We were eighty miles from home, Pedro at the controls and me doing something in the aft cockpit, eyes down. He’d been running straight along a shearline for several minutes and then abruptly began to circle. I knew where we were within a few miles without looking, but hadn’t expected him to stop until we reached Boomer Ridge. It was unusually hazy that day with tall clouds casting wide shadows on a landscape I’d always seen brightly lit. Nothing was recognizable! Turning my head against the direction of our circle intensified disorientation, and unreasoned anxiety prompted a sudden wave of nausea.

Eventually there’s a first time, pardon the cliché, for even this.

I drew one deep breath and asked Pedro to go straight for a moment, on any heading. Soon, through beads of perspiration I found a familiar crossroads and CLICK, like the turning of a lock, simple recognition transformed cold sweat into cool refreshment, and all was well again.

What amazed me was how quickly poking only one toe through the fragile deck of a mental footbridge felt like I was falling into the river – and then how little it took to restore a vital confidence that was so easily challenged.

So… Ever notice how right it feels to keep your off hand on some firm point in the cockpit, especially when you turn your head? We all do it unconsciously. It’s a natural instinct to maintain orientation, like our cousins do in trees. Same thing at the other end of the arm too, up here where converging strands of nerve tissue form a giant fatty cyst that expands to fill the cranium. Without some known reference to proceed from and potentially retreat to, rational faith in our own knowledge and perception can instantly vanish exactly when we need it most. And that must tell us something…

What does it tell us?  We may about to find out…