When I woke up yesterday morning, it had already been raining for an hour or so. It continued to rain all morning, and finally stopped sometime after 12 o’clock. We really needed a good soaking and we got it. The woods around my house were beginning to get very dry, and my garden was becoming parched, regardless of the evening waterings it had received. The rain also broke the heat spell and stirred up some breezes, but boyoboy, is it humid. Thankfully the temperature is only in the 70’s. Enough of the weather, already. I talk about the weather when I am avoiding talking about other things.
Today is the birthday of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French essayist and pilot who wrote, among other things, ‘The Little Prince’. You can find out more about him here http://saint-exupery.org/ . The site is in French, but I think it gives you a fairly good idea of the man. There are other sites, as well as numerous links to booksellers and so forth. One of my favorite books is “Wind, Sand, and Stars”, which gives accounts of his flying the postal route over The Andes in a Potez bi-plane during the 1920’s. This book also describes his harrowing fight for survival when he and his mechanic crashed in the Libyan desert enroute to Saigon from Paris. It is from this experience that much of ‘The Little Prince’ is inspired.
Saint-Exupery (pronounced X-zoo-peh-ray) was a lifelong child of the world and never lost his love of fun and games nor his adventurous spirit. He was a hater of all things warlike and mean, including the petty actions of bureaucrats and politicians, professions he felt were a waste of time. He was quoted as saying “War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus.”. How true, mon Capitan. His last flight was in 1944, when, while flying for the French Resistance off of the southern coast of France, his Lockheed P-38 disappeared. Some people speculated that he had taken his own life, still others believed that he had been shot down by the Germans. At that time in his life St.-X (as he was known) was in such great physical pain due to his years of flying accidents that he was sometimes unable to even tie his shoes. He also began to dislike flying, as it had become more of a mechanical exercise rather than an art, with a cockpit full of different gauges and meters. He preferred to fly by the seat of his pants, relying on a map, a compass, and the stars to navigate the skies he so dearly loved.
For many years his airplane had been thought to be lost forever. About 15 years ago an ID bracelet was discovered by a fisherman off the coast of Marseilles. It bore St-X’s name and military serial number. Immediately the hunt was on. 13 years later the wreck of a P-38 was found beneath the Mediterranean. All the numbers matched. His plane had been found. It was in hundreds of pieces, with no evidence of being shot down, and no evidence of any fuel explosion. It was surmised that he had gone out on his last flight, lost track of the time (as he was wont to do), and run out of fuel. Probably guessing his fate, he made sure of it, and dove his craft almost vertically into the sea. I believe this scenario. He had grown tired of the world, a world in which he was already an anachronism and certainly becoming obsolete. I am not romanticizing suicide, but rather paying respect to a man who believed in his convictions to the very end. He was the romantic, the knight errant, in all of us, at once playful and serious, as only children can be.