All 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.