Flights of Fancy
From childhood through my
teen years, I would spread my
arms and dance around in time
to the internal music of flight. At
night, I would dream that I
could fly. The phrase "flights of
fancy" reminds us of the close
connection between flying and
Greek legends tell the tale of Icarus, whose father Daedalus made him
wings of feathers held together with wax. But when Icarus tried the
wings, he flew too close to the sun. The heat melted the wax, and
Icarus fell into the sea. The story may have been a warning against
extremes of ambition or pride.
In Bruegel's famous painting of the scene, farmers, shepherds and
seamen go about their daily occupation, totally unaware of the tiny
figure that has plummeted into the ocean until only Icarus' flailing legs
showed above the waves (see lower right-hand corner of the painting).
On television in the 1950s, I saw the
first two images Iâ€™d seen of real
people â€œflying.â€� Mary Martin in
Peter Pan made flight seem a real
possibility, as long as you ignored the
strings that were occasionally picked
up by the camera. She flew with the
ease and delight of my dreams.
Not so with George Reeves as
Superman. You could see the effort of
his takeoffs as he flexed his legs and
leapt into the sky. Once there, he flew
without effort, though rather
monotonously, arms and legs
extended, cape fluttering behind him.
When he banked to land, the camera
would cut to show him catching himself
on earth. More the muscular
performance of a body-builder than the
varied flight of my dreams.
One of the best recent evocations of
flight is the movie â€œWinged
Migration.â€� There are no flying
people depicted there, just birds--great
flocks of them soaring across the globe
in long annual treks. But the incredible
photography gives you the sense that
youâ€™re right there, flying alongside
them. You see each feather trim,
naturally, inevitably, without strain.