We never walk alone as we wander along the way…exploring the darkness and finding the light, experiencing despair and illuminating hope, fearing isolation and finding common cause, and in all things discovering the beauty that binds all things together. Peace, Virginia.
Along the rough edges of the night, the sun flares in a brilliant last hurrah like a match suddenly ignited and, in its futile attempt to hold off the night, the fire cools and dims like a smoldering ember of the day. The bedtime story complete, we sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight…nestled warmly in our cabin, we drift into sleep as the aircraft barrels on into the night.
In the quiet moments, we look toward the shadows, pondering the future, yearning for details and specificity…but on the edges of our days, the shape of the darkness foretells the coming experience and we accept the reality of our “now” without fretting the details of what comes next.
Distance and familiarity, routine and irregularity, displacement and satisfaction…With a casual scan of the horizon, we see rhythm and patterns, while looking more closely, we see details and human organization…rolling irregular ridges of ashen soil and rock, at once chaotic and rhythmic. The people living below see only the hills of home as they set about farming and ordering their landscape. The occasional earthen flows fill the valleys and swell the hills, refreshing the earth and, in the long view, making a routine of the irregular…and still they work to order their landscape and share in the abundant riches of the soil.
To pass this way again seems an impossibility, as if this singular moment in the heavens could be replicated in some practice of celestial alchemy, yet it is forever inscribed in our memories and relived in our dreams. When I contemplate “passing this way” I often think of building bridges, leaving something behind to ease the journey of others…and in this moment, as I watch the fading contrail dissipate and drift through twilight, I realize that our memories are like bridges between our realities and our dreams, providing solace and comfort when we travel through more turbulent skies.
One morning over the Gulf of Mexico.
In the fading light of day, we return home, down the river, into the heart of home…and the light calls to us, inviting us to absorb the glow, asking us to reflect the beauty in our faces, broadcasting to the world… “Welcome home weary travelers.”
Lift the shade and look outside; you never know what messages await in the world outside.
Everything is bluer where we sit and watch the earth pass beneath us…in long flowing rolls of earth, rising from below, falling from above, rolling toward the sea, seeking new levels, coloring and adding texture to our world, the stark contrast between these living features and the very blueness of the atmosphere through which we gaze along tangential lines provides a visual yet subconscious touchstone…we too flow toward the sea and seek our level, coloring the things we touch…again and again, we return to these scenes for solace, refuge, or simply to wallow in these moments when we are as one with the landscape.
Sometimes pictures paint themselves in our memory…sometimes our memories demand that we paint them in pictures…and sometimes our memories, pictures, and dreams layer one upon the other right in front of our eyes.
[Image altered with photoshop oil paint filter.]
Sometimes those things that we perceive with the least definition tell us all that we need to understand. As day follows night, night follows day and, in the spaces in between, the penumbral shadow of earth blurs all definition, revealing the tattered edges of two worlds intertwined and telling us that one may not exist without the other.
Earth takes a long view, water falls, then drips and flows…at first in tears rolling off leaves, then in rivulets, trickles, and streams…pushing dirt and sand out of its path…ages pass and those drops become rivers cutting stone and moving mountains…every little thing matters, every little thing will become big, and every little thing will have an impact on a global scale…but we must take the long view to understand. Happy Earth Day.
On the fringe of the Nez Perce lands, a nebulous bank of clouds lifts slightly to reveal the texture of the earth beneath and we recognize, slowly, a progression of detail and order in the landscape…mist giving way to hollow ridges giving way to defined settlements, each defining a different realm of life on earth.
Can you hear it? The musical refrains that play in our minds are a gift. Like remembering words spoken or formulae transcribed, the music comes to us…connected to a place, a memory, a passing thought, or triggered by the light and a mood in the air…the music fills us up and completes a moment. Spring begins with fits and starts, like the variations of the rising and falling terrain of Appalachia, ultimately the snow gives way to blossoming trees and greening valleys…and we hear the song of a thawing mountain stream as it falls off the mountain into spring. Thanks to Aaron Copeland for the musical imagery of Appalachian Spring, animating our silent aerial perspective on the season.
Wandering a sea of cloud, no markers or road signs to illuminate our way, we follow a meandering path that begins with simple geography and celestial navigation influenced by shifting effects of wind and weather. Along the way we look for signs to reaffirm our sense of place in this world…alert for the moments when the seas part to reveal a hidden landscape and landmarks that inspire our continued journey.
Looking upon a chaotic landscape of snow crested ridges broken by mountain lakes and disorganized peaks, the effect is oddly soothing as though a visual embodiment of cacophony.
We look to the heavens for a sense of permanence, yet they teach us more about the natural patterns of constant change…cyclical and expansive. On a winter morning, the moonrise illuminates a snow covered planet, while the sun rapidly overtakes it…sunrise diminishing the moon’s brilliant moment…Soon, the warmth and colors of spring will displace the cold and glistening whites of winter.
I often dream of storms. Secured in a pressurized tube while cruising through the tropopause, watching a storm is like watching a dramatic silent movie…flickering black and white images appear and disappear in the darkness of our theater, the music in our heads and the irregular cracks of static on the radio, the only soundtrack. All this makes for a surreal experience. Raw energy, exploding into the night…Dramatic visions without sound, threats without audible indications of danger. The flashes of light emanating from the sky remind me of other places and other times when we watched the light swell from below, lifting earth and making clouds…again surreal and distant, another world…not to be forgotten, forever the fuel of dreams.
There are faces of earth that bear an inscription, mysterious and indecipherable, each message protrudes from the landscape as though a collection of Braille characters waiting to be touched and interpreted. Although we may not comprehend the message, there are things that can learn from our study…All things align in some way. At the atomic level, there is symmetry in all things, yet on a grand scale, that sense of balance and equity is shaped by other forces and circumstances. Color is what draws our attention to all things and we see the physical variations and diversity of color as the light bends around and reflects on an ever-changing canvas of earth…over which we ultimately have no control but are inextricably bound.
One never knows when they will pass this way again…If we are so fortunate, will it look the same, will the landscape have changed, or will we perceive the same values in the color, texture, and light when we retrace our steps? All things fall apart, all moments are temporal, and our very existence is finite and unpredictable. I choose to look at the world around me, in each moment and everywhere, with the curiosity and wondrous perception of my first gaze and the determination to absorb and remember the moment as though it were my last moment on earth.
In a glance, a first impression, a snap judgement, we see one color in the landscape…it’s brown. If we stop there, we miss the beauty of this scene. Looking deeper, examining the details, seeking a new understanding, we see a landscape that is not defined by its color, instead the subtle nuances of shifting light define the great contours of mountains and the geologic history written in them. As light touches the mountainsides and illuminates the subtle variations of color in the slope and sparse vegetation, we are drawn into a search for more…given this taste of detail, we yearn to understand how our first impressions blinded us to the beauty and complexity of this world.
In the southern sky, somewhere near Texarkana, the line of the terminator advances toward the horizon as we drift through the twilight zone, waiting for the approaching night. These are the things of which we dream when we stand on the ground and wish we were up there.