The sun dropped into low gold on the horizon, and there was a faint mist through the valley that caught the color and sprayed it across the countryside. We had a crowd of twenty people around us, but all had either flown or had no wish to fly.

They had no idea what they were missing; this would be a magnificent sunset from the air.

"Come along, folks", I said. "Sunsets for sale this evening! The Great American Flying Circus guarantees a minimum of two sunsets this evening, but only if you act now! Watch the sun go down here, then up in the sky to watch her go down once more! A sight you will never see again, as long as you live! Prettiest sunset all summer! It's a burnt-copper afternoon--right out of Beethoven's heart! Who's ready to step up there into the air with me?"

One lady, sitting in a car nearby, thought I was speaking all to her. Her words came clear in the soft air, louder than she meant. "I don't fly unless I have to."

The poor people, they had no idea. They were passing up paradise! How do you convince them of good? I made one last appeal, then, meeting no response, started the engine and took off alone, just to fly and see the land from the air.

It was more beautiful than I had promised. The haze topped out at less than a thousand feet, and from 2,000 feet the earth was a silent lake of gold, with a few brilliant emerald hilltops rising to be islands in the crystal air. The land was all a golden dream, where only good and beautiful lived, and it was spread out below us like a tale from Marco Polo, with the sky going deep-velvet black overhead. It was another planet, that Earth, one never seen by man, and the biplane and I held the splendor of it all to ourselves.

We started our first roll a mile in the air, and the biplane did not stop rolling and soaring and diving and singing strong in her wires until the ground was dark and the mist was gone and the gold had disappeared from the sky.

We whispered down into the grass and swung to park, shutting the engine into hot-ticking silence. I sat alone for a full minute, not wanting to talk to people or to hear them or to see them. I knew I'd never forget that flight, and I wanted a quiet moment to lay it carefully away in my thought, for I would be coming here many times again, in the years ahead.


Richard Bach, in "Nothing by Chance", 1969.


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