Saturday, February 28, 2009

There's something about a sunrise

I got up early this morning -- before sunrise -- to work on this week's edition of the RV Builder's Hotline. And also, I was done sleeping. One of the side benefits of getting older is you don't need that much sleep anymore, which is a good thing because it allowed me to stand at the picture window, a fresh-brewed cup of joe in hand, and watch the sun rise over flyover country.

A glance at the clock -- 6:54 -- brought a smile to my face. It was just a few months ago that the sun in these parts didn't rise above the crease in the universe until 7:50.

I went out to get the paper -- which was late -- and noticed the birds' song has changed; it's a spring song. Without a paper, I let the sun be my guide as I read though some of the aviation magazines that arrived this week with articles about the new Cessna Caravan, and hot new avionics, even the benefits of an instrument rating -- all of which I'm never going to own. Not in this economy. Not in any economy. No matter.

I fired up the laptop and read the latest from the bulletin boards and e-mail lists. Out in California, some of the RV folks are getting together to fly this morning, someone else is testing out a new smoke system, the Ohio Valley RVators are crowing because they've had two good days of flying weather. I caught myself thinking, "this would be a great day to fly," imagining what it will be like when I can pull my RV out of a hangar, fire it up, and head off in the direction of the rising sun.

All over America, hangar doors are opening today. This is a good thing, and we should pause to remember the message that sends.

I'm not by nature an optimist; far from it, actually. But between sunrises, spring songs, and smoke systems, I don't know how to avoid it on days like this.

A few months ago, I started the process of seeing how much my RV project would sell for, so that I could move quickly if I lost my job in the coming layoffs. I didn't, although a pledge drive in the last week fell short, so I'm crossing my fingers again.

The project still sits out at the cold, unheated hangar, the closest thing I can point to to my unbridled optimism. I don't know how I'm going to afford to finish it, I don't know how I'm going to fly it. But I'm going to.

There are thousands of airplane projects all over the country just like that. Builders are taking one step at a time, one instruction at a time, one dose of reality at a time. Bombarded as we are by the steady stream of bad news, we press on; not because we are denying reality, but because we are embracing a part of it that goes unrecognized. "This too shall pass," is a favorite expression of my father in law. "Things will get better," is the favorite expression of people who advised me during some lean years past. They've always been right, and I see no reason to not believe them now.

For the past two months, as part of my day job, I've been visiting a different college campus in Minnesota every Wednesday. I set up a table and invite anyone to sit down and chat. And then I document the students' stories (You can find most of them here). It's been an eye-opening experience because in the midst of all this, well, depression, there are countless examples of optimism. Heck, the very fact people are still working toward a future tells me there's going to be one.

And so it is with aviation, too. The special interest groups -- AOPA, for example -- are already doing what they do best, creating an us against them mentality. The sky is falling. Things are dark and growing darker.

You can't tell that by looking out the window here on the prairie. Or walking outside to find a newspaper. Or reading the messages from people who are giddy they're going to go fly today, or people who are optimistic that one day they will.

Things will get better. They already are. A good sunrise will do that to you.

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