Words at 36,000 Feet

It’s hard to write this high in the air with the plane bouncing back and forth due to unexpected turbulence, and the man in front of me, who has elected to recline his seat as far back as it will go, jostling about trying to get comfortable. After months of planning and a rushed pre-dawn drive to BWI, I am finally on my way, the last leg of the trip to land me in San Jose, Costa Rica, for 5 weeks of language study in a town on the Pacific Coast. I love the thought of this adventure but don’t love the process. Funny, but at one point in life I loved to travel, not just to be at a destination but I actually enjoyed the getting there, too. I’d happily pack my bags, hang out at an airport and watch the destination signs flip, waiting contentedly for my turn to board; it was fun to people watch and eavesdrop and try to determine just where everyone was coming from or going to. I’d get to the airport early just to grab a seat at a bar near my gate and have a beer or glass of wine, eager to talk to whoever sat next to me. Sometimes fate was kind and I chatted with some interesting folks from all over the world. It’s funny the kind of strange, sometimes oddly personal conversations you can have with someone you know you will never see again. There’s a freedom in those kinds of encounters, and I wonder if we are giving up some of those moments by being so plugged in and turned on now. Most people at the airport wait with their ear buds in, music blasting, or hacking away on a computer, or holding a one-sided conversation on a cell phone. I am no different.
When I was a kid, traveling by plane was a luxury, a real treat, and my mom would dress us in our Sunday school clothes to fly the two hours to my grandmother’s house in Charleston. Getting on a plane was a rush, sitting in the window seat a rare opportunity to see the world in a new way, to look down on clouds and image them as yards of cotton, wisps of fire-smoke or miles of uncooked meringue. So yummy you wanted to dive in and float. Maybe that’s where my love of adventure was born. To be moving forward, away from the ordinariness of everyday into the unknown, somehow provides a sense of calm. But now I have a harder time with the process. The crowds and lines and waiting. Feeling stuck in a small place, breathing recycled air without even a bag of peanuts to keep me company. All of these things that used to seem like adventure, to be opportunities to interact, make me anxious and I simply want to be there. Sitting in my tiny, quaking seat miles above the earth doesn’t hold the charm it once did, which makes me a bit sad. I am ready to put my feet firmly on Costa Rican land, to find my way into San Jose for the night and then on to my coastal town, five hours from the capitol.
So my journey is still in progress, I am still en route for another 24 hours so I am going to figure out a way to love this part, too. Outside my window, in seat 23A, I can see patches of land, minute Lilliputian houses and backyard pools, roads that crisscross the earth to form elaborate patterns and organic shapes, somewhere beneath this plane in the Carolinas. Above these forms, those same clouds call to me to look at them; sometimes grey-white and opaque, they obliterate the earth below and I am hurtling through white space with no sense of time or place. And others, that pop vividly against a bright blue sky dappled with sunlight, are drifting islands filled with snowy egrets or a herd of sacred white buffalo running toward the east. These are my companions as I make my way to Central America. 1:10pm, Jan 29, 2010

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About waggingmytale

I am an English teacher, writer, animal lover, and aspiring athlete. If you stop by and read or "stumble" upon my blog, please leave a comment and say hello. It's nice to know who visits :-) Namaste!
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