Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Flying High

Last weekend, a few dozen bush pilots and recreational flyers were in town for the biannual Bush Plane Fly-In, a series of events that salutes the City's heritage and reminds those of us who weren't around in the heyday of the 1930s just what we were missing out on during those frontier times.

While having breakfast at a waterfront restaurant in the "Old Town", i.e. the original town site from the 1930s, I noticed that a green biplane on floats seemed to be practicing takeoffs and landings on the bay outside our window. With a bit more observation, it seemed he was actually offering people short rides over the city, picking them up and dropping them off at a wharf just 50 or so yards from where I was sitting.

Being a fan of small planes generally, and never having flown in an open cockpit biplane in particular, this was too good to pass up, so as soon as breakfast was over, off we went to see how much this would cost. I figured I was prepared to spend up to $100 for this unique experience. Turns out "Bucky" from Seattle WA was offering rides to all comers - FOR FREE. This hardly seemed fair to him, but who was I to say no?

So, after putting my name on a list and waiting my turn for approximately an hour, I eagerly clambered into the front cockpit, with only six inches of windscreen between my face and the great outdoors. After some minimal safety instructions - keep the seatbelt on at all times, hold on to your glasses, especially if you look around the windscreen - Bucky started up his 1927 Curtis-Wright Travel Air, and the single prop up front began to thrum with an impressive power. A quick taxi on the bay, and we were airborne, going up probably 2000 feet and threading a back and forth pattern over Old Town, Downtown, and the houseboats on the other bay across the peninsula.

Those 15 minutes were like being strapped into the biggest, most kick ass rollercoaster on the planet. The wind rushing over the windscreen, pinning your glasses to your face; the gripping of the cockpit's leather rim whenever the plane banked, certain you would spill out; the direct contact with the elements, not least of which was the sun; and the unbelievable views of the city, from not too terribly high up.

After we'd landed and taxied back to the wharf, I tried to offer Bucky at least a token towards his gas money, but he wasn't having any of it. He had spent the past 3.5 hours ferrying a variety of people around for the sheer love of flying, and for the love of his particular aircraft. So Bucky, back in Seattle, thanks for a thrilling ride and an unforgettable experience.

The Radius of a Rainbow

The city that I now call home is located in a sub-Arctic desert, which mostly means we need to run humidifiers in the winter to keep the cat fur from sticking to the walls with all the static, and in the summer, we are largely spared the spectacular, but kind of frightening, thunder and lightning storms I grew up with in hot, humid Montreal.

Global warming however, means shifting weather patterns, and over the past couple of summers, we have slowly but surely been having more thunderstorms. Tonight's however, was even more spectacular than normal, if crazy weather can be seen to be "normal" at all.

It started around 4 p.m., when I could see a sheet of charcoal grey stretching from the horizon up into the equally somber clouds in the North sky. Over the next couple of hours, those clouds rolled in, until the entire sky was charcoal grey. And then those clouds opened, and for roughly an hour the rain pelted down, bouncing off the pavement like nickels, piercing the screen door until the entire patio door track was filled with water, and obscuring my view across the street.

When the rains finally slowed however, I saw something I don't remember ever seeing before - a double rainbow tracing a full 180 degrees in the sky, the inner rainbow almost incandescent, the colours were so vivid. I will always regret not having a camera to capture this astounding sight, but I stood there on the deck of the sailing club for several minutes, watching it fade and shift, even remarking at one point that it was being reflected in the lake, it was so intense. A handful of other people attending the same workshop also stepped outside to take it in while it lasted, and we were commenting about how you usually only see one end of a rainbow, and the arc tends to disappear into a cloud or fade away, and that this was something else entirely.

I was thinking the arc of this particular rainbow was perfectly circular, not stretched out the way they sometimes are, and then I thought, for no particular reason, what is the radius of a rainbow?

I'm pretty sure someone like Descartes has done the math, and figured out the complicated principles of refraction and distance, and the size of the water droplets probably matters too, but somehow all the science diminishes the sheer perfection of nature's beauty, this big, bright, multicoloured arc stretching from the North sky to the South over the massive dark lake, even for a moment shining back up at itself.

And then, like so many other things in nature, it was gone, obscured once more by another wave of rain.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I have finally made the jump into the blogosphere, after months of reading other people's blogs and wondering, how hard can this be, exactly? I guess we're going to find out, together.

I'm happy to say that while I'm not exactly sure what form this blog will take over the coming weeks and months, I can make a couple of promises : there will be no discussion of my job, or of my co-workers, and no whinging about either. I really like my job (and my co-workers), but I spend enough time doing it and thinking about it, and I'd like to think I'm more than my job, so this blog is going to be about everything, and anything, else.