trousers, and airplanes, and telephones–oh my!

December 17th is the anniversary of the first flight in the US. What on earth can I say about the Wright Brothers that you did not learn in school? And if you didn’t care then, why should you care now that I’m writing about it? So, I will instead talk about our vacation last summer, which really does have a tenuous link here, if you’ll bear with me.

For many years, I have wanted to travel to Nova Scotia. The most common response I got when I told people that was “Why?” Come to think of it, that was the most common response I got when I told people I was pregnant for the third time. Some people just have no sense of adventure. Truly, if you want to go somewhere with amazing scenery, friendly people, and few tourists, this is the place.

One of my favorite sections of the province was Cape Breton Island, which boasts the second most scenic drive in the world, the Cabot Trail. I have no idea who decided this, so don’t ask, but I think National Geographic was involved. And speaking of National Geographic, do you know who one of its founders was? Yet another link in these things that I swear are linked together. It was the man I have quoted in the masthead of this blog; a man most of us people from the States remember solely as the inventor of the telephone. (Yes, I did realize quickly in Canada that it was rather arrogant to refer to ourselves as Americans. What are they, space aliens? So we were “from the States.”)

Four thousand square foot Cape Breton has been swapped so many times between Britain, France, and various provincial rules the Capers (their preferred identity) must feel like stock options in a bull market. A part of Nova Scotia again since 1820, Cape Breton still gives the aura of independence, and the Capers we met did nothing do disabuse us of that perception. One senses they still feel the island and mainland Nova Scotia resemble one another like swordfish and flounder—same class, but an entirely different species. Capers are a very hearty breed.

Alexander Graham Bell opted to become a Caper, at least part of the year. He said that, unlike Boston and D.C., this was a place where his little girls could ride horses and run around in trousers and no one would care. I loved the man from that quote alone. There is a museum dedicated to him and his work in Baddeck, one of the places we stayed. I would not have gone, but other members of the family wanted to, so we did. I’m very glad.

There is something absolutely fascinating about a man who spent his life investigating problems, experimenting with solutions, learning new things, and listening to the children constantly around him, because he truly believed they had a lot of intelligent things to say. Granted, he had a private fortune from the telephone patent that he could do anything he wanted with the rest of his days. Few of us are so fortunate. But rather than spend this fortune idly, he spent those days constantly trying to better the world, and himself, with new ideas. I had no idea he had created so many other inventions. And yes, here’s the link, he was instrumental in early flight experiments and largely responsible for the first flight in Canada.

Luke tells us that “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (12:48). Bell was given much in terms of intellect. It was up to him to develop the curiosity, perseverance, and generosity to make something of that intelligence. How many of us can say we have made much of what we were given? I know that on this winding, sometimes very littered road I travel, I have let drop some things I shouldn’t have, stalled on some gifts I didn’t want to make the effort to use. This happens, particularly when one’s energies are directed at cleaning up the litter rather than planting new trees along the roadside. I didn’t even put all that litter there. (Oh, but some I definitely did.)

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them.” (my paraphrase). This, too, seems to be something Bell treasured and obeyed. Maybe that is even one of the keys to why he was able to make so much use of his gifts. Listening to the questions of children (even the same question thirty times) makes adults so much smarter.

For one day, I’ll try to turn a blind eye to the litter, plant a tree, and, as the quote says, “get off the beaten track” to discover something I’ve never noticed before. That’s the best way I know to celebrate “First Flight Day.” I’ll fly, for at least today.

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