The Flying Lesson / mixed media

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

This is my illustration for a book my daughter, Sarah Hill wrote. An excerpt is posted below.

“Hey Mom,” she said, “Can you teach me how to fly?”

Diana looked up at her and grinned, relief flashing in her face. She clearly wasn’t up for more talking either.

“You sure that’s where you want to start? It’s kinda scary…” Diana trailed off for a moment. “But a lot of fun.” Kayce grinned back.

“Yea let’s start there. I mean once I master flying, I’m pretty sure I can handle anything, right?” Kayce asked nervously. Diana raised her eyebrows, but the smile stayed on her face.

The teenager and the woman stood up and walked out of the room, Diana’s arm over Kayce’s shoulder. “Well it’s not quite that easy, kiddo.” She said, leading the way to the back yard. “But this is definitely the fun part.” Kayce’s heart raced, both thrilled and surprised her mother was so willing to let her attempt such a dangerous lesson right out of the gate.

“Don’t be scared,” Diana said, reading Kayce’s mind. “On Falconera they dropped us off of cliffs when we turned 15.” Kayce’s jaw dropped and her mother grinned and winked. Together the two of them entered the secluded yard, which backed up to the woods and fanned out in a wide, pie-piece-shaped property that hid the other neighbor’s houses on the cul-de-sac behind protective thickets of tall pines.

A few moments later, Diana was standing in the middle of the yard, legs hip-width apart and crouched, her arms out as if preparing to be tackled in a football game. Excitement shone on her face, as if she had been waiting to share this with Kayce her whole life.

“The first thing you need to learn is landing,” she said, still crouched. “Getting up is the easy part, believe it or not, but landing softly isn’t. Falling is not fun.” Kayce assumed the same stance as her mother, and the two women looked as if they were about to start a wrestling bout. Diana crouched low and jumped high in the air, but peaked no higher than a normal person of her stature. However when she was on her way back down, it was almost as if an invisible force was slowly lowering her to the ground.

Kayce jumped experimentally. She landed with ordinary gravitational force.

“It’s a mental thing,” Diana said. “Philippa, Anna, and I all taught ourselves to fly and land differently. I imagine landing on a giant deflating balloon where I can control the pressure. If you picture something sturdy beneath your feet, your body will react that way.”

Kayce concentrated and jumped again, this time with force and effort. Same average rise, same average drop.

“Philippa imagines jet boosters on her feet like rockets. Anna pictures a hook picking her up. I can’t really explain what makes it work. You just have to get there in your mind.” Kayce scowled at her mom and jumped, trying to imagine her mother’s balloon raising and lowering. Then she imagined jet boosters, hooks swinging her into the air, nothing worked. Her heart rate was starting to pick up with the physical effort and the frustration.

When Kayce’s feet touched down again in yet another ordinary jump she let out a frustrated “ugh.”

This went on for hours, Kayce and her mother hopping in the backyard, Diana periodically demonstrating flight on her own, Kayce’s teenage temper flaring after many, many failed attempts. The two of them were both sweating in the summer heat, their dark ponytails frizzing in the humidity and their stomachs rumbling. Diana was just about to suggest they break for lunch, which should have been several hours ago, when Kayce let out a low, angry scream.

“Maybe I can’t fly” Kayce huffed, refusing to meet her mother’s eyes when Diana sat down across from her. Kayce glared at the ground, wishing for some kind of reassurance from her mother but not knowing what she wanted to hear exactly. Up until now, Diana’s mothering tactics have been very positive. Lots of, “You can do it!”s and “Keep trying!”s but Kayce could tell by the silence that her mom didn’t want to lie, and with the exception of Kayce’s inherited super hearing and whatever that was that happened at the hardware store, they had no idea if she had any other capabilities or if she did, what they were.

“We don’t really know what you will be capable of. You might not be able to fly. So much of it we’ll just have to wait and see. We already know you have some pretty amazing hearing, and that thing at Home Depot was definitely speed.” Diana said kindly.

Kayce picked at the grass and tried not to be disappointed. She was a plain old ordinary teenager this time last week. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to her that she can’t fly; she just found out that was even a possibility.

“Come on.” Diana said, reaching out to her daughter and helping her to her feet. “I have an idea. You have to trust me on this, okay?”

Diana turned Kayce around and wrapped her arms tightly around Kayce’s ribcage. Her face pressed into the back of Kayce’s sweaty neck, and together the two rose slowly into the air, about six feet up with Diana carrying Kayce.

“Mom…” Kayce said nervously, gripping her mother’s hands. Diana tightened her grip reassuringly, and then lowered another foot or so.

“Is this better?” Kayce swallowed and nodded quickly. “Now I’m going to let you go. If you fall, it won’t hurt you, maybe just a bump or a bruise and I owe you a new pair of earrings or a gift card or something. But whatever enters your mind in the instant I drop you, hold onto that, okay?”

“No wait… Mom I can’t do this.” Kayce’s heart thudded and she was sure her mom could feel it beneath the grip on her chest.

“Just try, Kace. I’m not going to let you get hurt.” And with that, Diana let go.

Immediately, Kayce’s back and shoulders warmed, like they had been hit with a direct beam of sunlight. The world was suspended. The hot breeze that was blowing through the trees stopped but all Kayce noticed was the force of what felt like giant wings on her back. Invisible, powerful wings had emerged from her back, right below her rib cage and held her suspended in air. The air did not stir, but the force was there nonetheless; leaving her suspended in midair, inches from her mother’s still arms.

Move up, willed Kayce, and the invisible wings propelled her, carrying her belly-first a few feet up and away from Diana.

Now down, she thought, and she lowered, but lost control and fell too quickly. Her stomach plummeted and her heart raced and the thought of the strong, sturdy wings was replaced with panic as the world resumed its normal pace and she crashed to the ground.

Diana was at her daughter’s side immediately.

“Oh baby I’m so sorry!” She cried, quickly inspecting Kayce’s limbs for broken bones, her skin for scratches. Kayce held her head for a moment, she definitely hit it pretty hard on the ground, before sitting up and saying,

“Mom I think I did it.”

Diana looked skeptical. “You dropped like a rock, Kayce.” Diana said, then realizing the statement sounded harsh, asked, “Why do you think you got it?”

“I don’t know. Everything just kind of stopped and I was able to clear my mind and concentrate for a minute.” She paused, afraid what she was about to say is going to make her sound crazy. “On wings holding me up.” Kayce stood up and brushed off dried grass and dirt. She subconsciously clenched her fists by her sides and looked determinedly ahead at her mother, who looked back at her with eyes full of doubt and pity.

Wings, thought Kayce. I have wings and I can fly.

Her feet left the ground and she saw the shock and delight on her mother’s face, but ignored it, her focus not even broken by the rush of adrenaline and fear.

Up, Kayce thought, and she slowly lifted a few more feet off the ground. Diana flew up to match her level, one knee lifted, her excited smile showing the slightest hint of worry as she studied the intense look on her daughter’s face. Kayce wanted to tell her mother that she knew what she was doing, but was afraid speaking would break the connection to her wings.

Okay, down, Kayce thought, and she started to fall she quickly like before. Slower! She thought, slower, slower… and sure enough, the imaginary wings slowed and she gently touched the ground. Diana touched down next to her.

“Well done, Kayce!’ Her mother was beaming. “I am SO proud of you! It took me months to do what you just did!” Unable to help herself, Diana pulled Kayce into a close, tight hug.

About the story;

Sarah wrote it for the intended audience of teenage girls. She worked at Emory University a few years ago in their outreach program for teens. Teenagers need to see how good relationships work so they can have their own good relationships in life. Reading helps teens figure things out when they don’t get enough guidance from adults, or don’t have good role models at home.

The mother is like Wonder Woman, from another planet. The girl’s dad is Human. The story’s teenage girl is a human, alien hybrid who is discovering she has some super powers.

About the collage.

Sarah told me she didn’t want angel wings on the girl. I agreed, but couldn’t decide how to do the wings. I had it in mind for months, then saw the Latin Ballet and was blown away. They had dresses with yards of pleated fabric attached to sticks which they held in their hands. The fabric was attached to the back of the dresses at the other end. I wished I could examine the dresses more closely. They were so beautiful and graceful as they floated across the stage with their wings. Then I had the idea for the wings, but couldn’t decide how to make them shiny and almost transparent. I considered mylar, but couldn’t find what I wanted. Sarah suggested nail polish and I thought that might work for the wings.

This collage has acrylic on canvas board. acrylic on mineral paper, pastel on different types of pastel paper, oil paint and nail polish

 

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