Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writer, stunt pilot, dressage rider

Annie Dillard wrote a wonderful book called The Writing Life. In one of the essays, The Stunt Pilot, she writes about a stunt pilot Dave Rahm and likens his work to writing. Watching from the ground, Dillard observed the stunt pilot guiding the plane in a series of graceful arcs, free falls, and loops. She writes:
Like any fine artist, he controlled the tension of the audience’s longing. You desired, unwittingly, a certain kind of roll or climb, or a return to a certain portion of the air, and he fulfilled your hope slantingly, like a poet, or evaded it until you thought you would burst, and then fulfilled it surprisingly, so you gasped and cried out.
Annie found his work so compelling and beautiful she went up in the plane with the pilot while he was at an air show, and the experience in the cockpit was harrowing -- a stomach-lurching,  tumultuous, gut-wrenching, physical experience.
If I had not turned two barrel rolls in an airplane, I might have fancied that Rahm felt good up there, and playful. Drawing lines with an airplane, unfortunately, tortures the senses. Jet pilots black out. Rahm felt as if his brain were bursting his eardrums...
To Dillard, this hellish ride was the price he paid to pursue his life's work, or his art.

  When Rahm flew, he sat down in the middle of art and strapped himself in. He spun it all around him.

I think dressage riders at the top levels must be like stunt pilots. We watch them and it looks so effortless and fun! But it's the culmination of years of dedication and effort, and even at the top levels, when you've mastered the craft, it must be hard work.

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