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This article was originally published in the Santa Barbara Hang Gliding Association Newsletter "Wind Song".  The News Letter editor was Jim Maddox.  Tom Truax wrote a series of articles for the Newsletter.  His column was titled "The Leading Edge"

The Leading Edge
By:  The Sundowner
Life On Course
Eleven / Ninety Seven

Running the range has bled into my earthly existence with obvious lessons.  In many ways a hearty cross country excursion resembles a life compressed into a few eventful hours.  The flow can also ebb both ways with lessons from life guiding our decisions on course.

All flights are not born equal.  A privileged child from the top of a fourth world country may not have the potential of a poor farm boy at The Rock.  Our expectations are not measured by altitude of launch alone.  And if siblings of identical genetic makeup start from the same launch, well, there’s always the weather.

Most of you have heard me say over again; “The weather is like a finger print. No two days are the same.”  If you’re sizing rings they may appear similar but if you flow with the fluted variations of sunshine, terrain, temperature, wind direction , velocity, stability...  The moment is hear as is, never before and never again.  Hindsight and forethought cannot touch base with the infinite...

We operate with varying degrees of certainty.  The uncertainty keeps us going.  Our physicists tell us that even a sharp edge will have a boundary with random chaos creating uncertainty.  We will surely land after launch, but life in general is a relatively uncertain journey.  Some of us cling to certainty, others relish the array of color.  If you don’t enjoy a reasonable level of uncertainty you should probably take the train.

Chose or be chosen.  It’s nice to do some of both.  There’s an argument that claims we’re generally doing what we want, if we weren’t, we’d do something else.  Sometimes we plan, sometimes we ride and react.  As we grow and gain exposure we tend to have ready made answers, but we can’t grow big enough to have all the answers.

Our goals can vary.  Get high, gain lot’s of altitude, build the bank, keep it fat.  Sometimes you need to be fat.  My wife needs it.  You’ll like a little your first time through The Pass (Casitas Pass).  What do we do with our altitude?  How much do we need to stay afloat?  Obviously these are complex questions that depend on many variables including the day light.  A seasoned eye will usually be able to make a tighter play and still be safe at the plate.

I used to hate to read.  My mom sent me to a special reading class.  They taught me to look for what I needed to know.  You learn to read and get better by reading.  I like to read now.  I do it to relax.

All flights begin and must end.  Some are long.  We can get high and stay home, follow the herd, run with the pack, or head on like a lone wolf.  Fortunately, we get to write our own rules and define our personal perception of success and failure, however, there are some hard realities.  Our flight may be over when we hit the ground, but the flying will continue.  We may fly again but we will never have the same flight.

Typically; We launch and identify the trend.  We can choose to go with the flow and might reverse course if the flow changes direction.  We watch the trends evolve and harmonize with the infinite variables.  We adjust to maximize, work, get some altitude, and then spend it.  We might glide to the LZ fat and happy to retire, play uphill for even more altitude, or run on course expecting to reboost when necessary.  If we get low in the hole we need to focus tight and strive to connect.  Our priorities and focus change and flux with continually evolving options.  I personally like connecting for a solid climb after stretching, but I like the buoyant glides the best.  We make choices that affect us downstream.  We learn our lessons.  The air is fluid but the rocks are real.  The dynamics are not static.  We can’t play the perfect game.  We play the hand we’re dealt and in the end we’re at some point in time and space with fading memories.

Life on course has given us some general guidelines that are dependent on many variables including our goals and the perceived options:

Reach varies with the ability to read and call a close margin.  The ability to read and run close to an edge is dependent on one’s judgment.  Good judgment comes from experience.  Experience comes from exercising poor judgment.  A quote from Eddie Rickenbacker, our WW I ace; “Any fool can learn from his own mistakes, a survivor learns from the mistakes of others.” Go to school.

 © copyright November, 1997