The roar of the engine is deafening, harsher than any beast’s unnerving call. It fills the cabin reverberating off the low ceiling and making the overhead bins tremble in terror. My seatbelt strapped, I dwell on how it is difficult not to think of the airplane as an aerial leviathan, overtaking the clouds, belching fire and smoke as it rends through the skies. He sits next to me, an unaccompanied minor, going to visit his father. His delicate oval face betrays nervous excitement as he cranes his head to investigate the business of passengers settling on board. The sound of the filtered air overtakes the engine and soon the pilot and attendants add their voices to the babel. Wanting the ride to be over I wriggle uncomfortably to find the least unwieldy position before I close my eyes. As the plane begins its taxi off the strip, I catch the boy shyly peek over me to look out the window. His eyes widen in perturbation as the people and then the building and then the earth itself dwindles into toy size beneath us. I offer him my window seat and he eagerly accepts. Though the warning signs are lit, we surreptitiously exchange seats. He watches silently as the rivers devolve into faded ribbons and the mountain ranges turn into ant hills. Then everything turns into colors and shapes: vermillion, jade, azure, saffron until we seem to be flying over an enormous patchwork quilt. The cloud cover thickens and soon a marshmallow blanket enshrouds the land below us.
“What is that,” he asks, turning to me and pointing at the window?
“Clouds,” I reply, looking over his shoulder.
“Clouds?” He doesn’t seem to believe me and presses his face against the window for a clearer view. “The same ones we look up at in the sky?”
“Yes, we are flying above the cloud cover.” He stares at me shocked and suddenly I feel an intense remorse, for this inverted sphere of aeronautics is no longer a revelation to me. When was the last time I had been so awed by the magic of being above the troposphere? As a child I used to fantasize about owning Aladdin’s enchanted carpet yet I was impervious now to the one that took me in a matter of hours from place to place. There are plenty of quieter ways to travel, but none that embody as much frightening wizardry as the airplane. The boy is subsumed by the scenery outside the tiny glass square, but he has got me recalling what a wondrous thing it is to be conveyed inside this metal tube to anyplace I can imagine.
“Without knowing how to fly I too can soar like the birds.”
The entire process is mysterious, not because I do not understand the physics behind aviation, rather because my knowledge does not detract from the marvel that is the act of flying. I find, despite my travels, it is easy to lose my sense of wonder for what I observe or what happens. I begin to think that the planet has run out of thaumaturgy, but it is I who have dulled my senses to the miracles surrounding me.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science,” Albert Einstein wrote in his book Living Philosophies. To both children and adults mystery is important for it is in asking the question we move forward; it is the unknown that inspires us. So, my rekindled wonder gives me hope for the future that our impenetrable lives will influence future discoveries. It gives me hope that someday we will transport ourselves through a pristine atmosphere in an ecological world. It gives me hope that both I and the boy next to me will hold onto our sense of awe as we journey through each day.
BT TRAVEL TIP #8
Any destination or subject will become interesting if you bring your curiosity and a sense of wonder to it.
What is an everyday occurrence that has suddenly stopped you in your tracks? Is there something you love about flying?