Amelia Earhart intrigues me not only for her guts and goals, not only for her courage to grab her own life and live it in her own terms, but for her eyes--her sight and foresight. She was a visionary who wanted to push the horizon of women, of aviation, and literally expand her horizon by seeing from above. As the first female to fly the Atlantic in 1928, first as a passenger and later as a solo pilot in 1932, she was the emblem of an emerging new world. She flew the Pacific solo from Honolulu to Oakland in 1935 when few people flew airplanes, man or woman. Her accomplishments broke norms, challenged reality in her times like the first astronauts of our times.
But what I love about Earhart is how she used her eyes--as a visionary that pushed the envelope, as a pilot and navigator who flew solo over oceans, as an amateur photographer, and as a poet, who transmuted her sight into words.
In 1921 Earhart wrote a poem under the name Emil A Harte.
From an airplane
Even the watchful purple hills
That hold the lake could not see
So well as I the stain of evening
Creeping from its heart.
I like to think Earhart loved the divide of day and night, able to watch it from above as if she had gained goddess powers to ride the sunset round the world. I like to think that she was magnetized by the view from above--able to see life was short, that oceans were not barriers, that a two dimensional world was exploding into three dimensions. It seems she did not want to be held by Earth or anything else.
In her last flight in 1937, Earhart flew from Oakland, California to Miami, Florida, across Central and South America through the wide girth of Africa, over the Indian Ocean to New Guinea. The next planned stop was Howland Island, a sliver of land in the vast Pacific between New Guinea and Hawaii.
Likely Earhart missed landing on Howland Island because her Navy chart book mistakenly put the island five nautical miles beyond its true site. The map misdirected her. Even with her success, grit, experience and knowledge, Earhart was bound by the maps of her time. The rules of her time said humans cannot fly, women cannot be adventurous. She surpassed these rules of navigation in life and in aviation history. But she was still caught in the miscalculations of her time, the fatal charting error that caused her to crash.
I like to imagine her still circling the globe, loving the view, tracing the equator that she almost finished circling in that last flight. I like to think of her following the edge between light and dark, a true visionary, forever flying into tomorrow.