in transit

    between our arrivals and our
    Departures, it is a strangely
    guiltless territory
    - Marne L. Kilates

    With my wife in her usual high-altitude slump,
    seat-belt fastened, the cabin lights dimmed
    and bad comedy on the movie channel, I slip
    into what one poet has termed the blameless country
    of air travel. I've ploughed through several novels
    this way, unperturbed, felt the heart-surge
    when a particularly rousing phrase of Beethoven's
    coincides with the exact moment of take-off. Sometimes
    the peace is so rare I wave off free champagne,
    and in Economy the meals are never worth missing
    the view for: sunset over the Grand Canyon, or the Pacific
    flowing like silk brocade. Now we enter the sphere
    of maps, a world abstracted and solid all at once.
    As settlements snuggle up to rivers, and paddyfields
    play endless checkers on terraced hillsides, there's
    space enough for long thoughts, wispy musings.
    Do clouds, for instance, discharge their burdens in relief,
    or do they, in their secret hearts, dream of the fallen?
    And which is the life we regret, what was left behind
    or the one to which we hurl at 800 km/h? Only
    at such giddy velocities might we savour the wonder
    of stasis, how the earth's rotation holds us easily
    in place. Just as, if we knew the true evanescence
    of a second, it would stop us in our tracks --
    with indecision, if not physics. Yes, even in seat 34A,
    risking thrombosis, with barely enough room to clap,
    there's time to ponder unseen forces, the invisible
    lift beneath all our wings, only the first human
    century in history with this luxury of boredom.
    If the flight were any longer we'd resort to art.
    Plot new routes to godhood. No surprise the Pyramids
    (just visible beneath cloud-cover on your left)
    had tombs built like departure lounges, since
    many of us too would opt to go to ground
    this way -- with such conducted ease, to the sound
    of our preferred music in the company of strangers.
    How good to set off so eager, yet unhurried, to arrive
    watched for, and welcomed at the gates.

07 November 2001   19:00 hours
island beach vacation, last day { } happiness