It occurred to me that in putting together this aeroplane methodically, piece by piece, painstakingly gluing one tiny piece of balsa wood to the next, that this has become my therapy. It wasn’t a huge revelation. I didn’t fly through the streets of the greater metropolitan valley centre area shouting that I’d discovered the next great heal-all, chicken-soup-for-the-soul-of-the-friend-whose-good-friend-committed-suicide. Rather, it was a quiet thought. Something that slipped in while I was laying out the pieces of the fuselage frame.
I won’t lie to you; I’ve thought of David every step of the way so far. At his wake, the Saskatchewan Architects’ Association awarded him his professional architectural certification, something he’d been working toward since he got back from UBC. I can’t see a blueprint for anything and not think of David. I never could. Well, I suppose I could before I met David, but I hadn’t seen many blueprints back then. I’ve thought how it would have been really cool to make models with him. I’m sure he’d have changed the plans and modified the pieces and critiqued the design. I’m positive he’d have studied up on the model we were making and would have some grand scheme we could then use the model for. Honestly, I’m just happy to have these quiet thoughts to myself when I’m building this amazing piece of equipment.
When the instructions said “crack the wing frame at this point if you’re building dihedrals”, I thought, I know dihedral angles do something or other in mathematics, and I suspect in aeronautics, it probably stablilizes something, but I don’t actually know what that means. And since I find it Bothersome when I don’t know what something means, I looked it up. in case you had forgotten, the dihedral in a fixed-wing aircraft is the angle above the horizontal that an aeroplane’s wing…um…is at. ANHEDRAL angle is when the fixed wing angles down below the horizontal. The dihedral angle of the wing controls an aircraft’s roll. I considered all the times this aeroplane might possibly actually fly, and then decided, ‘fuck the dihedrals’, which is probably something that ALL aeronautics engineers say at SOME point in their lives.
Not that I am by any means an aeronautics engineer. Nor an engineer of any sort. Except perhaps for a soup engineer. I’m good at soup.
But here’s the thing. In this quiet, step-by-step assembly of an historic aeroplane flown by one of Canada’s greatest “war heroes” (if there is such a thing), I have found a quiet place. I’ve been at the centre of this quiet place before, and it’s not something I chagrin I’ll never find again…instead, this is a sort of soft meditation I wasn’t expecting. I can sit at the table and glue my fingers to the pieces and smile as I carefully and slowly peel the pieces away again. I lay out the pieces on the table, beside the frame that’s pinned to the blueprints, and I can think about David and everything else without being overwhelmed. I suppose this is also part of the regular passage of time and what they call ‘moving on’.
This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with sadness and loss and grief and death and suicide and sorrow. Not by far. But there’s something different about this time, and I don’t really know what it is. But when I’m finished this aeroplane, I’ll hang it in the window, and every time I look at it, I’ll think this is the plane I built with David, even though that sounds silly. But in this one thing, moreso than anything I’ve worked on, I am finding myself needing to be more meticulous. More careful. More precise. More exacting.
You know these words are antithetical to me. I am the opposite of those things. Except in terms of language, I suspect. But still, when I knit a sweater or a sock, I don’t much care if I slip a stitch or bugger up one of the pattern repeats…generally, I figure if I can hold the thing up and ask if anyone sees anything wrong with it, and they don’t, it’s fine. So please, inspect the socks and/or other gifts I’ve made for you because I guarantee there is at least one error in each one. But I’m being very careful with this model. Partly because I want to get it right. Partly because it just won’t go together right if I don’t do it right. Partly because it’s like I have someone to answer to. Someone who understands how to look at a blueprint and see the thing in three dimensions (note: that’s not me). Someone who understands how things fit together…watching me.
I know it’s just my own mind. But it’s a reassuring part of my own mind. And you may continue to see updates as the model continues to take form. You may not. I’m still on shaky legs here, when it comes to putting my words out there right now. But for today, I have a completed fuselage and a half-complete wing frame. I’ll be adding the rest of the spars and the shapers tonight and tomorrow. I hope to get to the bottom wing and tail section by the weekend. As an aside, the Nieuport 17 only had ailerons on the upper wing. It wasn’t until the Nieuport 28 design that ailerons were added to the bottom wing instead of to the top wing. At the same time, the wing spars were changed from a V design to a twin spar design that provided greater stability and manoeuvrability.