Mount Hood as seen on the approach to PDX
Mount Hood as seen on the approach to PDX

Turbulence shook my eyes open as I’d faded off to sleep somewhere over the Rockies, 12 hours into a day of cross-country transit. I looked out the window and saw the enormous expanse of canyon below, and woke John to see it too.

Millions of people ply the skies daily, going from A to B and back again. As we stood in the cold blackness before dawn today, waiting for the shuttle from parking lot to airport, a fellow passenger stood shivering in short sleeves in the first bitter wind of the season. We cursed our luck to be missing Florida’s first blast of fall. She wouldn’t, but she’d be buying a sweatshirt as soon as she found one. Her mission for the day was to fly to Atlanta, sign papers, and fly home.

“The ticket was cheaper than the lawyer fee for a power of attorney,” she said, traveling only with a daypack and with only one plan in mind. She’d be home before dinner.

As fate would have it, our seat mate turned out to be a fascinating fellow, so he and John swapped stories for four hours while I dove in and out of reading an equally fascinating book, which did not require me to be able to pick out conversation over the roar of the engine. But I looked up now and then, to interject and to marvel. At one juncture, we paralleled undeveloped beaches on the Gulf Coast, and I wondered where. At another, we were above a vast delta. As we drew close to Denver, the snowcapped peaks of the Rockies loomed large.

Switching planes and seatmates, part two had us cruising well over the Rockies and the Great Basin. The volcanic formation of the West is so very obvious from on high. Were we over the Grand Canyon when I awoke? It seemed like it. Deeply carved rock stretched on forever.

I thought about the millions in transit on this clear day, each in that miraculous device that the Wright Brothers dared to dream would pull our roots from the earth and let us go. Around us, people played video games, watched movies, read books, slept. The miracle of flight has become routine, expected, a commodity.

Being able to see our planet from 30,000 feet is a special gift, to marvel at the vastness of landscape from the vastness of the sky. We don’t do it often – certainly not cross-continent – but each time we do, I treasure the time aloft, a chance to find perspective if you seek it.

PDX Airport Portland
Feet on the ground at PDX