Posted by: skyward | July 18, 2008

Captured by the Spirit

   (UPDATE July 21: ) Thank you, friends, for visiting and “soaring” with us.  We have appreciated encouraging e-mail messages from you, too.  We were delighted to receive nearly two hundred visits on the first day when we “went public.”  This weekend we were busy creating our Japanese blog: www.loveflying.wordpress.com.  Please come visit –you will get to read our self-introduction through interviews.  Daniel has been thrilled to make a debut in the Internet community, reaching out to a broad audience in two (possibly more) countries.  We will soon publish our next entry; keep visiting.

Our Hero with the "Spirit," before his world-famous transatlantic journey

Our Hero with the "Spirit," before his world-famous transatlantic journey

 

 Welcome to our mother-and-son blog.  We share the essay Kiyoko wrote for her son, Daniel, shortly before his seventh birthday.  (For more about ourselves, please go to “About.”)  Yes, the “Spirit” of St. Louis has captured us. 

                                     SOARING SKYWARD WITH DANIEL 

The lights of Paris cast a glow on the silver monoplane.  No sooner had one foot touched the ground, a human sea swept toward the lone flier.  More than 150,000 spectators were running toward him.   Countless hands seized him —his legs, his arms, his body— and ardently carried him around.  Thousands of voices mingled, filling the air. 

 It was a defining moment in aviation history.  In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis.  It was a death-defying voyage.  In the days when air travel was still in its infancy, the race to fly across the Atlantic Ocean had claimed the lives of multiple adventurers.  But the fearless “Lone Eagle” donned helmets and goggles, climbed into the cockpit, and soared into the air.  Flying through storms and battling unrelenting fatigue, the twenty-five-year-old aviator conquered the journey spanning 3,610 miles.  The flight took thirty-three hours and twenty-nine minutes.   After circling the Eiffel Tower, Lindbergh triumphantly flew into the glow of lights at Le Bourget Airfield.  More than 150,000 Parisians had congregated to greet the American hero. 

Lindbergh entered my life when I was a fifth grader in my native Japan.  I immersed myself in Tusbasa-yo Are-ga Pari-no-Hi-da (“Wings, Those are the Lights of Paris”) –the Japanese version of The Spirit of St. Louis, the aviation pioneer’s memoir depicting his conquest of the air.  As I traced the legendary flight, that extraordinary night would come alive in my mind, with the sights and smells of Le Bourget Airfield.  Not understanding a word of English, I never dreamed that I would one day live in Lindbergh’s homeland and reacquaint myself with his memoir in the original language.

Imagine my surprise and joy when the aviation world captured Daniel, my seven-year-old son.  Sharing the longing for the sky, Daniel and I spent a whole summer devouring every book we could find about our hero.  We were especially thrilled to discover a rare book illustrating Lindbergh’s 1931 visit to Japan, including my hometown, Osaka.  Daniel and I also labored for weeks to put together a book titled Lindbergh’s Adventures and presented it at the summer project exhibition at his Japanese school.  Shortly afterward, my bilingual son plunged into another “Lindbergh project,” this time at his American school.  He and his classmates conducted research on their individually chosen careers and gave presentations.  Sporting a makeshift pilot uniform for his presentation, Daniel answered questions about the flying career and proudly displayed his Japanese book.  During the course of his research, Daniel had the privilege of interviewing Spence Campbell, a pilot and flight instructor.  Spence had trained Erik Lindbergh, an aviator known for his own 2002 transatlantic flight recreating his grandfather ’s epic voyage.  Finding a connection to his hero, however remote, enthralled Daniel.

Working on these school projects taught us more about life than aviation.  From beyond the sky, Lindbergh continues to speak, stirring deep emotions within us and giving us a fresh appreciation of the timeless lesson: hard work and determination lays the foundation for success — and ultimately, for a meaningful contribution to mankind.  History was made overnight, proclaim some authors, referring to the span of thirty-three and one-half hours that gave worldwide acclaim to an obscure airmail pilot.   No, no, no —Daniel and I shake our heads.   The legend began long before the pilot’s ascent into the air.  When he visited one investor after another, persuading them to support his venture.   When he painstakingly helped design an ideal plane, with a keen eye for detail.  When he cut out redundant pages from his books of maps, discarding every ounce of extra weight so that the plane could carry additional fuel.   Lindbergh toiled tirelessly and meticulously as if to perfect the art of planning. 

Going through checklists remained vital part of Lindbergh’s life.  Portraying how “methodical and exacting” her father was, Reeve Lindbergh, Charles’ daughter, even devotes one whole chapter of her memoir to his embrace of checklists.  Embodying the aviator’s quest for perfection, checklist has become a key word in our life as well.   “Remember Lindbergh’s checklist!”   I exclaim each time my son embarks on his daily violin practice.  Remember what he must have done before the take-off?  Daniel and I go through all the items on the list, one by one: Is your pinky smiling?  Is your elbow low enough?  “Ready?  Take off!”  My little pilot soars in the air.  Daniel may never set a world record and bask in the spotlight of fame. Nonetheless, I hope he will pursue excellence in even seemingly mundane tasks, whether it be practicing the violin or doing homework, so he can smile serenely to himself, deriving quiet joys from little victories.  After all, how can he brace himself for all his hardships and struggles without first taking up life’s small challenges?  

 “I’ll be a pilot, no matter what,” declares Daniel, beaming a smile.  During our bedtime ritual of reading, he and I once again trace our hero’s journey in The Spirit of St. Louis.  One of the parenthood joys is helping our children mold their dreams into reality as they lift their way into the future; and that process reenergizes and rejuvenates us, fueling a desire to live more intensely and purposefully.  Replete with the engine’s roar, the vast expanse of water, a radiant sky, a rich chorus of voices, Lindbergh’s story of courage and triumph resonates powerfully for us, propelling us to new heights. 

 I pore over a mother-and-son photo in Lindbergh’s biography.  Posing for the press shortly before the legendary flight, the pilot and his mother stand side-by-side and smile faintly in front of the Spirit of St. Louis.  Evangeline Lindbergh must have been acutely aware that her son was risking his life.  But she patted him on the shoulder, wished him well, and returned to her teaching job.  “My heart and soul is with my boy on his perilous journey,” she commented to the press.  Indeed, she stayed airborne; in her mind, she traversed the endless stretch of sea with her son.  I, too, will explore the far reaches of the sky with you, Daniel.  You may not hear thousands of feverish Parisians rooting for your success; but a mother’s internal cheerleading voice could be just as fiercely powerful.  Even more so. 

 Looking up, Daniel and I see a gray sky transform itself into a transparent blue sky.  And in the midst of that sky flies a gray-white monoplane that once glistened in the lights of Paris.  In the tiny cockpit, embracing the solitude that envelops him, sits an earnest young flier, his eyes fixed on his goal.  Daniel and I squint into the light.  Oh Lindbergh, we will keep crafting our letters and sending them skyward.

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Responses

  1. Wow, when I opened up the blog I felt like I was flying. Is Daniel going to blog his book? Sounds like he has a lot of school projects for his age. I hope you and Daniel have a good journey!

  2. Great for Daniel to keep such a romantic dream. Wish him a good luck. I am also impressed that you are a good mother. Keep this blog on. I enjoyed it.

  3. ght@ght.com | 131.107.0.102
    I realize your boy is very young, and I am glad that he has found a hero. However, you said you and Daniel have read every book you could find on Lindbergh, so many of them must have discussed his pro-Nazi, anti-semetic, and anti-Asian comments and actions. It must be difficult to discuss these aspects of Lindbergh’s life with your son, and I would like to know how you accomplish it.

  4. Awesome Daniel…I really enjoyed the blog.

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    Clair:
    I’m glad that the blog makes you feel like you are flying. I chose the picture on top –isn’t it neat? Yes, school projects do keep me busy, but they also give me the chance to write more about my favorite subject: aviation! (Daniel)

    Tom:
    We appreciate your encouragement. Mama has enjoyed getting to know you. Hope I will meet you some day. Please keep visiting. (Daniel)

    Jim:
    Your question is a good one (in fact, I anticipated this sort of question, too.) I am keenly aware of the controversies surrounding Lindbergh’s unpopular/politically incorrect views. My son, at age seven, does seem to recognize, to some extent, his hero’s imperfection. We do not worship Lindbergh blindly. It seems to me, however, that the aviator’s political stance especially in his later years remains outside the scope of this blog. No one can deny that Lindbergh, despite his share of flaws, was indeed an extraordinary character, and there is so much one can learn from his conquest of the air itself. Thanks for visiting. (Kiyoko)

    Chris:
    Glad to hear it’s “awesome”! Keep visiting; we will be updating soon. (Daniel)

  6. This is really a cool post. Wish Daniel fly high with colors! and all the very best.

  7. Nischay:
    Wow! We are delighted to receive your comment.
    We’ll make it better!
    (Daniel & Kiyoko)


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