Green and blue color the banner of our land in billowing swathes of rolling hills stitched together by the narrow silver threads of mist lined meandering rivers that draw us deeper into the heart of this place.
Contrasting pigments applied in layers over an earthen canvas, awaiting the abrasive dry brush of a desert breeze and the wet brush of sporadically running water to release their hidden beauty in fresh strokes of wild abstraction and the dripping ridges and swirls of this watercolor landscape.
As we pass through the soft precursive morning light with the emotional ease of waking with the dawn, our calm is broken by unseen and trembling cyclical waves of disturbed air. Turbulence pervades above a wrinkled and nappy blanket of cloud. Driven by pressures external to our experience, but all too familiar to those stuck beneath the shroud of gloom. Passing behind the front, escaping it’s influence, we look into its trailing edge and see the smooth rolling facade of pressure driven vapor. With separation, we have the gift of perspective and understand the effect this isolated influence as it sends ripples of pressure beyond its confines to upset the stability of the world beyond.
The atmosphere is a puzzle of myriad dimensions…constantly changing elements, adapting to unseen influences, merging and dividing, providing inspiration, fueling creativity, at once incongruous and harmonious…whether looking skyward at a vaporous ceiling or looking earthward at a billowing deck of cloud, we experience a dizzying sense of wonder as we move through the atmosphere and we forget where our feet are. Our obsessive desire to complete the puzzle is manifest in our longing for grounding glimpses of earth and our quest to find holes in the heavens to fix our place in the universe.
Amid the routine travel, the long work hours, and the lonely days spent away from family on the road, there are transcendant moments that light our souls when we are prepared to see them. We witness sunlight breaking through a cloud deck as rays of light kiss the horizon, we see the excited grin on a young traveler’s face as she takes her first airplane ride, we share the warmth of a visit with an old friend in a distant city…we feel a connection to our world and our people and we find moments of glory as we wander along the way.
A flash of lightening on the horizon disrupts our view of a starlit night. A massive explosion of energy, illuminating an enigmatic and vaporous patch of heaven…violent, incongruous, unpredictable…so bright that, as we allow ourselves to be drawn into the scene, our perception of the night sky is washed out and we are left numb to the sight of the stars above and the serenity that continues to surround us. A flash of light in the night sky, a splash in a tranquil sea, a hole in heaven…each represents a moment of disruption in our field of view, but as we look beyond, broadening our focus, we find illumination and understand that the world may be at once calm and utterly chaotic…each singular disruption makes us value the peace that abides beyond the chaos.
As we climb out of the gloomy predawn shadows, casting off the bonds of earth and exerting our spirits upon the skies, we reach an altitude where we defy our sense of time, experiencing night and day at once…We wait for the sunrise, when in reality we await the earth’s steady roll into a fixed stream of sunlight…And as though balancing the caution of Daedalus and the reckless abandon of Icarus, forever drawn to the sun, we race toward the diminishing shadows on the aerial horizon and make our escape from this place of dreams.
In our solitary communion with the evening sky, a spectacular landscape hidden beneath us by a thin veil of cloud, yet still projecting an aura of great solemnity, adds substance to our meditations. We seem to be alone on an aerial sea of solitude, until at last a pinpoint in the distance grows, trailing an expansive and arcing contrail…a small imperfection on an otherwise perfect and imperceptibly curving line on the horizon…a broken line of smoke signal breaking the plane as if to say, “you will never be alone.”
The deepest of greens can stir our hearts and though we may not possess the Blarney of our cousins across the Irish Sea, we seek to express ourselves and share the feelings that the sight of rich green hills can evoke….We are all island people, driven from the hills and destined to wander the seas and the skies, unwittingly (sometimes wittingly) searching for something lost centuries ago…all the time wearing the earthen toned fabrics of our heritage proudly and dreaming the dreams of lost poets, warriors, and mystics. When all other words escape us, we feel the thrum of “loss” creeping up our throats and into our silent songs. Old worlds cannot be restored, but the warmth of the embrace of a kindred spirit can do wonders for the soul…May we embrace all those who long for home, providing them shelter and protection from their oppressors and all those who would drive them to the sea.
A visual inflection point on a dramatic vertical landscape, a thinning veil of cloud draws our attention to the Black Canyon. Its light limiting depths and the contrast of raw stone edges against the snow speckled terrain convey the grandeur of its massive inverted facade. We notice it for what is missing from the landscape and we revel in the details of it’s emptiness as though remembering a loved one whose absence multiplies the intensity of their effect upon our lives.
Contoured waves of white and blue define the southward flowing ridges of the Appalachian Mountains as they stretch through Virginia. The Shenandoah Valley, trapping snow just as it traps time, creates an adjacent but wholly different world in the shadow of our small blue mountains.
Looking deeply into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a sequence of tightly spaced ridges repeats as though echoing the challenges presented by each snow covered peak. Far below our plane of concern, the mountains provide a source of reflection, a rhythmic visual harmony of granite edifices and vacuous chasms bound together by ice, snow, and clouds. For most of our days, our journeys. are unimpeded, such that the slightest disruption of our travel seems a calamitous violation of our right of free passage and we vent and fume in clouds of angst and icy shards of frustration…but the rhythm of the landscape tells a story of regularity and order in the midst of chaos. This is the way home and the obstacles to our sense of peace lie in how we choose to perceive them.
Following Appalachian ridges as they flow to the south. The recent snowfall defines the valleys etched by glaciers in another era, adding greater dimension to our often soft and hazy perspective.
Experiencing the joy of looking out the small window of an airplane at a big world made smaller by the experience. The upside to deadheading…
As a metaphor for how we live our lives…opening the window shade is a conscious choice we make to engage with the outside world, to broaden our view of the world by letting in a little light and looking beyond the limits of our place and our possessions. to recognize that examining the world through a different lens can lead to a new perspective…we begin to enjoy the ride and revel in the patterns of the world beneath us. Lift the shade and delight in the view.
We wander the skies intent on our work…We focus on the technical details and weigh the ever-changing relationship between our ship’s performance and its movement through the fluid atmosphere that surrounds us as we seek a sense of physical harmony and efficiency. We think of the space we occupy in terms of numbers on a chart, conveyed by electronic signals from satellites orbiting overhead. We are enamored with our machines and they, in turn, consume our attention and distract our senses from the world outside…until a momentary flash of light excites the atmosphere, releasing an effusion of color and warmth, drawing our attention toward the aerial horizon and a singular moment that reminds us that where we are is somehow less important than the wow of this moment and that we are here. The dual blessing of science and technology is that they allows us to experience these mystical moments that satisfy the human spirit and bring us joy in the midst of our motion.
Deadheading between airports to pick up an airplane, I randomly thumbed through my copy of the Tao Te Ching, pondering the words I chanced upon…A priceless time of reflection in what would otherwise be a time of listless boredom. Guilty of a short attention span, I moved on to other things, stowing my books in the seat back, and began looking at weather and plans for my coming flight. Only after leaving the airplane and walking the length of the terminal did I realize that I had failed to follow my own advice to never leave anything in the seat back pockets…my book was lost. Hours later, as the evening progressed, I found myself mesmerized by a distant thunderstorm and reflecting on the experience of my lost book…I did not lament the loss, instead, I came to the understanding that I had merely cast it off along the way for some incomprehensible and serendipitous purpose…perhaps someone picked it up and randomly read a verse that helped them, in turn, to reflect on their journey and approach to the world…perhaps it is not lost, but rather found…perhaps in the jetsam of my travels, there is a redeeming value in randomly sharing unuttered thoughts with a stranger by means of a lost book falling open to a well thumbed page. Who knows what is lost and what is found?
The remnants of brooding storms, their latent energy fizzling into ripples of disturbed air, rising in the night sky. We cruise toward the horizon, tangent to the day, and relish the deepening silence in our moment of solitude.
Riding the echoes of the sea, we slide effortlessly through a trough, gently rolling as we watch the cresting waves send chaos rippling into the atmosphere above…as we steer our ship among the tumult, the wisps of vapor escaping the clouds harken memories of sea spray escaping waves on a windswept sea.
Runway behind us is only useful as a memory. The TWA Hotel presents a series of memories that anyone can inhabit for a while…60s pop culture, whimsical architecture, a little aviation history, and a travel experience to remember.