Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad,

I think of you every day and miss you so much. So many people have told me how much you meant to them. You made an enormous difference in so many people’s journeys. This week, in particular, as I thought about what would have been your 73rd birthday, I thought a lot about how badly I wish I could tell you about my own journey. I’ve thought about how to tell you this, and if you were still here, I would probably just call you on the phone and tell you, but I can’t do that now. So, I will just say:

I am transgender.

During your lifetime, I had thoughts that this might be the case, but I could not connect them to any kind of reality that made any sense. I remember daydreaming of being a girl as early as age seven. As I got older, I became angry at myself and the unfairness of a universe that had doomed me to be a boy and to become a man. These thoughts were not frequent or all-consuming, but rather, background noise that was easily dismissed as impulsive and not real or realistic.

When I lost a lot of weight in 2004, that was about being transgender. The thing that caused me to gain all that weight in the first place was a hatred of my own body, and a desire to hide from the world and keep people at arms’ length. When I finally rejected that attitude as unsustainable and lost the weight, I struggled with rationalizing why I was doing it. I told myself it was because I wanted to live – not to die at a young age from complications from obesity. However, once I had lost the weight, I remember thinking, “You lost all that weight, you can do anything you set your mind to. You can become a woman.” Immediately, I labeled that goal as unrealistic and that thought as dangerous and transient and dismissed them. I did not give another thought to these things until a couple years ago.

In mid-2018, I was out on a run. Running seems to be when I let my guard down and ideas are free to present themselves to me seemingly out of nowhere. On that particular day, as with so many others here in Colorado, the sun was shining, the weather was beautiful and warm. I remember seeing a woman out on her run, and she sort of resembled me. I thought, “You can look like that. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the person you haven’t allowed yourself to imagine?” Again, I dismissed this almost immediately as a spurious notion.

Then, you got sick and I forgot all about the box of puzzle pieces my brain kept trying to assemble for me. For eighteen months, I became more and more depressed. Then, the pandemic hit. Thank goodness you didn’t have to experience the pandemic. While your extensive experience with and passion for online teaching would have served you well in this environment (your online lecture material is still being used to teach your courses, still with record enrollments!) I think you probably would have been driven mad by not being able to go to restaurants, movies, the bookstore, etc.

Shortly after the start of the pandemic, I had decided that this thing was going to be with us for a long time, and I needed to get outside and get exercise, or I would also go nuts. I started running on the trails near our house, with a mask on. Something about the “social distancing” (a terrible Newspeak term) environment – masks, standing at least six feet apart in line, staying inside much of the time, felt liberating to me. It was liberating in the ways I imagine it is for many introverts like me. But, beyond that, there was something else. On the run, with a mask over my face, no one could tell I wasn’t a woman. Obviously that’s not true, but for some reason, this was the first sign to me that I had facial dysphoria. I decided that running was a safe place to start to come out as trans. I bought some women’s running clothes. Nothing too obvious or over the top. Nothing too colorful. It was still cold out in March, so I bought insulated leggings. I loved running in them- they kept my thighs from rubbing together and chafing, and were nice and warm.

Things progressed from there. I had to tell people. In May, I told Jill, Mom and Megan that I was non-binary, and they all took that quite well. And, it was the truth. I am not totally a woman and not totally a man. That’s what being non-binary is. I was emboldened by their support at that point, and continued to explore my gender more freely. I started buying more kinds of women’s clothes, trying them on when Jill wasn’t around, because I didn’t want to shock her. I had the biggest smile on my face the day I tried on a women’s button-down flannel shirt and jeans. I looked much more how I wanted to look. I bought makeup at Target. I clumsily applied that makeup and I kind of looked cartoonish, but it was so much closer to how I wanted to be, I smiled so much!

Eventually, I came out to Jill, Mom and Megan as transgender. I’m still non-binary, but I am clearly very transfeminine – want to be much more feminine in appearance and action than I have ever been.

This may be shocking. It was certainly shocking to me to learn this about myself. When my brain finally assembled all the puzzle pieces in July, I was distraught. How would I ever do this? Could I tell Jill? What would it do to my relationship with her? I love her so very much, and I don’t want to lose her. So, now she and I both have to figure out how to work through this. I hope we can, and I have to believe we can.

I am so sorry that I could not understand this earlier. In many ways, I wish I had listened to myself years ago, and not been afraid to see what the assembled puzzle looked like – mostly, because I feel like I’ve been hiding something from very important people. It hurts when this is suggested, probably because I feel like it’s true, as much as I know it’s not. What hurts the most is that I could not ever tell you about this while you were here with us. For that, I will be sorry for the rest of my life.

I love you, Dad. I hope you understand.

Nic

You Can Call Me Al

I have heard that some people who follow me on Twitter or other places may be confused about my pronouns, my name, the state of my transition, etc.

When last we met, dear reader, I had acknowledged to myself and to many others that I’m nonbinary with significant parts of my personality that are feminine. Since that time, I’ve continued to learn more about parts of myself that I had been keeping locked away on a shelf. The brain is very good at boxing up stuff it thinks will harm you and isolating it from you and others. I quite literally did not know a bunch of this stuff or connect the dots until I made a conscious effort to dig into “why am I like that?” in a couple places. Then it was like pulling on a thread on a sweater and it totally unravelled. Mixed metaphors enough?

It’s hard finding out this stuff about oneself so late in life. I haven’t had time or been given societal permission to be acculturated as a woman, and there is no room in our society’s image of men for even the slightest display of femininity. To add to that, our culture is tailored to binary gender settings, so even things like what name I use with my email address cause shock when I change them. People are confused when I show up at a store in women’s clothes with makeup on, but then speak with a masculine voice and show my ID or credit card and it’s a man’s name. People are confused when I tell them I prefer “they” pronouns but I still look like a dude when I’m camping, and I dress like a girl when I’m out running or at work.

These are just some of the reasons it’s called “transition.” It’s a process. I, personally, could not bear to save up all the things that I’m doing as part of my transition, perfect them, and then let them loose on the world in a single day. I would never be happy enough with my “progress” to say “today’s the day,” and I’d never get good at these things without practicing them, in many cases, in public. I have to try bits of it, at different times, when it’s convenient for me, pretty much constantly. I think this is more the case with me than with a much more binary-gender-conforming trans person, because they can aim for the binary gender they know that they are inside. I have to figure out where I am on this spectrum and aim for that, and it keeps shifting around.

Even though where I need to be shifts and is in a gray area of the “male” <–> “female” spectrum, I know some things:

  1. Where I am going is much more feminine than I am today. At the end of this, I’m likely to appear to be a cisgender woman, but I will still be nonbinary. Because our culture doesn’t deal well with nonbinary gender, it’s simply much easier to conform to a binary gender presentation, and I’m much more comfortable being a woman than being a man.
  2. I have not had time to learn how to be a woman, so it’s going to take years of learning that and being awkward before I master it.
  3. Because I know these things, I will take actions that appear to be incongruent with how I present in day-to-day life today, things like changing my email address and email display name from “Nicholas Spencer Roy” to “Nicole Siobhán Roy”. There’s no such thing as a gray-area “I’m still transitioning and awkward” email address when my middle-ground name is super short: Nic Roy. My email address would be something dumb like nicroy12345@gmail.com instead of just my name@gmail.com. Because of that, I was forced to pick the long form name where I think I’m going to end up. Migrating all my accounts to a new email address is already painful once. I don’t want to do it again.

So I’m a biosex boy, who in her heart of hearts knows she’s a largely gender-presentation-conforming girl, and intends to get to that point, but will still be a pretty masculine-trait-having girl and will be somewhere on the gender identity spectrum about 3/4 of the way to the girl end of the spectrum.

To sum up:

Call me “Nic” which is easy because it sounds exactly the same as “Nick” and that’s why I chose that name.

To the State of Colorado and the US Government I’m still “Nicholas Spencer Roy” with a gender marker of “M” but I intend to change those things so that I will be “Nicole Siobhán Roy” with a gender marker of “F” and I will eventually both look and sound like that in a way such that someone who’s never met me before will not know I’m not biosex female.

My name is “Nicole” but I won’t get upset if you call me “Nicholas”, although that shouldn’t be a problem because nearly zero people in my life have ever known me as anything other than “Nic[k]”. My sister knows me as “Nicky” but that’s OK because I can also be “Nikki” see how clever and lucky I am?

I prefer “they” pronouns but that will probably change to “she” pronouns. Until I present as a woman full-time and am speaking like a woman (my god that’s hard to do) don’t worry about it, just call me “they” or “she” or “he” or “hey you”.

If you have any questions about any of this stuff, please DM me on Twitter, or email me at: n i c o l e s r o y [at] i c l o u d [dot] c o m.

Dreams

I woke at 3 a.m. a few nights ago, in terror. My mom was screaming to be let into the house. Pounding on the front door. I woke and sat bolt upright in bed, listening, my heart pounding furiously in the quiet dark. The AC had turned off, the house was completely silent. I reached for my phone. The security camera showed no one at the front door. I drank some water and went back to sleep. An hour later, I awoke in the same way. Same dream. A woman was screaming at the front door. Was she afraid and running from danger? Hoping to be let in to safety? I couldn’t tell. I almost woke my wife Jill up, but thought better of it. I got out of bed and went down to the front door. Unbolted the deadbolt, cracked the door. No one was there.

I stepped out into the warm darkness of a Colorado early morning, the birds starting to make noise, the sky an inky blue in the East. I breathed deeply – scent of pine and smoke carried on the air. I went back inside and went to bed.

At dawn, in the half-light, I rolled over in bed, facing away from Jill. There was a beautiful woman there, floating in mid-air, seemingly on an extension of the bed that wasn’t really there. I could swear I was awake. I felt awake. This woman was familiar, gorgeous, blonde, dark eyes, striking features. I was in love with her. She told me it was OK to love her. Again I awoke, and went about my day, ashamed to tell Jill about this dream. I thought it was a dream about infidelity.

Now, I realize that she was me, telling me it was OK to love myself, as a woman. She had been screaming to get in the house. Full of rage and anger. I let her in. I’m glad I did. When I finally figured out what these dreams meant, I wept.

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When I was a child, I was enamored of the babysitter. I wanted to be the babysitter. Specifically, I wanted to be a girl. I felt a strong affinity for the feminine. As I grew older, I learned to suppress this feeling. There was no way to change who I was, and I thought “nature doesn’t make mistakes like that”, and “you’re a boy, be happy being a boy.”

As I got older, the girls started changing and I was jealous of them. I hated my body. I rejected my body, first dressing in baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts to hide it. I was depressed. I had no idea why. I saw a child psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with seasonal depression. I’m sure there’s a seasonal component to it, but I was depressed all the time to some extent. Now I realize it is because I hated who I was – physically. I started to over-eat as a self-medication for the depression, but also because I hated my body. I was punishing the body I hated.

After college, I decided I needed to stop being depressed and overweight, and I started eating better and exercising. I lost 140 pounds. I started dating girls for the first time in my life. I started really loving my life. I felt good.

Fast forward 15 years… I’m married, I love my wife, I love my job, I love where we live and our life together.

But.. I had fallen back into a severe depression after a particularly traumatic job experience, and the horrifying and soul-crushing experience of losing my dad to cancer. I started dressing all in black, every day. A uniform of grief. I gained a bunch of weight again. I started vaping. And then the fucking Coronavirus hit. I needed to do something to kick myself out of my funk and get healthy again, so I started running again in March, 2020. Colorado is such a great place to run, there is sun nearly every day. Even in the winter, it doesn’t stay cloudy or cold for very long. I started running along the trails in our neighborhood, and started to feel happy again. I stopped vaping.

And then one day in April, I was running along the High Line Canal trail and started to remember my wish to be a gender other than the one I became. I thought, “maybe my name is Lisa.” I started wearing women’s running clothes, and I felt good in them. Outstanding, actually. Confident. Feminine. I started to think about other appearance changes. I cut my hair in a specific way, with the intent to grow it out. I started dying it – first, gray. Then gray and blue. Then all sorts of fun color combinations. I started wearing brighter colored clothing. Running further and faster every day.

I came out to my wife as genderfluid and non-binary. I was terrified of doing this, but I had to. I am extremely thankful that she took it quite well. I am definitely still attracted to women. I also am at least partly a woman!

I started painting my nails – this was a big deal for me, because you can kind of explain away hair color, but there are certain gender signifiers that are less easy to explain away, and makeup is one of those things. Painting my nails felt liberating. I felt closer to who I actually am. I am slowly coming out to people at work, and they have also all been supportive. I love where I work, and I love my colleagues. I started wearing eyeliner and mascara. I am not sure where it goes from here. I feel like a tomboy. I am athletic, I like camping, knives, motorcycles, shooting guns, but also makeup, and I’m starting to care a bit about fashion. This is quite a change for me, I always rejected fashion, much as I rejected my body. Now I’m rejecting less of myself, and I’m only sorry that it took me 40 years to get there.

Today, I went to Costco with painted nails and eye makeup. I got compliments. I have gotten probably 20 compliments from random people over the course of this journey so far. I think this is because I’m confident, and people see that. I never, not once, got a compliment about my appearance from anyone other than my wife or family in the preceding 40+ years of my life. This is interesting, and maybe it’s because I’m letting the real me be seen.

The Sky in Colorado

Deep purple sky

The sky in Colorado is different from many other places. I think it’s a combination of the low humidity, high altitude and normally clean atmosphere. Every few minutes of every day, the sky changes, even when it is cloudless. Near noon in the winter, you get these amazing deep azure blue skies in the north, opposite the low sun. It’s reminiscent of noon in the summer in the high latitudes of the Baltic. Storms, sunsets, changes in pressure and mountain waves all produce amazing colors and forms that I will never get tired of looking at.

Eulogy for My Dad

Who here thinks about how their life will end? I know I do. I remember thinking “is this how I die?” during a flying lesson, where my instructor got me into a spin to teach me how to recover. I have never imagined my dad dying. He has always been a larger than life figure, someone who could never die. When I saw him die, somehow the rest of the world became more real.

The day Dad died, I couldn’t really do anything except be numb. As the days passed, I discovered a feeling I had never encountered before: A longing to keep him alive by remembering things about him. This sounds pretty simple and logical. In reality, there is nothing logical about it.

I wanted to make this talk really visual, with photos of him as the focus, and I’d just tell stories about him based on those photos. As I thought about what to say about Dad, I started looking through photos, and realizing that I didn’t have many photos of him from recent times. Most of the photos of him I could find were from before I was born. Then I realized that the frustration I had felt for the last two months, trying to remember Dad, was because I didn’t know him for most of his life. I was a part of his life from the time he was about 30 years old. I really started to know him when he was about 40. So much of his life was spent doing work that he was passionate about, a field of study which requires deep knowledge, that I didn’t really know that much about that part of his life.

What I did know about him was that he was always interested in helping me and Megan learn about the things we were interested in. One of the things many of you have probably heard him say is that “Knowledge is like cow manure, it doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around.” He would go out of his way to find interesting things to bring home for us when we were in elementary school. He’d stop by Dick Blick and get foam core, rulers, exacto knives and cutting surfaces for Megan to use to make buildings. He’d go to university surplus and bring home an old DEC teletype terminal (the kind where there isn’t a video screen, there’s a printer that the computer types words on to, and you type words into it, all printed on the piece of chain-fed paper). He’d take me down to the basement of the university computer center, where his buddy Al was a technician in the computer support area. I remember being amazed at the huge computers whirring away behind glass walls, their tape drives spinning back and forth, lights blinking. Al had a brand new NeXT computer, a 1 foot black cube that I was fascinated by. I remember when Dad did the first iteration of what would end up becoming the art and life in africa web site. This was in about 1988, and the technology available involved taking photographs of different views of every piece of art in the Stanley collection, transporting them to 3M headquarters in Minneapolis, where they were scanned using a flying spot scanner on to individual frames of a Laserdisc which could be indexed by a computer. You’d type the piece of art you were looking for into a computer program, and it would control the Laserdisc player to bring up the art on a TV screen, and you could slide a slider around on the computer to rotate the art. Eventually, this became the art and life in africa CD-ROM program, and finally the web site. I learned about how computers work from these kinds of experiences that he made possible.

When I was in high school, Dad made a deal with me – he’d double any money that I saved up from a summer job, and we’d use it to buy me a computer. I spent all summer working at Hardee’s on the Coralville strip, and saved up about $800. $1600 was just enough to buy a brand new Macintosh and color monitor at the computer center.

I don’t have any photos of my Dad from this time – about the closest I have are a couple of pictures of him and my mom at Grand Teton National Park in 2003. I have fading memories of a very important part of my life, that really only he and I shared. Now he’s not here, and that part of me has lost the only other person who remembered some of those things.

I miss Dad’s laugh. I miss calling him on a Sunday and him saying “hi, buddy” to me, and us talking about his web site, model airplanes, the garden, or other things happening in his life. But there are things I will always remember – swimming in an ice cold lake, out to an island, with him in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Packing what felt like tons of food and supplies over portages in the Boundary Waters. Sitting in our tent, reading in the evening. He was reading about Captain James Cook, I was reading about Captain James Kirk.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not important that I know or remember everything about Dad’s life, because one of the things that happens when you die, is that your life’s work – including the work of raising your kids and being a partner to your spouse – dissolves into the world. You lose any semblance of control over your own destiny and the destinies of the people you care about. In return, what you were is dissolved into the fabric of everything those people do, and the impacts they have on others. I know that Dad’s granddaughter, Sylvia, will get to do some really fun and interesting stuff, at least partly because Megan will remember how fun it was to go camping in the southwest with Mom and Dad, and how important it was that her intellectual interests were known and cared about by them from a very young age.

I’m grateful that Dad’s memory will continue on through everyone in this room, and through the thousands of students whose lives he changed imperceptibly, who will remember his stories about art and life.

If I can live to have a fraction of the kind of positive effect my dad had on the world, it will be a good life. If I can die surrounded by love, like he did, it will have been worth living.

My Father’s Journey Begins

My Brother-in-law wakes me at 3 a.m.
Lying on the floor at The Bird House
“You should come downstairs”
Megan and baby Sylvia are sleeping in the bed above me
“Your Dad stopped breathing”
I lift myself out of Ambien sleep, foggy and null
As I walk down the stairs my head becomes clear
Dad is there waiting for us
I take his hand and tell him how much we love him,
That we will always love him
That it is OK to walk the path of the ancestors
The Yaba Soore.
We take his hands and kiss him
As I kiss his chest I feel his heart beating strong and fast
He’s warm and I kiss his shoulder right above the temporary tattoos of his two Fentanyl patches.
I walk outside, look up at the stars in the ice night. Orion has set. The deer are sleeping in a hollow in the woods. The Interstate hums and throbs over the rise
I take a drag from my vape pen – I developed the habit in the spring, worrying about him.
Walking back into his room I am overcome with grief, sobbing and hugging my mom
“It will be alright. Love you.”
Dad, I hope you are hanging out with your friends
The old guys from Boni
The mask-makers
Drinking millet beer and telling stories about the people you love
We will always tell stories about you, until we meet you again on the path of the ancestors

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Today the world ended and was reborn in an instant, out of the sheetrock and neatly filed papers, let loose in the sky, all those things that no longer seem important.

On TV, the path of a jet from Boston is traced out, over the ponds and streams and mountains and lakes where I was born, over the Berkshire Connector, over the road to Montreal.
Banking swiftly into a straight line with that feeling you get when history is ripped free of itself and the universe that had been falls away.

What we feel in the pit of our stomach, when a tsunami breaks in the quantum foam, when the underlying connections are ripped clean for an instant. And the true humanity of it all is made plain by an exodus of human beings, people walking calmly and quietly, hand in hand, helping the injured, making their way together across the bridge of time.

In memory of those who fell
And the universe they carried with them

Journey

Copyright (c) 2014 by Nicholas Roy, all rights reserved

I set out across the land
Knowing not where I would stop
Settling with unease each night along the way
A route through brambled undertuff
The stars to light my way

The heat of days
The salt-crust red of skin
Dust and callus hands beridged

I found along my arc through deepest steamcrossed plain
A field girded round with wire rusted, barbed in vain
No longer were the cattle bound within its mesh
Flesh had long ago made way for sun bleached scaffolding
The beat of many rays

The rhythm found
I trudged along
Not asking what to seek

The time would come when I laid down
To rest of that was sure
Parameters for marking home
Elusive as the dew

Thirst of days
No water found
Heat and ache and nothing new

Then one night, under the stars
I cast my thoughts adrift
Found peace in looking up at them
Felt rain within my chest

Driving as Zen Kōan

My car is, to most people, senselessly overpriced. It’s not fancy, it’s tactile. It’s a rear wheel drive BMW 335i. In my 20 years of driving, I’ve averaged a new car every 2 years. I’ve been conflicted about why this is so. Why do I serially abandon cars?

For years, I chalked it up to a deep seated and shameful materialism. The idea that on a reptile brain level, I was attracted to the flashiness, newness, and status that a newer, better car gave me. I rewarded myself for advances in my career with a new car — it was the odd goal I came to strive for. To my liberal way of thinking, this materialism was shameful.

I’ve reached a second adolescence — a yearning for irresponsibility in my trek to middle age. I like to think this means a bit of added maturity in the understanding of parts of myself I don’t think I’ve understood well before. I’m examining parts of my life that I felt were important in the past, questioning their importance, and asking “why?” — including why the car fetish? It’s embarrassing, and if my original narrative is to be believed, it’s a position I’ve put myself into as a way to achieve things in life.

I’m beginning to realize that narrative is false. Sure, I’m materialistic. I’ve been trained to be so by years of advertising, culture awash in symbols of success, and the odd American puritanical dream of increasing hard work and responsibility, with a reward in the form of a stable life. Instead, what is true is that I do not play sports, I do not take part in many types of normal team-based physical interaction that lots of people value. I never have. In elementary school, when playing soccer with my team, my dad recalls fondly how I would always play defense, and typically when the action was not near me, I could be found sitting down on the ground, playing with dandelions.

Instead, the physical activity I have always truly connected with has been the art of the skillful manipulation of tactile machines. Some of my fondest childhood memories are when my grandmother let me pilot her fiberglass water skiing boat across the lake and up the channel. That was my first experience with this connection to transport. When I was old enough to get my drivers’ license, I did so with more excitement and engagement than I can recall ever putting into any other course at school. I’ve driven increasingly fun and rewarding machines, including getting my private pilot’s license. I have driven, in chronological order:

  1. 1989 Dodge Shadow — terribly underpowered front wheel drive 2.5l I4 with no torque and a bulletproof but joyless three speed automatic
  2. 1986 Mazda 626 Turbo — very fun sporty front wheel drive car that was on its last legs. Five speed manual with a nearly burned out clutch. The beginning of my love of the turbocharger.
  3. 1982 Volvo 245 GLT wagon — a beautiful, luxurious, wonderful to drive beast of a car with a terribly underpowered 2.1l turbocharged tractor engine with mechanical fuel injection and a bulletproof Borg Warner three speed auto transmission with external overdrive.
  4. 2000 Honda Civic DX — a base, 1.6l, underpowered Civic with a four speed automatic. My first understanding of how well built foreign cars are.
  5. 2001 Honda Accord EX V6 coupe — a 3.0l V6 with leather seats and climate control. A wonderful car, too bad about the torque steer that plagues Hondas.
  6. 2005 Volkswagen Passat TDI — 2.0l Pumpe Duse (camshaft-driven direct injection) turbodiesel that got 40MPG and made 250lb*ft of torque. Torquey and awesome engine, nice five speed auto transmission, too bad about the mushy suspension with torsion bar rear and squishy tall 15″ tires. I learned how to make biodiesel during this time and this car ran on that biodiesel.
  7. 2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI — 2.0l PD TDI with a five speed manual. Nice car, kind of annoying dual-mass flywheel. I put more than 50,000 miles on this car in a couple of years.
  8. 2007 Audi A3 — 2.0l FSI turbocharged gasoline engine and six speed dual-clutch gearbox. A joy to drive, I should have kept this car longer.
  9. 2009 Audi A4 — 3.2l V6 — a very comfortable, all wheel drive luxo cruiser. Terrible steering feel and somewhat numb suspension.
  10. 2012 BMW 335i — 3.0l turbocharged gasoline I-6, rear-wheel drive, eight speed Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen automatic. Silky, nearly instantaneously responsive automatic, rear-wheel-drive, torquey fighter jet of a four door sedan with a deep connection to the road via the steering and suspension. Every surface inside the car meant to instill a deep connectedness with the driver through touch.

I found, when flying light aircraft, the connection to nature via a light touch of the yoke was the most in touch with the “driving” experience I have experienced. You’re taught to hold the controls gently, with two fingers of one hand, like holding an egg. This makes flying much smoother, you feel directly connected to the flight surfaces.

The author holding his newly minted pilot’s license, with his favorite vehicle

I learned to fly in a 1975 Cessna 150 — the least shiny, least flashy vehicle you can imagine. A good one with a fresh engine goes for less than a new midsize sedan. You do not need an expensive new vehicle to experience a deep connection with an airplane. It’s also true that you don’t need a new car to experience connected driving. You just need the right car.

When I focus on driving, in the truest, most connected moment, I think of nothing else but driving. It is a zen koan, an unsolvable problem, the art of which is simply the pursuit. I still struggle with guilty materialism, but maybe now I understand a bit more of what is truly important.