The dreams that followed 9/11 were so vivid and surreal that they cast doubt on all we recognized as reality. Many of those horrible dreams were likely due to a sort of survivors’ guilt, as for many of those experiencing the events there was the nagging question (whether conscious or subconscious), “Why wasn’t it me?” Did our world end on that September morning and has life ever since been a glimpse into an imagined future? For many years, we have been free from the hapless dreams of that September day, but the memories are indelible…We take it as a sign of hopefulness, that we are not consumed by imagined horrors or wasted second guesses of fate…We are forever wandering a path between light and dark and when we stop on the edge of darkness to contemplate these moments, we imagine the flow of dark waters around us and marvel at the swirling currents rather than worrying about the effect of tides…we turn away again and focus on the light.
We search for meaning in a senseless event as though seeking to understand the value of a scar…a momentary trauma without celestial intention, resulting only in the toughening of our skin and the permanent mark to remind us of the experience. ￼We’ve experienced some tough times in our line of work…we’ve lost friends, fortunes, time, and opportunity…In one way or another, we all bear the marks of damaged goods, yet in the midst of our lament, we find joy among the ￼clouds…We are forever called to serve in a space where few may dwell and we carry out our missions with dispassionate resolve…all the while, we are passionate about adventure and pushing our limits and we share a sense of camaraderie on the wing that others cannot conceive…we develop bonds of faith and trust built upon mutual reliance and professional respect…we live a lifetime in the moments we spend aloft…time passing more rapidly as we sail along the tropopause at eight miles a minute…we live for a string of moments and abide our time on earth as a necessary perch from which to launch on the next leg of our journey, unbound and free to share in the legacy of flight. We will always treasure the gift of flight and WE WILL NEVER FORGET.
Light falls on Earth, easing its way beneath the aerial horizon, slowing the passage of time…in this moment of reverie, we too experience this slowing, capturing and storing the moment to experience it again in our dreams…with the illumination of a thin veil of vapor, the glowing atmosphere converges with scattered elements of dissipating weather, morphing into an indelible dreamscape before vanishing into the night.
The horizon calls us. Whether for adventure, daydreaming, travel, or inspiration, its unspoken challenge can be felt like the pull of an outgoing tide as it exerts its will upon our bodies, impelling us to explore the sea. Beyond the sense of a force upon us, the aerial horizon captures our essence and reflects it back at us in a splash of Brocken Spectre, luring us in a Siren’s song as though calling out, “You are a part of me and I understand you. Follow me into the night.” And we fly toward the falling light as it bends toward the horizon in the youthful pursuit of light.
Divisions are natural, simple gaps in a continuous landscape, separating “one” into several parts, substantially the same but possessing of different perspectives. Bridges are essential, though they may not unite us, they ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from another’s perspective, if we bring ourselves to cross them.
Lacking perspective, we find ourselves wandering a labyrinth of slot canyons, incapable of escape, encumbered by towering walls, our travel impeded by our own inability to look beyond our own confusion…yet, when we enlarge our view, that tangle of earthen passages becomes a curiosity, a beautiful abstraction of color and texture. That which was an impediment now provides joy and wonder, a call to explore, and a challenge to look beyond the moment without alarm or sense of inconvenience. Perspective is everything.
We navigate a world fraught with peril and ecstasy as we meander along the way, balancing the effects of light and dark. We are elated by a glorious sunset as we warily negotiate the afternoon’s storms, their tops pressed firmly upon the glass ceiling of the tropopause, their upward motion hampered by weight of the atmosphere and their diminishing energy, dense shadows giving way to thin veils of falling water vapor illuminated by the sinking sun.
As the last light of the summer solstice radiates from beneath the aerial horizon, we find ourselves at a seasonal equilibrium, cruising along the edge of night where a balanced calm exudes from the world around us, absent the earthly concerns of man.
A dream of flight is to cruise silently above the earth, circling our plant, floating on the thin transparent fluid of our atmosphere in a trance of admiration and wonder…layer upon layer, with increasing density as we move closer to the surface, all things float on that dear blue sphere. As the world warms and flooding changes the face of our planet, water draws new maps and defines the agendas of our coastal communities. We cope, we protect what we can and let the water wash over that which we can’t…We continue our motion along the way and reflect on the perpetual balance of water and earth.
Signs are always presenting themselves on the horizon for our interpretation. We look for signs that portend changes in weather and the ride ahead. Sometimes they can be ambiguous, sometimes they can require the interpretive powers of an old salt, and sometimes they present themselves in such a clear and deliberate manner that there can be doubt as to the nature of what lies ahead.
All things fall apart…while those things that are are most enduring create an illusion of defiance to entropy, though imperceptible, the process is no less real. Entropy is often most apparent as we look upon those things that grow fast…When we passed this way a few short hours ago, we braced ourselves and maneuvered around a rapidly growing wall of storms that extended into the tropopause…yet as we retrace our steps in the waning light, we witness the break up of disorganized storms as their remnants melt into the evening sky.
Weather, earth, walls, and ideas fall apart in a natural entropic lapse unless the source of their growth can be sustained. We all long for storms to end…for that moment when, without sustenance, they become indiscernable from the calm of night…and like a storm, volatile ideas and walls that divide us, if not fueled and upheld by divisive intent, will run their course, deflate, corrode, and exhaust themselves, while the ideas that unite us can be upheld and sustained by our faith and spirits.
As we gaze toward the horizon, a new order unfolds…the visible world is metered in neatly defined subdivisions of earth, sky, darkness, and lightness and we experience a sensation that is unique to this space…never empty, we are never alone…Even as we move unfettered across a light swept plane, we are enveloped by it and we float in the embrace of the of the heavens.
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.”