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…A real, spiritual connection between the True One and the servant is a luminous bounty which causeth an ecstatic …flame, passion and attraction. When this connection is secured …such an ecstasy and happiness become manifest in the heart that man doth fly away with joy…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 195-96.
That summer I had planned to go to Paris. I was 16 years old and all Europe lay before me. I would be working as an au pair with two dark-eyed, curly-haired and oh-so-French children with whom I was already in love. Then plans changed. The family could not hire me. I would not fly to Paris after all.
Shortly after I received this disappointing news, a friend invited me to a house concert at the apartment of three other teenagers she had met at our local plaza — Mick, Mary and Mary. Not exactly Peter, Paul and Mary, but my friend thought they would be pretty good. Would I like to come and hear them play?
The next night, Mick, Mary, and Mary sang for us – folk songs mostly – and they were pretty good. Afterwards they served us tea. I couldn’t help notice the two Marys were strangely excited by our presence.
As I lifted the warm cup of tea to my lips, one of the Mary’s swung her long dark hair behind her shoulders, leaned forward, and asked me, “Have you heard about the Baha’i Faith?” I had not. She explained that Baha’is believe God sends a new teacher to humanity in every age, to reiterate universal spiritual teachings of love and justice and to bring new social laws suited to the time. This was the time of the unification of humanity. The teacher for this age was Baha’u’llah, the “Glory of God,” and His coming signalled the return of Jesus and of all the prophets, as foretold in the scriptures of all the worlds’ religions.”
She paused. “Do you believe this?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then,” she said, “you are a Baha’i!”
At that moment, it was just as Abdul-Baha says of the connection between the seeker and the “True One” — my heart flew away with joy.
That summer I did not go to Paris, but to Quebec — as a member of a youth teaching team that stayed with a family near St Jean Port Joli. Eleanor and her ten year old daughter, Gail, greeted me when I arrived at their cabin. Gail’s father, Fletcher, would be coming home soon. We would meet him at dinner, they said. Right now, he was flying.
Sure enough, by dinner time, Fletcher was sitting at the table, studying a map and talking as he did about our teaching plans for the next day. We would pass out invitations to those interested in learning more about the Baha’i Faith at a meeting to be held the next night.
“What we will do after that?” I asked, eager to be of service.
“After that,” Fletcher said, “I will take you flying.”
The next afternoon, after we had passed out the invitations, a couple of us climbed into Fletcher’s plane and off we went, climbing higher and higher until we soared above the pristine forests of Quebec.
With someone else in the cockpit, I might have been afraid to fly through space in this slight, four-seater pontoon plane, but with Fletcher at the helm, I felt as if I were exploring some nethersphere of being I had not known existed.
As a child, I had lain in the dark and imagined myself flying out the window in my bed, through the starry skies in the utmost freedom. On those journeys, I was encompassed by the glorious firmament. I was kin to the stars.
Now, flying with Fletcher, I experienced the same joy I had known when I left my bedroom on the wings of my small bed. I felt blissfully connected with my own soul.
Years later, when I read Beryl Markham’s luminous stories about flying over the vast continent of Africa, I wondered, if she, too, had intuited something about the reality of the soul as a result of her experience of flying. “One day,” she writes, “the stars will be as familiar to each man as the landmarks, the curves, and the hills on the road that leads to his door, and one day this will be an airborne life.”
At 16 I had begun to live an airborne life. I hadn’t gone to Paris. Instead, I had rediscovered my own soul and learned how to fly.