25 September 2007

Getting there

My relationship with flying is nearly synonymous with my perspective on life. Take-off feels unstable to a tooth-gritting, hair-pulling, get-me-the-hell-off-this-thing! extent. Then the plane evens out and if I can for a moment forget that it could all go pear-shaped, my enjoyment of the experience is sublime.

Such was my feeling as we hit cruising altitude (half an hour late, “thank you for your patience-y”) and I finally deigned to look over the edge of my window seat. Once the rutted shelf of antique-white cloud disappears, you can’t help but devour the whole of that divine shoebox diorama below.

Tiny rooftops pooled inside the graceful arms of mountain ranges, the coin-sized lakes twisting to capture the sun and glint it back in your eye, the fudgey green heads of trees belying the simplicity of a forest – you feel the insignificance of your own little contribution to that majesty even as you tower above it like an intoxicated deity (which seems fairly accurate, after all the wine).

Surely there’s a term to describe that visceral enjoyment you can only obtain from navigating a savage, inhospitable terrain. The way your breath quickens when you swim a bit too far out and aren’t really sure if the shadows at the bottom belong to you or to sea grass or something that could fit you inside its mouth in pieces. But you turn onto your back and look up at the inexhaustible blue sky and just wonder at your own body, and at these most basic of life’s components.

In that plane, sandwiched between cloud and earth, I imagined that crash victims would at least have this. What more should proceed one’s final moments than stunning elation and that rotating-telescopic sense of perspective? But then we reached our hotel in Zagreb and saw on the news that a plane had crashed in Phuket, all foreigners aboard, and this scenario seemed suddenly very unlikely. Not at all romantic.

And obviously there’s more, but I’m out of time for today.

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