Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Red Eye Flight

The prettiest thing
I ever did see
Was lightning from the top of a cloud
Moving through the dark a million miles an hour
With somewhere to be...

Norah Jones

The first time I set foot on a plane was when I was 17 years old and going abroad by myself for the first time in my life. As I settled into my seat, the plane started moving, then it gained a speed which I had not encountered before, and then the wheels left the ground. As I looked down at the receding ground and at the slowly diminishing shadow of our plane, I felt an exhilaration like never before. It was love at first sight. I was one of those rare people who actually felt even more at home in the air than on the ground. I loved the feeling of freedom it gave me, the possibility of movement, the birds-eye perspective it gave me on the world down below. Everything that I knew and even my whole city felt small, insignificant, part of a much larger whole. Little did I know that this was only the first of many such flights, that I would leave my hometown at the age of 21 and only come back again for brief intervals, and only as a tourist from then on.

As I take this red eye flight from Vancouver to Chicago exactly 17 years later, I look at the sky outside and think how magical flying really is. We nowadays take it for granted, but it was a dream for thousands of people in previous centuries. 

The whole plane is sleeping. I wake up from an uneasy nap, and look outside.

The day starts breaking, and the clouds take on more dimensions than usual. They become tangible, more real, and surround us with their surreal shapes and gigantic sizes. We go through valleys and plateaus of clouds. As they part, the soft peach glow of dawn blinks at me from the horizon. Above it all, a crescent moon bears witness to the magical landscape. It is as if in the whole world, the only awake beings are me and the moon, admiring this magical moment. With eyes wide open, I take it all in, the silence and the quiet beauty of it all.

Clouds are such surreal beings, they almost hang suspended between reality and fiction.. They have form and color, yet no tangible being. As we descend through them, they watch us like ancient ghosts with a consciousness of their own, and the memory of thousands of days and nights, of thousands of raindrops and rainbows hang in their mystical, corporeal reality.

A magical moment that is neither day or night, I am neither here or there, suspended in mid-air. 

We descend through the valley of clouds, and in the distance,  the signature orange glow of my hometown, "the city with the big shoulders", lights up the semi-darkness of the horizon. We approach the city from the north, and Lake Michigan lies like a pitch-black, dark and ancient beast below us. The lights of the city approach, getting nearer, forming a grid, and in a tiny intersection point of that grid, the people whom I have given pieces of my heart to, my husband and children, lie sleeping, dreaming of the morning that is about to descend on them. I squint and look at my city through sleepy, heavy eyelids. I send my love showering on them, and send my gratitude to the skies, thanking the metal bird that brought me home to my loves.

"Cabin crew, prepare for landing."

I close my eyes and smile. I exhale. I am home.

Esra, May 30, 2016

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