Soaring


“Relax,” says the pilot. Relax? There is nothing holding us up except balsa wood and fiberglass.

“You’ll go up with Fritz,” the gliding club commander says. He looks me in the eye. “You nervous?”

“Nah.” A little white lie for bravado.

I am still in college at the time. Well, actually I’m working the summer before my senior year as an intern on an Alberta daily newspaper. On Friday a call comes into the editorial offices looking for someone to give the gliding club a little publicity. I volunteer.

Fritz arrives. He is dressed simply, in a golf shirt and slacks. I had expected a dirty leather jacket and goggles.

He raises a finger, checking for wind. “Get in,” he says to me. We strap ourselves into the glider’s belly. The clouds are gray and thick above us. Fritz looks at them with stern concentration. He seems to want to chase the clouds from the sky.

The gliding club doesn’t have a tow plane, just a winch with a long cable that catapults us upward. Suddenly we are being pulled with frightening velocity into the sky. In seconds we are two, then three thousand feet above the wheat fields. The cable breaks loose and there is nothing holding us up except balsa wood and fiberglass. I’m holding my breath. My fingers are white from gripping my seat.

I release my fingers and breathe deeply. The sound of the wind rushes by, the creak of the rudder as we turn. “Relax,” says Fritz. He’s looking for lift in the warming day.

I can’t see my pilot, but I know he’s there. I feel him controlling the plane. Mustering my bravest voice I ask, “How do you find the thermals?” Thermals are warm air currents that rise, allowing birds and gliders to gain altitude.

“You just know where they are,” he says from behind me. “I’ve done this a million times.”

We’re circling. I watch the horizon, perpetually tilted. Then a bump. “Ha,” says Fritz, “watch this.” The warm air lifts us, we circle faster, in a tighter loop. The ground passes by, round and round. The lift comes from nowhere. We are alone, soaring on air, climbing higher, circling faster.

From my seat I get an ever increasing view of the world. I forget my nerves. My pilot has given me a rare thrill, to be lifted on nothing more than air currents, to new heights.

The tilting earth levels, and Fritz and I prepare to land. Green, brown, asphalt gray rush below as we descend. Above, the clouds have parted. There is only blue sky where we have been.

Only recently have I realized how akin to my own life that flight was. Since joining the Church I have put my faith in a new pilot—the Savior. He knows where the high points of my life are and will find them for me. I feel assured even when I am searching, because he is always there, at the controls. If I have faith, he will direct me and together we will soar.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Steve Kropp