Friday, April 16, 2010
Space - Over the Ocean
The first time I flew over the ocean, my flight left from Boston on a May evening. I was traveling to Florence through Brussels on, what was then, the cheapest flight available on the airline that was known for packing in budget-conscious students- SABENA. Later I heard that according to some flyers the name of the airline was actually an acronym for Such A Bad Experience Never Again. I had no problem. I was sitting next to a window on the left side of the plane riveted to the view.
I was experiencing the shortest night of my life. Even though the flight left at around 7:30, the light went quickly as we headed northeast toward Nova Scotia. Shortly after, out of the darkness below, I saw the lights of a city reaching out to the edge of the land. I recognized it as, most likely, St. John's, Newfoundland, and the tiny dots below were showing me the last habitation of fellow human beings before going over the edge. It was suddenly blacker than black below me, in my seat, inside the shell of sheet metal with engines.
Yes, I'm one of those people who open the shade of the window to see the sun rise while others are trying to sleep. But, I did use my blanket to cover the window and myself and peered out, like a photographer using an old studio camera. The view seemed more like that of someone in space, seeing the sun rise above the ocean, than in an airplane relatively close above the waves.
Ireland followed with its patchworks of greens, and after a bit to eat, England followed where I could make out the oval of the metropolis of London, stretched out below.
Then, when we were flying over the English Channel, the last portion of the journey, I had a strange experience. It was still early morning, the sun rising up in front of us and its light hitting on an angle on the surface of the waves below. I could see the bottom of the channel, the ground below the waves, as the light palpably illuminated the distance between the surface of the water and the undersea land. I could see this underwater land rising as I could visually discern the changing of this distance, bit by bit. It was like looking near the edge of a lake, or a bathtub, and seeing that in one place the water is ten inches deep, there, maybe five inches. The land continued to rise under the deep until there was created an edge, as cut by a razor- here "water", here "land".
Within minutes we landed outside Brussels. Although it was all new, I dutifully left the plane, found the bus to the proper terminal, showed my passport. I handled it all well. But, inside I was overcome with the beauty I'd just seen. If an airport official had approached me and informed me that there was some mistake, I'd have to leave and fly back to Boston, I would have nodded my head and quietly gone back. Just the flight over the ocean was beyond anything I had experienced before.