Wednesday, October 28, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXVII

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


On a long flight, after periods of crisis and many hours of fatigue, mind and body may become disunited until at times they seem completely different elements, as though the body were only a home with which the mind has been associated but by no means bound. Consciousness grows independent of the ordinary senses. You see without assistance from the eyes, over distances beyond the visual horizon. There are moments when existence appears independent even of the mind. The importance of physical desire and immediate surroundings is submerged in the apprehension of universal values.” – Charles Linbergh

The aircraft was cleared for landing at Baltimore's BWI Airport. An ambulance met the Greenes and whisked them to Johns Hopkins. Kris' daughter had passed the hours watching the Disney 'Princesses' movies on the plane. Now she wore Pat's robe like a royal one as she was hurried off to Baltimore. Though the administration had tried to put institutions like Johns Hopkins Hospital under government control, the administrators of that institution had skillfully avoided it. Kris carried a sizeable amount of Alaska Petrodollars, handed to her by Rupert, in order to ensure her treatment under the "Private Option."

Zimmerman planned to remain on the plane and quietly slip out when they were no longer needed. Unfortunately he had parted with his Petrodollars before they might possibly have come in handy. This was no small airport where Zimmerman-friendly staff ignored the bounty on his head. This was Baltimore Washington International -- thirty minutes from the nation's capital! Some officious little weasel of a security official ran the obligatory check on the plane's tail number. He was not satisfied with the Calgary registration and started cross-checking the recorded flight plans. Obtaining a warrant, he and a small detail of security stormed the plane on the tarmac. Zimmerman's crews were required to be expert marksmen... and women, but Zimmerman ordered them to surrender. No one should have to die when Rupert's surrender would end any need for force. Besides, Zimmerman knew the lower 48 depended on the fruits of his labor for their economic survival. Negotiation just might work.

Zimmerman was taken into custody and the plane seized by the IRS. A tax charge had been fabricated by the administration in the hopes of just such a moment as this. While Rupert was incarcerated, Kris' daughter responded wonderfully to her treatments. Elizabeth O'malley provided them and the plane crew with commercial tickets home on Alaska Air. Alaska Air even 'loaned' the BSB a temporary replacement for 'BSB One.' Elizabeth's mercy flights continued even as her father languished in a US Federal Prison.

Elizabeth O'Malley pressed the Alaskan Autonomous Republic to pursue diplomatic measures to secure Rupert's release. Zimmerman took advantage of the time to write her lengthy letters in which he mused on how quickly a great culture like the United States could be reduced to the state she was in now, unaware of her heroic past, anxious for an uncertain future, she had sold herself out all too quickly to the rhetoric of "Hope and Change." Indeed there had been change, but now things had become all the more hopeless! A great nation that had rolled up her sleeves and faced obstacles with Faith and Tenacity was now reduced to the status of victims who blamed others for their lack of progress. Liberalism had moved from advancing mankind's condition to warring against the noble instincts of man... and man was being reduced in the process.

Pastor Greene was concerned about this too. An interesting round of correspondence between Elizabeth, Greene and Zimmerman ensued where the three thinkers opined as to how best address the problem. Zimmerman valued Greene's insight, as both men had a low tolerance for most of the bull-crap that passed as 'modern thought.' Elizabeth, who saw most of the world's suffering as a direct result of bad political choices, wondered at the revolving door of revolution, where the people overturned their rulers, identifying those in power as oppressors, only to establish regimes that were even more oppressive than the ones that they'd replaced. The great universities had been established to bring Christianity to the wilderness, but now they spurned their beginnings and promoted this endless cycle of violence. [1.]

A year went by. Kris' daughter grew strong and became the darling of the Big Diomede community. Elizabeth became the acting president of the BSB organization in her father's absence, presiding over the reconstruction of the Eastbound span's 'blind hump' into a more gradual ascent and descent. The president of the trucker's association gave her a plaque, but the burly presenter's sincere bear-hug represented more accurately the drivers' deep sentiments!

"Eschewing the notion of high and noble ideals for humanity to aspire to, modern thinkers sought to recreate institutions rather than enlighten the heart. Their notion that 'man was basically good' and that the institutions were the problem did not resonate with a man like Zimmerman, who needed no-one to remind him of the dark places of his own heart." Greenstone Replacement, St. Francis' Church, Staunton, Virginia.
Photo by Bob Kirchman 

Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda, Clad in Scaffolding for Reconstruction.
Photo by Bob Kirchman

Capitol Dome in Scaffolding. Photo by R. S. Kirchman

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
[click to read ]

Copyright © 2019, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXVI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Those interested in the future of the country, not only from a national defense standpoint but from a civil, commercial and economic one as well, should study this matter carefully, because air power has not only come to stay but is, and will be, a dominating factor in the world’s development.” – Billy Mitchell

Elizabeth remembered how she rolled her eyes when her father decided he would buy the airplane. Alaska Air was always happy to allow BSB to charter one of their planes and they enjoyed pretty good access to the lower 48, even as the administration there still felt the need to harass the instrument of their restored prosperity. Zimmerman had been considered a war criminal and he wanted a plane with no discernible livery so he could return quietly to Virginia. There was a little airport in the Shenandoah Valley where he had friends in the general aviation terminal. There was also a smaller airport just North of it in Bridgewater where he could pretty much come and go as he pleased, and he did. The parka wearing Inuit man on Alaska Air's planes tail markings was just too much of a risk. Zimmerman wanted access to his Summer house with Pat but he had no desire to see the inside of a Virginia prison!

It is quite alright to own an airplane if you don't mind a kid throwing up in it!" Zimmerman had retorted to his daughter's well-reasoned objections. In the end, Elizabeth had become the biggest fan of the jet and her brave crew. She'd been visiting Virginia with Rupert when an old friend of Zimmerman's who ran a medical center in Santa Cruz, Bolivia took her father aside and confided to him that one of her staff in Santa Cruz was watching her little child dying. "If we could just get her to medical care in the US..."

But it seemed that all of Bolivia was on strike. The commercial airliner that flew in from Miami daily by way of La Paz was grounded. The airport was closed, her tower dark. No one knew when it would be safe to fly in again. Yet a beloved daughter's life was ebbing away. There was no time to wait if she was to be saved.

Zimmerman quickly summoned his crew, who were enjoying some rest and recreation at the resort tucked inside the twin ridges of Massanutten Mountain. They rushed back to the little Bridgewater Airport in their golf clothes and performed what has to have been the fastest preflight checklist ever. Fueled and readied, they flew through the night and pulled off a dangerous grass-field landing. All of Santa Cruz was on strike and commercial air traffic was at a standstill. Besides, the airport inspectors at Santa Cruz airport were notorious for slowing things up when you needed them not to. Zimmerman was a bit shaken when his pilot showed him the fresh bullet holes in his shiny airplane.

The little girl reached a Miami hospital just in time and had made an amazing recovery. Now she was the head nurse at the Santa Cruz hospital, where Elizabeth had helped her obtain some of the machines that had saved her life in Miami.

Once Elizabeth discovered the power of her father's plane to bring healing to her friends around the world, she kept the little plane and her crew quite busy. You couldn't save every child who needed medical care, but you could do something! The person you helped, like the young Inca girl, would go on to expand the circle of healing. Because she didn't die, she took what she'd seen back to Bolivia!

Mission of Hope, Bolivia is an actual ministry in Santa Cruz.

The fine leather upholstery of the little plane soon bore the permanent stains of childish innocence. Rupert would often pull Cheerios and crayons out of the seat cushion and show them to high-powered world leaders as if they were trophies he had won in hard battle. Indeed they were.

The crew of the little plane became a legend... among the Alaskan bush pilots!, a group not easily impressed. When the crew returned to their vacation in Virginia after their diversion to Bolivia, they arrived early in the morning. They were far too excited to sleep so they managed to secure an early tee time at the mountain golf course. The pilot and the communications officer both scored under seventy!

At least the legends that grew around these men and women were akin to the stories that grew around Davy Crockett of old. Pilots are given to understatement, as everybody knows, but we actually have their scorecard from that day!

Kris and her daughter had their own story involving the airplane. The Greene's young daughter had become seriously ill without warning during her second Winter on Big Diomede. The doctor on Big Diomede examined her and said they'd need a specialist that could only be found at some place like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore... it was a dark day for Kris! It was also a dark day on Big Diomede. A cruel Winter storm pounded the world outside the biosphere as Kris made her desperate call to Elizabeth. Officially, all air traffic was suspended. Rupert's plane was at Wales, where the runway was long enough to attempt a takeoff, but the crew would have to agree to it. Zimmerman would not order these fine young people into danger. They would have to volunteer.

Zimmerman went personally to his crew, as the young family sped across the bridge to Wales. His pilots were the first to step forward. One was a young mother herself and Rupert asked her to fly the mission. The crew eagerly organized themselves around the young hero and began their signature rapid, but thorough, preflight checklist. The Greenes were bundled safely aboard and Rupert himself stepped aboard as the flight attendants came in.

Zimmerman quietly ordered them to stock the plane's galley and leave. For the next seven hours Zimmerman himself would attend to the little family's needs. Rupert was no hero, he just felt it was wrong to ask people to do jobs you wouldn't do yourself. That is why, when his pilot made her intent clear to go, Zimmerman made it clear that he would join her crew!

The pilot would have to take off blind, depending on her copilot to tick off the seconds as she pushed the plane's acceleration. She'd have to lift the plane off the runway at just the right moment. The enhanced visibility technology and computer controlled takeoff were no match for the variable conditions created by such an intense storm. One needed the skills and sense of a Chuck Yeager and Jack Ridley to even attempt this. The wicked and fickle currents required a special touch and some intuition... and that was on a blue-sky day! Zimmerman's crew had been groomed for this moment and as they pushed their airplane into the face of the storm's furious force, their voices reflected their calm resolve that they were up to the task.

Zimmerman himself kept quiet during the takeoff, knowing his cracking voice might betray the fear he still struggled to contain. Though he did things some would call brave, he constantly was fighting the wounds inflicted by his overprotective father. The plane shook violently as she strained to climb above the swirling chaos. Thick snow blew by the windows in furious streaks as the aircraft flexed to avoid breaking, buffeted by the cruel elements. Kris' daughter unceremoniously threw up on the fine leather. As the plane broke through the clouds, Rupert unfastened his seat belt and grabbed some cleaning supplies from the galley. The poor little girl had been rushed aboard without so much as a change of clothes. The extra uniforms of the plane's crew would not fit her, but Pat's terry robe was a comfortable solution. "We'll go shopping in Baltimore." Zimmerman said softly. His mind wandered to a time when his youngest brother had hurled in the family car on the way to Luray Caverns in Virginia. They had stopped quickly at a J.J. Newberry store and bought a cheap little outfit for him. Rupert's mother would recall years later how that little outfit had outlasted many a more expensive set of children's clothes from Hutzler's!

Touching down for fuel in Canada, the crew quickly filed an 'official' flight plan into Baltimore's BWI airport. There was no sneaking into Virginia now. Time required a straight-on approach. An ambulance was scheduled to meet them. They declared the medical emergency that they were coming for. No surprise. Hopefully the authorities would cooperate as they usually did.

Map of Alaska in 2060. Enlarge [click to view full size]

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
[click to read ]

Copyright © 2019, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor



Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” -- C. S. Lewis

It was one of those delicious lazy afternoons when all seems well with the world. The sun shone brightly into the little garden on Big Diomede where Kris sat with her daughter and Kate enjoying iced tea and conversation. It had been over ten years since the time they had first come together working on Rupert Zimmerman's recreation of Raphael's "School of Athens" for the college building on the island. They had been joined that afternoon by Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley and the memories flowed like the sweet refreshment the ladies enjoyed from Kris' pitcher. Kris' house had been the first 'real' house built on Big Diomede. Actually it had been skillfully made in a production center in Virginia and assembled on this spot by craftsmen who had been flown in to train local Yupik craftsmen in the methodology. Now it sat in the midst of a fine little community that had grown up around it.

The hollyhocks were in bloom now, and their offspring, lovingly sown from Kris' pods, blessed many a neighboring garden in the biosphere which protected the little town from the ravages of the severe climate. Today, the little gardens seemed especially alive as hummingbirds and butterflies seemed to abound. "Why does this day seem so different from any other?" mused Kris. Surely it had to be the special visit from Kate and Elizabeth. No, the light seemed more brilliant. The flowers seemed more defined. An artist noticed things like this, and each of these women was an artist in her own right. They laughed that they should mount a show... calling it "Four Women who Paint" or something like that.

Do you remember when we first met?" Kris asked Kate. Indeed that was not such a pleasant time for Kate, but it had been the beginning of what turned out to be their incredible journey together. Kate's family had come to Big Diomede while she was a young woman in college and she had been transported suddenly from her familiar world to the end of the world. Kate's grandfather was Joe, the trucker who was indirectly involved in the Bering Strait Bridge's worst accident. Though he'd pulled up short of the crash, he'd seen his friend lost into the icy waters of the unforgiving currents. He had gone home to his beloved Willa and with his severance check from Intercontinental Logistics the two of them began a new life together. Joe worked as a handyman upon his return and eventually became the maintenance supervisor for a small private school but he and Willa worked together in what could best be called restoring broken homes. Willa's devotion to Joe and the renewal of their love became a beacon to those around them. They did not start a 'ministry' or an organization. They simply opened their little house in Virginia to hurting souls... and Willa's loving mentoring became the ministry.

Indeed, many a couple found inspiration in Willa's merry eyes, which seemed to spread an infectious joy. She and Joe had indeed discovered something that gave flavor to their lives. Now Joe and Willa were gone from this world. "I wonder what Grandma sees in Heaven?" mused Kate. Her grandparents were such a part of her life that she still felt a connection with them. Kate, who had not only 'survived' her Summer on Big Diomede, but now actually admitted how much she'd enjoyed it, felt a joyful peaceful contentment... like an afternoon fishing with Grandpa gave her. In fact, she now felt a twinge of anticipation, like she had as a girl the night before taking a trip to Grandpa's house! It was as if she would soon step into the old man's presence. She brushed the thought away, thinking her mind had simply crafted a sweet memory for her, but she couldn't shake that sweet feeling!

How unlike the emptiness she'd felt when she first stepped onto the island, when Zimmerman was building his prototype community. The only internet access was at the library... or you could hit the "hot spot" by the church office in the parsonage. Kris had seen her there, sketchpad by her side, and asked her to help with some research for a painting she was beginning. Zimmerman had seen a nice recreation of Raphael's "School of Athens" in a college building in Virginia and he wanted a mural of it for the college he was building on Big Diomede. Kris wasn't really loving the amount of architectural perspective involved but she and Kate soon reduced it to a fairly impressionistic set of shadow forms as they now worked on the problem together.

Kate now found herself involved in a grand work. She and Kris somehow were able to match each other's hand and as Kate rendered innumerable coiffers in the great arches, Kris rendered the images of the great scholars... using some of her neighbors on Big Diomede as models. Zimmerman had caught her at an attempt to paint the industrialist as Aristotle and made her change it. Still, Kris was able to hide Zimmerman in the crowd of scholars in the end. When Zimmerman finally discovered it, he was both amused and touched by the gesture.

Kate was 'officially' working for Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley that Summer, but when Elizabeth saw the dynamics of Kris and Kate, and how they were bringing her Father's idea to life, she was more than happy to keep her on salary and loan her to Kris. Thus the two women painted most of the day and Kate helped Kris with the children's programs in the evening. Kate's nightmare of a Summer in isolation was transformed into a marvelous mentorship! She and Kris became dear friends. Kris' little daughter found in Kate a new friend! The Summer Kate so dreaded passed all too quickly and the ladies resolved to stay in touch.

Now their husbands were off on a private tour of the inner workings of the Bering Strait Bridge. Elizabeth had arranged for them to visit the utility tunnels and suspension towers. They were even going to descend into the bilge of one of the floating piers. Martin O'Malley's young protoge, who was now the chief engineer of the great bridge, was personally escorting them. They'd probably even get some fishing in. In any case, the men would be occupied for the whole day! There would be plenty of time for catching up together.

Scuola di Atene by Raphael.

Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer
Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer.

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
[click to read ]

Copyright © 2019, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXIV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


The name of Heaven should become beloved through you." -- Torah imperative, as related by Jonathan Rosenblum

Rupert Zimmerman stepped from a still pool into a little grove bathed in a golden light. The light seemed to eminate from a single point in the distance, spreading in rays that seemed to pierce throught the tree canopy. The source of that light, Rupert observed, was moving toward him. The peace he felt seemed oddly familiar... like the peace he'd first experienced in the Greene's living room long ago on Big Diomede!

Then Rupert saw the Man! He was as Magnificent as He was Fierce. He was Kindness and Unbridled Force! His very being was a tensegrity of terrible forces that in their totallity created Peace! The builder of bridges fell to his face before his Master! It must have been eons he lay there. There was a feeling of overwhelming Joy and Terror, like the feeling Rupert had had long ago when he and a friend had taken a small boat out into the Chesapeake Bay only to be caught in a colossal storm! Heading the small boat into the waves, they had narrowly averted being capsized. Head into the storm, they rose and crashed with the waves. Rupert LOVED the memory of that day and the surge of adrenalin he had experienced! This felt wonderfully the same. Rupert had to steer into the force of this moment. He rose slowly as the Man touched his shoulder: "Come see what I'm working on."

Rupert noticed the kindness in the Man's eyes, which were brilliant to behold! He seemed capable of holding storms in his hand, which bore scars, but the wounds in no way diminished the completeness He projected! He was surrounded by wonderful constructions, the hives of bees, the webs of spiders and nests even more complex than that of the oriole! He spoke to Rupert kindly: "Friend," he said, "You were the tool in my hand to join two continents, but then you came and joined me in my most passionate work! Many have found hope in me because of your faithfulness."

You came to me late in life, but you placed your life into my hand! I was able to work a great work in mankind because you surrendered YOUR passion to MINE!"

Come see the Great Works that you will now share in, because you are my beloved child and I share much with my children!"

Rupert suddenly became aware that he had not spoken -- perhaps for eons. Indeed, there was only one voice in that glade Rupert wanted to listen to right now -- that of the Magnificent One!

(to be continued) [click to read] 

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
[click to read ]

Copyright © 2019, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved