I am in Newfoundland doing research for what will one day be a book. Yesterday, I stood on the airstrip Amelia Earhart flew from when she flew solo across the Atlantic. I’ve wandered down the (stunning!) coast to Trepassey and climbed a lighthouse and looked out over the thin, long harbour that housed Amelia’s first trans-Atlantic plane when they got fogged in for weeks on end, and driven up to Harbour Grace where I watched a VHS tape of her moments before her solo flight. I get goosebumps thinking about it.
Currently, I’m perched on the top floor of a beautiful St. John’s home, surrounded by thousands of books (that’s what happens when a poet and a writer/publisher get hitched!), writing and writing, and picking my jaw up off the ground every now and then at the generousity and kindness of the folks around here.
A huge and enormous thank you to Access Copyright Foundation for the generous grant that allowed me to be here.
Some early scratchings:
There are the four panes of window glass reflected in the TV, and me, standing there in the centre of it all, as the propeller of her Vega is spun and caught by a man in coveralls over at the Harbour Grace airstrip. A quick cut to a tube, with fuel probably, fed up to the cockpit. Men in hats, talking, and then her.
She stands there, bluish and tall, her cheekbones smoothed out by the film. I have never seen her shift her weight when she stands or how she touches her lips with her fingers, like they’re dry, or she’s nervous. She listens, with the window reflection caught in her hair. And the video cuts to her speaking, laughing, then turning away from the camera. The VHS tape chugs forwards and I’m afraid it will catch on something, that it will unravel. There are crowds pressing in close to her, close to the plane and the wind picks up, licking the edge of her shirt, and turning the collar of her coat in on itself. The wind blows her curls from her forehead and she looks younger than she is.
Her thermos with the tomato soup from Archibald’s hotel that they marketed as her favourite soup for years afterwards must already be in the cockpit and she must have already packed the maps of the Atlantic that are too big to safety pin to her pants.
The man in the pale coveralls spins the propeller again, cranking it tight and the video skips ahead to the propeller spinning so fast it looks like a circle, instead of a blade.
A bobbing landscape, the ground a dark blue, the sky a few shades lighter, and then her plane, the Vega cuts through the reflection of the window, passing through my shoulders. The camera stays trained on its tail until there is no plane, only sky, and the scratch and dust marks of old film passing across my t-shirt.