Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Synchronicity Tales: Spirit Level

At the end of a marvelous weekend of dream theater and group journeying in Portland, I caught a redeye flight back to the East Coast. The airline bumped me up to first class, which would have been more of a bonus had I not had the bulkhead in front of me, crowding my legs without allowing the possibility of sliding my feet under a seat in front. My rowmate was a well-traveled older guy who confided - after a few glasses of wine - that he had just fulfilled one of his big life dreams by flying a little Piper Cherokee across the continent, following the route of the explorers Lewis and Clark. He waxed poetic as he described the joy of viewing the changing landscapes from just 6,000 feet up. Where was his plane now? "I'm not crazy. I gave the keys to a friend to fly it home to Florida for me."

He was a pilot in Vietnam, he confided. When we shared memories of that wretched, doomed war (I visited Vietnam as a reporter) we found we had known some of the same people.

Now he had tracked Lewis and Clark from the air, what were his remaining ambitions? "To go round Tierra del Fuego, following the route of Magellan," he said without hesitation. Then, after a pause, "And to make my peace with God." He revealed that he had been raised in Alabama by fundamentalist parents and has been in recovery ever since. I asked if he remembered his dreams. He seemed startled. To encourage him, I quoted Jung's statement, written near the end of his life, that "It is an age-old fact that God speaks, chiefly, in dreams and visions." "Jeez," my rowmate reached for his glass. "I hope it's not God that's speaking in my dreams. I'm scared of my dreams."

I didn't press the theme. There are many men in this world who are bold adventurers on land and air and sea, but shy away from the fields of dreams. The talk released a boyhood memory from my companion.

"When I reached my teens,my grandfather gave me a spirit level and told me the secret of life. Keep the bubble in the middle. A few years ago I found a place in England that makes these neat little teak wood spirit levels. I give them to friends with a plaque that says Keep the bubble in the middle."

Good advice. I wonder what counsel this wise grandfather will have to offer now, if the grandson is ever ready to listen his dreams.


Wanda said...

Since I have spent my life working and living in historic houses, the story of the "spirit level" resonates with so much that is important to me. Not nearly so evocative, but another wood craftsman's phrase that can become a life metaphor is "measure twice and cut once" - good advice for making sure you don't short-change yourself or those with whom you communicate.

Robert Moss said...

Thanks, Wanda. And as I read you, I hear the double entendre in the phrase "spirit level", which might be quite relevant in working with historic houses...