I have seriously mixed feelings about air travel. The negatives include the massive environmental cost, the fact that dutifully following the pre-flight processing conveyor from online check-in to final boarding leaves me feeling like some type of livestock (which I suppose is accurate, really), all for the privilege of travelling in a large cigar tube packed with other people breathing bad air. And I’m not that fond of landings, either.
But there are things I like, some I like a lot. I like airports, the sense of being in a liminal space, somewhere that exists only because people are going somewhere else. I love take-off, the rush of adrenaline when the engines roar, the brakes are released and we race down the runway. I know there’s a mad grin on my face as inwardly I cheer the plane up and away, through rotation to become a flying machine. I like the way smaller planes, such as the one I’m sitting in as I write this slip sideways through the air to remind me we’re moving through a three-dimensional fluid medium.
And I love watching the landscape roll beneath me, revealing geology and human history. From Madison we flew over roads like graph paper on a one-mile grid, laid out by surveyors working with chains and theodolites as settlers moved west.
Chicago’s skyline stands proud against the horizon behind the rail yards, a reminder that its prosperity was founded on meat and other goods shipped to the hungry east coast.
I’ve been sitting here listening to Old Friends (Andre Previn and friends) for about an hour; we’re roughly halfway to New Orleans and the grid is gone. The ground is forest green with meandering lines of gold that must be farmland in river valleys but we’re too high to see any detail.
The flight announcement interrupted Chilliwack to say we’d arrive early, but first must avoid some weather. There are some fabulous clouds out there; between them, far below, I caught glimpses of oxbow lakes and a meandering river.
And then the plane began to lose altitude, sliding through the clouds into clear air, and there was New Orleans.