Crisscrossing my cerebral imagery this February are tequila-and-beer Jimmy Buffett and my teetotaler husband. They share a love of brass and strings, both proficient on their trombone and guitars.
Both spend much of their time in serving others (though Hubby’s charitable benevolence is considerably dwarfed by the benefaction available from Buffett’s $100-million-a-year slush fund). They both contribute their time in ways that make the world a better place. They are both children of World War II and the ’60s. And, both love the Albatross.
While Jimmy has the extreme privilege of owning the Hemisphere Dancer (a Grumman HU-16, aka Albatross), Hubby satisfies his hankering with the ecstasy he enjoys each year during what he calls Albatross mating season. Annually, about February, the Boulder City Airport is blessed with the arrival of several Albatross as, one by one, their lucky pilots get type-rated.
Hubby salivates as each Albatross flies overhead. His favorite sighting was our first year on the shores of Lake Mead when he witnessed the “sea” landing on the waters by Hoover Dam. A nephew I hadn’t seen in 25 years was visiting our Park Service campsite only to see Hubby race as fast as he could to the lake shore, leaving all of us wondering. Once the Albatross took to the sky an ecstatic hubby returned to the party, shouting “An Albatross! An Albatross!”
It seems appropriate that Albatross mating season launches on Valentine’s Day. While Easter is deemed the beginning of spring, Anglo-Saxon legend honors Feb. 14 as the day the fowl of the air begin their courting rituals.
A proverb states that Saint Valentine “brings the keys of roots and plants,” marks the beginning of spring, and flowers begin to sprout. To espouse these truths, in their search for a spring nesting place, two verdin returned to my window’s view this week and my jonquils are in full bloom.
Indeed, spring and love blossom in February. We embrace those we love who are within arm’s reach and remember those from eras past who pull at our heartstrings.
Like many events and people, the Albatross harks back to an era past. This aeronautic machinery and its crew served in Korea and Vietnam as search-and-rescue teams. The rugged and amphibious Albatross, coupled with heroic crews, could light on land or sea to accomplish the dangerous mission of rescue or recovery of loved ones from perilous circumstance.
Cherished by those who knew them in their prime, coveted by those who remember them from a distance of space and time and respected by those who owe them their life, the Albatross is a symbol of a hardworking team of man and machine serving where needed. There is no record of the number of lives saved by the Albatross and crews, but since the craft were used by the U.S. Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Canadian Air Force, there are many who are in their debt — each team accomplished an important job.
As this Valentine’s Day rolls around, memories of those dear to us pass through our minds. This has been a year of remembering so many who “got the job done,” who built our little city, who added beauty to our lives.
Our last 31er and “dam builder” left for more projects in the sky, many 41ers and 51ers have joined him. I have a 51er friend who struggled as she attended the funerals of friend after friend this past year, 16 in 12 months.
An era has past. Those who built our city’s claim to fame are gone. Their stories — no longer personally passed along — have become part of history and museums. And yet our love keeps them alive.
Valentine’s Day stems from Roman times when Emperor Claudius II of Rome canceled all marriages and engagements when young men he relied on for his bloody wars wouldn’t enlist, choosing love, marriage and families over carnage, death and a lack of progeny.
Along came Valentine of Rome, challenging the Emperor and marrying any young couple longing to tie the matrimonial knot. His purple amethyst ring, engraved with Cupid’s image, was recognized by the Roman soldiers who asked him to perform their marriages. Many a soldier and his love lived on to populate our planet. Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment and given them to soldiers to remind them of their vows and God’s love.
For his defiance to the emperor, Valentine was executed on Feb. 14. On the evening before his death, he wrote the first Valentine to the once-blind-but-now-healed daughter of his jailer, signing the note “Your Valentine.” She, in turn, planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave, instituting the almond tree as the symbol of abiding love and friendship.
There is an old Indian saying that a person does not die until his name is no longer spoken. This Feb. 14, reach out and speak the names of those near and far who are important to you. Speak words of love, encouragement and kindness. By doing so, on the 14th and every day, you will accomplish an important job — much like the Albatross and crew. You may save someone’s life, or at least make her day beautiful.
Oh! And if someone you know flies an Albatross, have him drop me an email. I have a Valentine who loves that plane!
Cat Trico has been a resident of Boulder City since 2003 and is a past president of the Senior Center and co-founder of the Decker Lake Wetlands Preserve. As an author and editor, she contributed to “Rights, Responsibilities, and Relationships” for youth. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.