Flying with Your Landing Gear Down
By Don Iannone
Ten minutes into our flight home,
the pilot informed us that we were flying
with our landing gear down.
He didn't sound overly concerned,
so the passengers did not react in panic, but
you could feel the tension in the air
throughout the cabin of the 50-seat Embraer RJ145.
Fifteen minutes later,
the pilot came back on to inform us
that he and his first mate were successful
in getting the landing gear back up.
Relief filled the airplane cabin.
I know that I was not the only person on board wondering
whether the crew would be able
to get the landing gear back down
once we were ready to land in Cleveland.
Flying has always been a mystery to me,
even though I do it all the time.
But flying isn't even one percent the mystery of dying,
which plagues our imaginations
from nearly our first breath in life.
No one I know would pick a plane crash
as their preferred way to die, but then
is there really any preferred way to die?
Some people, it seems, find it easier to rest
in the thought of their own impermanence.
I believe for all it is a struggle accepting
that we cannot be forever as we are now.
At this very moment, I look into my own heart,
and there I find remarkable peace
with the knowledge of not knowing
what will become of this airplane
and our lives attached to it.
I'm a long ways from a complete acceptance
of my own impermanence, but
for this moment, there is peace, and
a belief that the landing gear will work
once we are ready to land at our destination.
There is something symbolic in the notion
that at times all of us fly with our landing gear down.
Could this be what happens to us
when we are afraid, and
fail to trust God to deliver us?
In this moment of unknowing,
there is a knowing that can only be experienced
within the unknowing moment.
It is the consciousness that we are here,
while we are here, and
there will be a time for each of us
when we will be no more.
This situation is a reminder to me that when I fly,
I should draw up my landing gear and fly, and
when it is time to land, it is time only then
to put down the landing gear, and
when the time comes...
that my landing gear fails me finally,
I shall release all that holds me,
and fly into the arms of the universe
that will cradle me until
I am ready to sprout my own wings.
PS: This poem was written during our flight from
Burlington, Vermont to Cleveland, Ohio on
December 26, 2006. My wife Mary and
Mother-in-Law Ginny were on the flight with me.
The landing gear worked as we landed in Cleveland.
We were greeted by a team of fire trucks and emergency
vehicles whose services were thankfully not needed.
I rejoice in offering this poem to all those who struggle
at times with their own landing gear in life.