I’m sure not everyone finds romance in an airplane ride. Some fly so often that it’s become routine; others dislike it so much they close their eyes until it’s over and never give the windows a glance. I myself don’t think I would like it half so much if I didn’t get a window seat every time, nor if all my flights were hours long. But the flights I took this past summer, from Brookings, South Dakota, to Denver, and then from Denver to Dallas, were perfect showcases of what I love about flying.
As soon as the plane begins to move, a thrill goes through me. It glides smoothly along the runway, and gets into position for takeoff. Then it starts picking up speed with a long, exhilarating, overwhelming whoosh and I’m pushed back in my seat. The front wheels lift off the earth, and then the monstrous thing is completely in the air, climbing effortlessly higher and higher. The cabin is full of pressure; my ears pop. But most of my attention is funneled out my window. I feel weightless as the earth quickly gets smaller and smaller and all its features become sharp and clear and beautiful. Miniature things are more beautiful, more precise than full-sized counterparts. Before the clouds fade everything out below, I note the ruffled ribbons of trees, the perfectly straight fields, the network of silver roads alive with tiny cars, the multi-colored Monopoly houses.
Clouds are lovely and mysterious because, not being solid, they’re barely there. They drift by my window like dreams, having substance yet intangible. It’s hard for me to believe this heavy, clunking machine has brought me among them.
My trip from Brookings to Denver was during daylight, so I could see the land as long as the clouds did not obscure it. It was empty and hilly; I saw a grand river; even though it was summer the country down there looked cold and forlorn in an appealing sort of way. When we approached Denver the ground was peppered with perfect circles, green, yellow, or half of each color. Are these a bunch of crop-circles? Nazca lines? I wondered. How come I’ve never heard of these before? I researched them after I got home and learned that farmers in this area use “center pivot irrigation” which necessitates circular crop fields.
It’s a spectacular thing to get a bird’s-eye view of the earth, to be isolated above the masses, who go about with the ability to see only the small spectrum of things that’s right in front of them.
My nighttime flight, from Denver to Dallas, was just as breathtaking. The night was as dark as it could be, but the cities on either end and the few in between were vast piles of little lights, gold, white, and red. They reminded me of the fabled dragons’ hordes hidden deep in a cave and glittering in torchlight. That thought, of course, made me imagine I was in just such a place – maybe gazing at the Dwarves’ newly reclaimed treasure in The Hobbit.
I took these plane journeys by myself, and there wasn’t anyone to talk to, especially during the flight late at night when my neighbor was dozing, so my mind was active and my imagination often had free reign. It’s always splendid to get such a different view of the world, so different from the routine that you feel like you’re in a fictional story yourself. Which means that I and my beloved characters were in the same realm for a time and goodness, did I enjoy that!
What do you think of flying?