This day finds me in a new temporary home – on the corner of Lindbergh Ave and 25th Street, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. We’re camping here for the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture.
This is a gathering of over 100,000 people, all sharing a love/interest of one thing: aviation.
I’m coming here because I’m married to a 2nd generation pilot – who grew up coming to this show. So I’m here by marital association and I’m looking at it from the perspective of someone who is into mindfulness.
Mindfulness for me is becoming more top of mind, both through practice as a life coach, and in my career at IBM, where mindfulness has taken hold and is taking off.
But I also really enjoy taking time to practice mindfulness in my own life. I often get too busy to take the time. But on this first day of vacation, my body was just calling to go explore its new neighbourhood.
But it’s more than that.
It’s like an “energy” was vibrating in this place — this spot on earth — that was pulling me to go out and really immerse myself. I knew this was the perfect time for a mindfulness walk. I deliberately left my phone behind, and took a few moments of stillness to empty the thoughts flying around my mind, so that I could focus with all my attention.
A mindfulness walk is one where you move but let your mind focus on the present moment – the sights, sounds, smells, sensations and tastes.
The first thing I noticed was the energy of the place. I can hardly communicate the feeling. It’s a gathering of like-minded and like-hearted people.
For centuries, we humans love gatherings. There is a “gathering joy” intrinsic to people coming together for one reason. It’s like mindfulness on a grand scale.
Here on the campground, are young and old. Some are in shiny, half million dollar RV’s, one even with a shiny corvette parked near it and others are in tents and 40 year old RVs. It doesn’t matter. We’re all different ages, races, nationalities, economic levels. Yet we have one thing in common – excited enough to show up.
During this walk, I could:
- See corn growing on my right, a sliver of blue sky peeking out from the clouds, flags of so many nationalities from Australia to Brazil, old kettles hanging unexpectedly from a South African shed, a bright red school bus converted to an RV with the Canadian flag on the back;
- Hear the wind blowing gently, generators chugging along, the hum of a diesel truck backing in its trailer, revs of a golf cart on its way to setup the air show;
- Smell the wet grass after a night of hard rain, the aroma of coffee wafting up from my cup, the odd, tangy, chemical smell of the porta-potty toilets that are on every corner;
- Feel the crunch of gravel under my flip flops, the heat of the hot coffee cup in my hand, the coolness of the morning breeze on my skin.
All of this just builds moment by moment with each footstep into this kind of “happiness cloud“. I’m not thinking about anything else except what I’m experiencing and it’s blissfully stress-free. It’s difficult to explain — it has a feeling of being deeply in love with life, in awe of everything that is, and grateful for having the opportunity to “be at the party”.
When these mindfulness moments come, I just become still and enjoy them. I’ve stopped questioning them – What is this? No one teaches you about this happening! Why is this happening to me? Why now? Why here? Am I going insane? I just stop thinking, and experience it.
It’s happening right now, as I write. It happened just a few minutes ago when I went for this walk.
I know later this week I’ll see many things –the big attraction being the Canadian Snowbirds. I know as those pilots fly they will be completely focused on what they’re doing individually and together in formation. If anyone knows how to be mindful it will be them up in the air.
Driving here yesterday, my daughter told me it’s the 200th year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death next July 2017. She is reading Pride and Prejudice and we marveled that when Jane wrote this book, airplanes had not even existed. But within 200 years, here we are going to celebrate a diversity of aerial engineering, design and manufacturing that Jane couldn’t have imagined her book traveling to. I said, maybe the ghost of Jane Austen was with us , driving down the Wisconsin interstate, thrilled that her book was in the hands of a Canadian girl on the way to an American airshow. Who knows?
If happiness is a choice, and I’m gathering more and more evidence it is, we are in for one happy week with a bunch of happy people who have gathered in a farm field to celebrate everything aviation.
Note: I took these pictures on a 2nd walk after the mindfulness walk, during which it started raining complete with thunder and lightening. I was quite stressed during this photo journey being out in a farm field with an umbrella while lightening was zapping about the sky. Not a good idea. I suggest all mindfulness walks include no lightening/umbrella combinations and no electronics!
I delighted in seeing the kitchen setup these folks from South Africa had! There were many matching blue and white tents neatly in rows behind this little house.
I found this tent strung up with flags and the “honest” welcome sign.
I spoke to the lady who drove up in this bus. Turns out we live only a couple hours apart.
Another great sign!
Beetles are a common sight – this one getting very wet inside.
Peeking through the fence with my camera to capture these planes that people will wander through to look at during the show week, and their owners tenting beside and beneath wings for their “tiny home” during the airshow.