The West |

Guidelines for Flying: 3 Destinations

by Samantha Cohen

edited by Mathew Timmons

San Pedro, California Descend onto the rockiest beach you see, the one with the greatest differentiation in color among its rocks. The beach you choose is nearly sure to be empty of humans. Use this emptiness. Spend some time alone with the beach. With its rocks. Pick up a pointy red rock. Run it along the sandstone cliff wall, or across a white boulder. Notice how easily one thing marks another, how it changes the other thing's appearance. How it loses a tiny amount of itself in the marking. Sit, if you want, and rub the pointy red rock against the white boulder until the red rock is dust and nothing, a rust-colored coating for the pale other. Walk for a long time and notice what you notice. Fly close above the ocean like a gull. Come back to the shore now and look at the shiny black shelf of rock along the ocean's edge. This was separate rocks once, textured and singular, what is now a smooth black slab. All this rubbing's happening on a bigger scale. The ocean's licked and devoured, left the nearby rocks lustrous and connected, carried pieces of them away. They've become ocean floor, overseas sand; they've been incorporated into the homes of mollusks. This is your choice, flyer: To keep all your original colors and shapes. To stay untouched, unrubbed. To maintain integrity, completely. Or to engage in rubbing. To let yourself be sanded or sheened, to wear colors which are not natively yours, to let parts of you go missing forever, to be incorporated into other beings, to be used and traded, to be forever in flux. Know that once you choose to engage in the rubbing, it's difficult to control what paints you, where something scrapes. Stand on the flat black beach rock and look at yourself. Then look around. At the cliff wall, glacier-carved and jagged. At the driftwood, polished and evened-over. At the pointy red rock that you yourself have dulled, at the white boulder you've ornamented. Make your choice—to open yourself to interaction, or to fly solo. Choose wisely. But choose.

Giant Sequoia It's time for you, flight-seeker, to witness the Giant Sequoia. The Giant Sequoia is giant. Is a giant. You are unprepared to believe in giants. It is a scary thing to witness that which your brain has not made room for, prior, to be suddenly small. Prepare yourself. Flip a synapse: Make room for giants. Sequoias are the largest and oldest living creatures on earth. They make babies out of elephants and dwarf whales. They can grow to over fifty feet in diameter. Their bark alone is three feet thick. They've survived earthquakes and droughts, fires and wars. Approach a sequoia. Touch its bark. Realize it's possible it has been personally acquainted with Mary Magdalen or St. Valentine. Stare upward a moment, in silent awe at all it might know. Among giants, you will walk. You will walk on little legs, close to the ground, your head near the roots, a crushable animal. You are unused to being small. Trees are big, sure, but you are big, too. You look out your bedroom window and see treetops. You walk out your door and pull a lemon from a tree. A tree is a climbable thing. To climb the Sequoia, though, you'd have to extend your arms overhead and curl your fingers around the vee of the branchlike roots, bow your arms to pull your feet through the space between, until you stand secure where roots meet trunk. You'd have to wedge a toe between barked shelves and scale vertically like an ant. As you walk tiny among the giants, look at each one. You'll see curvy inkblots and black scorched stripes. These trees have been on fire. You'll see trees so badly burned at their bases they've fused at the roots with the next tree over, sharing trunk for meters and meters and decades or centuries until they were ready to separate into two solid sky-reaching cylinders, two tufts of leaves. Other trees have been hollowed completely by flame, but roots still nourish their emptied bark. Climb into a hollowed tree. Look around you, and then up two hundred feet of wood-walled tunnel. Realize that six or seven Lost Boys could gather comfortably in here; if your desire to fly is based on Peter Pan fantasies, you may decide to stop. We wish you luck in wooing a hiker lover. Or perhaps you'll find that a fetching former flyer that shares your fantasy has already made a bed and a cooking pit inside the vertical tunnel. What you shall learn from the Sequoia: To submit yourself to that which is most dangerous, again and again, and to survive. To show your scars, but to be so strong, so rooted and reaching, that you appear tenacious and beautiful, not pitiful or marred. The Sequoia not only survives fire; it needs fire to clear away smaller trees, to steam open its pinecones and allow seeds to rain down to the forest floor. Learn to be fortified by that which burns you; to adapt yourself so that you use all things you encounter to your advantage. Learn that sharing your system of nourishment can be strengthening, but that it's okay to separate, to branch out alone. Learn, too, to be small.

Taliesin West You shall visit Taliesin West, not because Frank Lloyd Wright is the most publicly regarded alumnus of the Flying Institute, but because, of the successful homes former flyers have found and created, his is the most accessible. Taliesin costs a heap to enter, but if you swoop down and land behind Frank's old workspace, you should be fine. If anyone stops you, simply inform them you're from the Flying Institute and, after maybe a nod and eye-flicker of admiration, they'll look away. Frank Lloyd Wright's home emerges from the rock into which it's built. Each building surfaces from rock cracks; its variegations in color look like shadows or erosion. It is as though the rock has sprouted the structures of its own accord, which may not be inaccurate, quite: Frank may have just been able to intuit that earth-spot's desire. Flying over the Arizona desert Frank claimed to have sensed a strong tug from below, as though he were being funneled toward the mountaintop, or as though a curious airshaft had opened rabbit hole-like, which he glided smoothly down. Frank walked across the top of the mountain, examining chollas and kicking at the red sand. He felt pummeled with bundles of heat, but Frank was an old man already and his doctor said that heat was exactly what he needed. Trudging down the eastern side of the mountain, Frank felt his ribcage relax and his lungs exhale and suck more easily. His fingers started to tingle. And right near the middle of the side of the mountain, Frank's heart felt marionetted. He staked a small flag into the rocky soil and telegrammed his wife. "I've found our home," he said. Frank Lloyd flew to Wisconsin to pick her up and they left immediately in a van to begin building. From a narrow street he spotted his flag on the mountainside and set to work with plows and concrete forging a road. Frank Lloyd's wife and children, plus many of his close collaborators and other people he enjoyed were non-flyers, and he needed his home to be accessible. Plus, it was almost impossible to fly with all the tools he needed for building. Frank Lloyd did not bring wood or brick to the land, but instead used the already-present materials to build the structures of his home: gravel, stone, red sand. These were the materials, the atoms with their spinny electrons, after all, that pulled him home. Frank's wife was concerned about water supply. This was the desert. She called the city of Phoenix, researched aqueducts. Frank Lloyd scoffed and crawled the desert floor with a divining rod and his ear to the sand. He staked the ground with a little flag again and returned to his wife puff-chested and smiling. She agreed reluctantly to help him dig. When they hit bedrock, she shrugged, but Frank called in men with groundbreaking machines who smashed through the bedrock to find a rushing stream of the clearest water. All the workers were wide-eyed, but Frank Lloyd just shouted a smug "Ha!" for he knew, had always known, that if a place is your home, it will provide sustenance. As you explore Taliesin West, examine the structures that Frank Lloyd built. His communal spaces are simple and grand, walled and canvas-roofed and open to the air. Each item in every room serves one precise function, while remaining beautiful. Some rooms are opulent while still spare: the music hall, the screening room, the cabaret cave. Learn that prioritizing function does not mean shunning beauty, that, in fact, true economy can be magnificent. Remember, Taliesin West is only one example of a flyer's home. That you are here because Frank Lloyd wanted you to be. Frank Lloyd loved music, theater, spectacle, crowd. He constructed Taliesin to woo. Learn from Taliesin. Feel for the spot on the earth that tugs you. Feel for the place that provides sustenance, for it is there but, if it's your home, maybe only you can sense it. Figure out what your spot of earth wants to be, wants always to have been, and use its materials to help it get there. Do not be intimidated by Frank's reputation as one of the greatest architects of all time. Frank was no better an architect than many Flying Institute graduates; he just built on a larger scale. Frank was a showman. Frank was not a great architect because he was a dreamer-up of wonders, but because he listened carefully, used the materials around him. Because he valued economy, function. Many other flyers have found and molded equally successful and beautiful homes, which you will never find because they do not want you to. Flyers have homes in trees, underground, on icy coasts, nestled roadless in mountainy places. So go. Fly the globe. See if you feel tugged at by sand or air or leaf. Go where you are tugged. Then, look around and see. If you find it beautiful, if you feel home.