Fantastic Friday: Zen and a B-29 Superfortress

A few weeks ago, I was excited that a WWII airplane flyover (the Arsenal of Democracy, celebrating the anniversary of the end of WWII) was schedule to occur right over my house on a Friday. I was all set to go out with my camera, get some great shots, and post a “Fantastic Friday” all about it.

To my surprise, the day before, while I was online teaching from my house, I was distracted by a persistent buzzing. It got louder and louder. In the middle of teaching class, I pressed on…until I saw my husband outside the window, holding my camera to the sky. Then I looked.

Planes in formation, literally right overhead. Not just any planes: WWII planes.

After class, I ran out to try to get some shots. My class ended just as the last few planes were flying overhead. I only got one good close-up. Dismayed, I stayed outside long after the droning sounds had faded.

“Doc,” a B-29 Superfortress, flew right over my house.

“They’re gone,” my husband said several times from inside. I trudged inside, but every time I heard a plane or helicopter, I ran out to see if it might be a plane from the past.

“They’re just ordinary planes, now,” my husband said. His tone tiptoed around my disappointment. I love sky photography, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It turns out, Thursday was the test run for the next day’s actual flight, the one that would follow the Potomac into D.C.. The planes’ holding zone happened to be near my house. The photo I got was decent, but the silver plane against a solid background of clouds makes the image look like an old black and white photo that was taken during the second world war. The photographer in me wanted to see what fluffy white clouds against blue sky would look like reflected in the plane’s shiny silver surface. And, might I be so lucky to catch it reflecting actual trees or grass from my own yard below?

I was determined to get a better shot the next day, during the real event.

I planned a lesson that my students could do independently, and I had my apology speech all prepared for the start of class. Sorry, kids, I like you–but not as much as I like this once-in-a-lifetime chance to photograph working WWII planes. When I hear the buzzing, I’m out!

It turns out, the weather was bad on Friday. The event was postponed until Saturday. I figured I’d save the Fantastic Friday post for the next week. The day didn’t feel so fantastic, but I moved on.

Saturday, the weather was even worse. The event organizers only had permission to use the airspace through Saturday, so the event was cancelled entirely. All that effort. All those planes. All those pilots. For naught. In a month with so few days of clouds and rain, why did the weather choose those three days specifically to be miserable? On social media, the world shared its disappointment. Some people had traveled across states and paid for hotel rooms to be able to see the planes fly. The misery was contagious.

Now, weeks later, flipping through camera footage, I saw the picture of the plane, the B-29 Superfortress, “Doc.” Instead of seeing what was missing–all of the other planes that flew during my class; the blue sky; planes in formation–I saw an amazing shot of a plane from an era before my time.

In flight.

Above my house.

I literally captured the shot feet from my front door.

How amazing is that?

I realized that my negative thoughts came from me focusing on what I didn’t have rather than this amazing thing that I did have. I needed to find that zen acceptance that I could not control the weather, or the time of my classes. But once again, I could control my outlook.

The human mind is amazing. It can imagine all kinds of things that don’t exist. That ability allows our innovation, our accomplishments, our legacies. But uncontrolled, it can also cause our own disappointments.

With only one plane in my arsenal of photographs, I decided to research it a bit more. I found this post from Stars and Stripes. The link referenced in the post,, contains some amazing photos of “Doc,” the plane I captured, both interior and exterior.

How amazing that I only got to capture one plane so that I would be inspired to research its history and read accounts of so many who served during WWII, who helped to build planes like “Doc,” and who never imagined they’d be restored from a desert after decommission to the renewed interest of the nation.

Sometimes, the zen of a quiet mind is all that’s needed to see the amazing opportunity not in what is out of our reach, but in what is right in front of us.

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