Still Flying

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I just returned from an incredible week at the Harvest Island Wilderness Workshop: a week with 15 others on a remote island, learning about writing from Leslie Leyland Fields (a masterful writer, as you can see here), and Philip Yancey (!!!). I’ve wanted to go from the first time I heard about it, if we could wrangle the time and money. But there was one more concern: the question of the travel, since I am pretty much the most motion sick person you’ve ever met. In one of our writing exercises, I tried to explain….

A storm is coming in, they said, so we would need to be at the float plane six hours earlier than expected. I reached behind my ear to finger the dime sized patch—scopamine for coping with my ever-queasy-belly. Float plus plane. Two words more scary to me than biological plus warfare. Or kale plus anything. Please, merciful God, let these drugs work.

Before… (also pictured, the lovely Aleah with her trusty GoPro)

“It looks to be a pretty clear day,” our pilot says. The plane roars to life, and I aim my phone at the creamy flare of water fanning up from the fins. I am eye level with the black birches, with the eagle, with the clouds. I breathe in deep. I am okay.

“See in the river bend to our left?,” says Josh, “those are bears. A mama and her two cubs, I think.” I permit myself a smile, surprised to be able to look, to see, to enjoy. Mossy green mountain tips point up at us, mirroring our fingers pointing down at golf courses, at glaciers, at mountain dandruff I am told are actually goats.

The plane lurches and my stomach scoops deep into fear. My knuckles whiten. I swallow and wait. Look at the mountains. See the fjords? Are there any bears? Where’s the barf bag? How much longer?

At first it feels like heat, a sweat slick under my jacket, a longing for fresh air. I unzip a little, willing something cooler onto my body. But this is a well-worn path into the mire of nausea, and I know the stages well. Sweat. Cough. Cough again. Wipe my clammy hands on my knees and focus on the horizon.

Two inlets later, I reach for the baggie behind the seat. There are six people on this plane, four of whom will see and smell everything that happens next. We will live together for a week, and I would love them to think something of me other than “the one who threw up”. Years later, in a crowded conference hall with nametags obscured, perhaps I will say hello, and be met with polite pause as memory is scanned for association. “I’m Bronwyn, we met in Alaska. I’m the one who got sick on the plane.”

But there is no controlling this. I will be remembered as I am, not as I’d hoped to present myself. Humbled, I tumble my pride into the baggie. Once, twice, and once more for good measure. The clamminess abates and I see the island on the horizon.

And we are flying still.

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8 thoughts on “Still Flying”

  1. Oh Bronwyn, I can so relate! I’m a great traveling companion once I *get* somewhere but the trip itself? Not so much.

    There is more than a nugget of wisdom in your statement, “I will be remembered as I am, not as I’d hoped to present myself.”

    It sounds (and looks) like you had an amazing time.

    1. That’s the painful truth, isn’t it? We are who we are. So disappointing, and yet it was also a gift to have all pretenses stripped right at the get-go.

      It was an INCREDIBLE time. I am overflowing with gratitude.

  2. Bronwyn, I’m so glad you got to enjoy that time in Alaska with Philip, Leslie, Aleah, Gary, and others! Please write more–I’m so curious what you brought home with you.

    1. Oh Gary is my new favorite!! It was such a wonderful time. I’m still processing the richness and challenge of the week… I brought home deep encouragement in writing and friendship, a long list of skills to work on, and a manuscript with some significant edits I’m excited to tackle. Will you be at FFW? Would love to see you again next year!


    Can so relate! I get sea sick very quickly and I worked on a ship for two years 🙂 Every time we went out to sea, I headed for the toilet – oh, the memories :-s

    1. Thanks for cheering from afar 🙂 I learned so much that week… not sure how to put it into words (ironic, coming from a writers’ workshop, isn’t it?)

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Photo credit: Christa Norman, Mel Draper Photography, and Jonathan Summer