Saturday, November 01, 2008

Flying Into Fall...

Cross-country flying offers so many vistas to enjoy, regardless of whether you're screaming along in the low five-digit altitudes or cruising lazily and low at a relative crawl. The passing of night into dawn and, eventually, full daylight; the reverse process with its scenes of lengthening shadows and encroaching dark while the sky itself turns in a spectral performance of changing shades of fading colors until the denizens of the darkest skies punctuate the black fabric with their flickering pinpricks of light.

Watching towboats edge dozens of barges upriver against the ceaseless Mississippi current, the bumper-to-bumper tail-and-head lighting of traffic stretching out for miles in two directions, the changing texture of landscape from plains and prairies to urban islands and on to the undulations of the mountains seams that stitch together disparate pieces of Earth or the marshes of coastal lowlands that sparkle and shine between their patches of ever-wet green.

While worthwhile high-sky watching at any time of year, Fall in particular seems to populate some of those memories strongest in the old cranial logbooks of past flights.

No particular reason jumps out for this tilt; but the distinctive nature of the season seems most likely the cause.

Memories of silently slicing the sky scant feet above a mountain overflowing with the browns, reds and golds of the seasonal change; the air wafts at all altitudes with the distinctive scent of the season -- a pungent, pleasant aroma of leaves passing from their glorious Spring green to the dried-and-brittle finality of their brief lives.

The mental images of cruising a few thousand feet up purposefully proceeding and, in a few short hours, overflying a landscape glowing with the bright greens of lush life, transiting to the territories topped with the reds, golds and yellows of trees in the full thrall of fall, before passing over dark-green-t0-blue swaths of evergreens standing closer to the aircraft, and finally arriving at latitudes where Nature passed southbound days earlier, leaving behind bare and stark the upturned branches of the forest below. At some times of day, those trees almost seem to reach up toward the airplane and wave a plaintive greeting and a pained request to not look to closely at their naked state.

Thankfully for the trees, they always bloom green again. Thankfully, this seasonal transition lasts only long enough to experience fully before lamenting its pass.

Thankfully, that Fall experience comes around every year, varying each time in intensity and duration.

Regardless of the depth and breadth of the Fall flying experience, those hours spent watching the world pass below are never wasted time when the views produce the proper proteins for later replay. And those memories are always s important to retain.

Think of the loss if a soul were to never again go aloft and those mental replays were to fail. Lost forever would be the warmth and joy of those moments. Along the way, a little of ourself would be lost, as well.

Thankfully, those privileged to taste the high life of flight need not worry that it fades -- it never goes away as long as those tapes can keep playing. And as long as someone can help us into the cockpit, we can always enjoy a little refresh run, even if we're not the ones still moving the controls.

Fall is back. Enjoy it before it's gone until next year.

-- Dave Higdon


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave. You really get it.

10:28 AM  

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