Definition

Jim Manley served 17 years in Ecuador as a pilot, radio tech and program manager. He is now assigned to Learning Technologies serving at MAF Headquarters in Nampa, Idaho.

I stand at the plane’s open door. My helmet hangs in the cockpit, its cables dangling to panel connectors. My navigation notes lay on the clipboard over the control yoke. Tanks contain fuel. Net and straps restrain cargo. Passengers pace. My flight plan is an hour old, yet still I wait. No rain. No wind. No sky. Only treetop cloud merges seamlessly upward into featureless gray. Where’s the ceiling? Ten feet up? Ten thousand feet up?

ManlyeFeb2014Post-DefinitionMike, John and Pablo walk over from their aircraft also waiting on the hangar ramp. The Amazon jungle laughs, disdaining forecasts, but we stare east anyway, desperate to eek meaning from the nothing before us.

“See anything yet?” Pablo asks.

“Nope,” Mike answers.

“What about above the ridge? I think I see definition,” I say
.
“Definition? Where?” they echo an excited chorus. Definition means: one shred of cloud differs from another. Enough definition means clearing. Clearing means flying. And we have to fly.

“There, just above the peak,” I point. “It extends to the left, over the lower jungle. See how that area is slightly lighter than the rest?”

“Nope,” from John.

“Yep,” from Mike.

“Maybe,” from Pablo.

We spend the afternoon until too late to fly, forcing definition where none exists.

Not sure what the other guys think as we head home, but this day makes me think of other frustrating days. Dull, dead-end, days when I try to bully a way through where none exists. On those days, I do better when patient, when I remember that eventually clouds yield to reveal blazing sun that fires a cobalt sky and moves air-masses across continents. And I do best when I confess that my God, the invisible, all-wise God creates all things, sustains all things and makes a way where there is no way. That’s when, by definition, I get to fly.

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