There will never be an account that will place my name along side Karen Blixen’s and Beryl Markham’s – unless I cheat myself into their ranks. You might think, how impertinent of me if you know of these extraordinary women, I so easily want to link myself to. And yes, you would be right.
Neither in achievement or beauty, in talent or intellect, in boldness or bravery I am able to stand up to either of them. But both inspire me immensely – and when it comes to flying, we seem not just to share the feeling of freedom it bestows us with, but also the reason that brought us up to the skies.
In her fictional biography of Beryl Markham, Paula McLain puts a phrase into her heroine’s mouth that I like to believe, she would have said herself. A statement that could not better describe my own feelings, when it comes to climbing into the cockpit: “Flying demanded more courage and faith than I actually possessed, and it wanted my best, my whole self.”
If Denys Finch-Hatton was her primary motivation to learn to fly is not up to me to judge. But I like the idea. Maybe because it gives me a powerful allied in challenging both courage and faith in order to impress a man. A poor reason, you might think, to take up a hobby (or in Beryl’s case a profession) as demanding as flying.
Yet, whatever the primary motivation – and I believe Beryl would agree – flying has the ability to develop a force of attraction on its own. By pushing one’s boundaries far beyond perceived capabilities and comfort zones, it allures with a sense of unexpected accomplishments. It opens up not just a new fascinating world, within which you learn to maneuver skillfully, but a new perception of what is achievable.
Ps.: If you are interested to learn more about Karen and Beryl and you want to read some wonderful prose, I recommend both “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen and “West with the Night” by Beryl Markham.