Monday, October 16, 2006

faire du ciel

(Composed Saturday, while in flight)

It’s easy to get jaded about flying, particularly when one decides that all the inconveniences of screening, walking endless hallways, and sitting in cramped coach seats nearly outweigh the tremendous benefits of this mode of transport. I don’t quite do it often enough to get completely numb to the whole process, but I’ve flown a lot in my life—mostly while I was at St. Olaf, going back and forth between Minneapolis and Memphis. But every once in a while you take a beautiful flight, and flying is a treat. My brother and I took such a flight from Malaga to Barcelona a few years ago, when we marveled (we might even have gasped) at the enchanting countryside of eastern Spain. I’ve had a couple nice flights on Air France, whose slogan is “Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la terre” (“Make the sky the most beautiful place on earth”).

This morning, my first leg on my way back to Ithaca, with British Airlines from Marseille to London, was such a flight. There were a number of small pleasures. First was the congenial, energetic crew. One of the flight attendants was making her opening remarks about welcome and safety, when the captain completely and exuberantly overrode her (clearly, he didn’t know she was talking). He sounded like he loved what he was doing and who he got to work with; for I think my first time on such a large plane the pilot announced the names of the attendants with what was more and more clearly his characteristic aplomb. At the end of his monologue, the gentleman sitting next to me (who had been reacting to the excitement by singing circus tunes) broke into applause. Something about the British accents (and vocabulary) of the attendants I found delightful. And finally, on our entry into London, I was captivated by the cloudscape. (Of course there were clouds. I don’t think I’ve ever flown over England without it being completely covered in clouds.) I think of how until the 20th century no one could see the textures of the tops of clouds. As we began dipping into the puffs and whiffs I felt a wave of relaxation. It was midmorning. Once we were below the clouds, there was a layer of mist deepening into what I presume had been fog an hour earlier. The sunlight shone through the small chinks in the cover, turning the whole world into a dusty cathedral; but what was most striking was that, as we flew at the level between the clouds and the had-been-fog, one saw the shafts of light were suspended between the two. When we were closer to the ground, the gentleman next to me pointed out to his wife the visible vortex streaming behind the airilon of the wing; it was a constant shape, twisted like a corkscrew, and formed out of concentrated mist.

It’s amazing when technology can bring us new experiences, not just of technology itself, but of the natural world, as well.

1 comment:

Tim said...

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