Monday, August 1, 2011

The Joy of Flight

I look around the plane I’m on and am deeply saddened. Most people have become inured to the joy of flight. They pull out their books, laptops, Gameboys and dreaded kindles and plug themselves in to be anywhere but where they are. They glue themselves to the tiny screen in the ceiling screaming the inanities of disposable television and I want to scream “Wake up, people! We’re flying in a tin can7 miles above the Earth, privileged to a sight humans from 100 years ago could not conceive of. A sight that transforms our very idea of heaven. And God herself. And they just sleep through it. I can’t sleep on a plane. I’m too revved up.

I am still enchanted every time I take off. I’m even still thrilled by the vertigous ascent which has become dizzying because of my experience with the horrors of skydiving. When I hit 12,000 ft. I actually have flashbacks to when my Brazilian playboy tandem guide, Lalo, thrust me into the empty yaw of the sky. But once we hit 36,000, I lean into the window and mark the Plexiglas with my oily nose (yeah, that was me) all the way to the coast. My favorite game is Peek-a-Boo Earth. I look out, memorize the view, close the shade for 2 minutes and then look out again to see how the landscape has changed. I love the grand juxtapositions. The hills of San Bernadino fall off precipitously into a desert-scape which spreads beneath me larger than I ever remember. Past Victorville, the desolate Arizona reds disappear into the July snow caps of Colorado. And today I saw a vision that was completely new to me. I’m not sure if we took a more southernly route, but I looked out and thought I saw us above a vast unmoving ocean. It was a peaty hue with frozen waves miles apart. There was nary a road in sight. But the treeless, but more than scrub laden rolls stood pristine. There was no farming, so it couldn’t have been Kansas or Nebraska. Was it the Texas panhandle? Eastern Oklahoma? Scotland?

And then I peek-a-boo a sheet of Cumulus and life is transformed. Switch back and the clouds have been yanked and the sun has descended with unnatural speed. And finally, through darkest night our little lives light up the land in clusters of community. A million extraordinary declarations of scientific achievement taken for granted rise to the heaves to greet me and convey a peaceful order and intelligence that belies the individual confusion, worry, hate and fear that drives most of humanity. Instead, it’s synthesized by the distance into a harmonic light, calming to the soul.

 If only I didn’t have to land.

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