The sun rises through an atmosphere clouded by drifting smoke…though half a continent away, the fires shape and color our perspective on the approaching day.
Watching smoke rise into the air is at once fascinating and horrifying. Our contributions to a rapidly accelerating entropic process not withstanding, we feel victimized by fire and a profound sense of loss overcomes us as life, hope, and dreams are reduced to vaporous streams of carbon rising into the lower atmosphere. There, it hovers thickly, draping mountains and filling crevasses as the winds aloft drag the veil of tarry vapor across the face of the earth.
In flight, our minds travel faster than our bodies and in so doing, they soar ahead of our human constraints, propelling us on imaginative journeys where we walk on air and explore unreachable places on earth and in the heavens beyond.
Watching the growth of a storm is mesmerizing, as though watching the creation of a landscape in minutes or hours…a wonderful abstraction of tectonic motion and the eroding effects of water on an earthly landscape, expressed in vapor and shifting lines of isobaric pressure.
When we close our eyes at night…the mission complete or the trip ended…we find ourselves back up there, floating above an earth in soft focus, a million stars above, illuminating the night sky and guiding us toward morning.
Thousands of private fireworks shows carry on unseen beneath a veil of clouds while another show unfolds above in the tropopause…more private, more serene, unconcerned with patriotic causes, the light flares from deep within a distant storm, illuminating the deep blue recesses of twilight passing over a storm tossed sea of clouds.
Fireworks in the evening sky…a natural singularity given of one moment’s perception of celestial light penetrating the earth’s atmosphere.
We cruise through a dynamic atmosphere in which we are repeatedly reminded that we are surrounded by and moving through celestial and atmospheric fireworks…everyday…everywhere…they are ubiquitous, yet often go unnoticed on the earth below…in part due to their subtlety and in part due to our lack of awareness and perspective…These fireworks fill us with emotion…a sense of awe in the presence of greatness, a sense of mysticism in their apparent spontaneity, a sense humility in our relative insignificance, and a sense of longing in our recognition of their ephemerality. The miracle of this scene lies in the understanding that there is no finale…the show goes on…keep on watching the skies.
Set in stone and immovable, yet racing at the speed of heat toward some ill-defined finish line…time moves silently and invisibly, dragging along with it the noisy furrows of earth cut by wind and water, permanent etchings on the landscape to remind us that all of this is in constant and perpetual motion.
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.