We have many ways of moving forward.
More often than not, we walk forward, or we drive forward. Occasionally we take a boat or a train. When moving forward in these ways we go from Point A to Point B in a process. We are aware of passing through spaces and places. We follow a map, or a GPS, seek out rest stops and restaurants, and are aware, in a concrete way, of the miles that we travel. Moving forward requires thought and active participation.
Not so with flying, at least not for this passenger.
I remember, in vivid detail, the first time I was a passenger in an airplane.
I was thirteen and it was the summer after 8th grade. My normally frugal, “always drive from one state to another with the AAA Trip Tik in hand” family was flying from Cincinnati to Florida to visit my Mom’s sister and her family.
It was raining when we left Ohio. What I’ll never forget is the very moment we broke through the layers of rain and gray into a dazzling world of brilliant blue and towering white clouds. It was a defining moment in my visual life. It took my breath away and I found myself in love with a world I never knew existed.
It would be many years before flying would be a more routine part of my life but no matter how often I board an aircraft I never cease to be in wonder of that view above the clouds and what makes it possible.
Five years after that first summer flight I married a guy who would eventually become a pilot. It’s absolutely necessary for him to understand and know what makes an airplane fly and why. Me? I’d rather not understand.
Flying remains a mystical experience for me. It takes me forward in ways my feet, or my bike, or my car, cannot. It transports me over state lines without a “Welcome to…..” sign in sight. It takes me from one culture to another on the other side of the world in just a day.
Other modes of transportation require thinking and awareness on my part. Being a passenger on an airplane frees my mind to just see. The land and the world below me becomes abstract. I’m weightless. I’m not just preceding forward, I’m experiencing the world visually in ways not available to me on the ground.
I’m grateful there are people in this world who understand the physics of flight. They allow me to enter the silver tubes with wings and engines and bring me forward to my destination.
Personally, I’d rather remain a passenger and retain my childlike sense of awe and wonder.