I cannot remember a time when my eyes weren't cast skyward.
By day I would sit atop our garage roof to grab a glimpse of distant aircraft through my father's binoculars and by night I would lie prone on the grass tracking satellites as they raced past the blinking stars. The sky was always alive and even when it was empty, the shapely clouds would charge my imagination, drawing complex forms with their minuscule droplets.
As long as I could squeeze into a cardboard box it was a cockpit and as long as I could jump from a branch I was flying. And while my parents encouraged my aeronautical ways, not everyone was as understanding. Teachers banned me from sitting near windows to counter my plane spotting while career counsellors assured me that the dawning computer age would banish piloting to the annals of history alongside blacksmiths and town scribes. Still I remained undaunted.
Half a century later I still walk towards a window when I hear an aircraft overhead. I lean over fences at country airfields to watch that moment, that instant, when the rumbling wheels leave the earth and the magic of flight breaks the world's tether. At every turn I have longed to be free in the three dimensions, to sweep past clouds and look further than I could ever possibly see.
Strangely, I have never been particularly fond of heights. One of my earliest memories is falling head-first and waking to find a pool of blood expanding across my bedroom floor. Perhaps that is the deeply rooted source of my apprehension, or perhaps it's more primeval. Who's to say? Whatever the reason may be, I have always felt my grip increasingly tighten the higher that I ascend on man-made structures.
And yet I am completely at home in any vehicle that breaks the bonds entirely. Balloon, aeroplane, glider, it doesn't matter; I'll fly anything on offer and be eternally thankful for the opportunity. I guess that I have more faith in the forces of physics than I do in my own footing and ability to hold on for dear life.
Looking back, that first fall was just the beginning....