

But I want to fly. How I want to fly.

My best dreams are dreams of flying, ones in which I’m flying low through a valley, drifting on the  wind like a hawk or an eagle, and then suddenly my arm-wings are pumping and I’m swooping up and up and up and the mountain is rushing toward me and I’m pumping harder and harder and then suddenly I’m up, I’m over, I’m high in the sky and the mountain is far below me, and the valleys and rivers are spread like a map on the surface of the earth, and I’m gliding on the invisible wind toward the far horizon, where the river runs to the sea.

That’s my favorite dream, right there. Sometimes I make a wish before I go to bed that I will dream that dream, but so far, that wish hasn’t come true. The dream of flying comes when it will, and it will not be willed.

The closest I’ve ever come to my arms as wings and my body drifting weightless on the wind was the time I went up into the sky in an ultra-light. Or maybe it wasn’t an ultra-light – does an ultra-light have an engine?

Because this tiny little wind-plane did have an engine, not that it mattered much except to get the pilot and me up into the sky and then down again. Once we were up there, it was a different story.

“Should I turn the engine off?” the pilot said to me.

This man was someone I didn’t know. I was in the deep South, driving on a rural road, and I saw a sign that said Ultra-light rides, $30. I was very poor back then, and $30 was a lot of money, but I looked at the sign and I thought about flying, and I forked over my dinner money for the week to this man who came walking through the field when he saw my little red car stop by the sign.

Should he turn off the engine? Why would he turn off the engine? Wasn’t the engine the thing that was keeping us afloat, up here in the almost-soundless sky? If he turned off the engine, wouldn’t we go arrowing toward the ground? Wouldn’t I die?

“Okay,” I said.

And he turned off the  engine. And then  it was soundless, high up there, drifting without words in the sky. I looked out the window – the tiny plane was all window – down at the fields and mountains and creeks and valleys of that land where I was a stranger.

He didn’t say anything. He knew how I felt.

We drifted up there a long time, far longer, I’m guessing, than my dinner-money-for-the-week had bought me.

And many years later I wrote this book, Only a Witch Can Fly, about a little girl who dreams of flying. I wish you could see the pictures. They’re by an artist named Taeeun Yoo – gorgeous, haunting woodcut illustrations.

Our book looks like a Halloween-ish book because it’s about a witch, so if you’re a Halloween fan you might like it.

But if you’re a girl, or a not-girl, who wants to be up there among the clouds and the stars, looking far far down – leaving it all behind, if only for a little while – then you’re the one I wrote it for.

11 comments

  1. Pepper · September 22, 2009

    And you wrote it Beautifully. And this is a wonderful story. I too have wished to fly, silently.

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  2. oreo · September 25, 2009

    if it wasn’t somehow seemingly normal that you have the exact thoughts and dreams as me, it would be creepy.

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  3. Taeeun · October 1, 2009

    Hi Alison! I do always want to have a dream about flying and I sometimes do wish and imagine before going to sleep! Sometimes I even imagine that I am slowly floating on my bed as I fall asleep. 🙂
    I love Only a Witch Can Fly text and it was such a magical time for working on the picture book. Thank you for the great writing!

    Like

  4. Charletta · October 2, 2009

    Sometimes I feel like I am flying through life. But sometimes I am just falling through it. …Maybe even if we are falling, which we are because we all will and know we will die, we should still enjoy ourselves on the way down. Maybe we will fall, but at least we still get to fly. Maybe we will die, but at least we will still get to live.

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  5. Lucy · October 4, 2009

    I’m going to watch the film ‘Fly Away Home’ this evening, I’ve not seen it before, but years ago in a French wildlife magazine I read the story of the people it was based on (I think). They raised some wild goslings, very carefully so they wouldn’t imprint on them wrongly, and then flew with them in microlights to show them where to go for the winter. But the really wonderful thing I thought was that the woman was pregnant at the time. Can you imagine the magic of flying with wild geese in your mother’s womb?

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  6. Trisha · October 13, 2009

    Beautiful post. Oddly enough, I’ve never dreamed I could fly but really loved the evocative words and images in ONLY A WITCH. So did our reviewer!

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  7. Mattie · October 20, 2009

    My dad is a pilot and even though he sold his plane before I turned one I think that I remember flying from before I was even born. He recently was able to afford another plane and has taken me flying again and I am completely at peace in the sky. Something about large banks of clouds and how they form their own city in the sky makes me think I could live there and be totally content. Thanks for your post!

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  8. alison · October 21, 2009

    Lucy, I loved that movie. The girl in it is exactly that perfect age of girl fierceness. What did you think?

    Charletta, there’s a poem that I want to send you when you’re older, called “Failing and Flying,” by Jack Gilbert.

    Mattie, what do you mean, that you remember flying from before you were even born? That is such a lovely line. I remember being born, but I don’t think I remember anything from before then.

    Trisha, thanks for the kind words, and also for pointing me to that review. I’m grateful!

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  9. alison · October 22, 2009

    Taeeun, those illustrations are dreams in and of themselves. So beautiful.

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  10. Catherine Ensley · October 27, 2009

    Hi, I posted a review of “Only a Witch” yesterday on my site–and then saw your post here, now. I’ll go back and add a link to this. We share the same fantasy! My night dreams when I was small were of me floating through the air. Then, almost always when I’m standing near a cliff or some place high, I want to jump and soar. Fortunately I married a pilot, and so we fly often.

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  11. alison · October 28, 2009

    Catherine, thanks so much for the review. Re flying – you’re lucky to lift off when you want. It amazes me how many people share that dream of flying. . .

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