Although I love maps, I was never a fan of geography in school. Of all the sciences, geography just didn’t move me the way biology or astronomy did. But 26 hours flying to Phuket, Thailand has changed that.
We took off from Fort Lauderdale, Florida going west on what was to be one hell of a plane ride. 26 hours of straight traveling is every bit as crazy as it sounds. And while my two travel companions slink into slumber, I sit bleary-eyed and restless. No matter what I try, I cannot sleep on planes. I have an overwhelming urge to shake them awake to share in my sleep deprived misery. Yes, I said it! I confess it. Instead, I stare at their partially opened mouths and tilted heads with envy in my heart.
Thankfully I have a window seat, so I turn my attention outward. I love the window seat. I’ll sacrifice an easy road to the restroom or stretching my legs in the aisle every time for a chance to catch glimpses of land and clouds viewed from up above. This is to be my longest tour of America, and the world, in fact.
A few minutes into our flight and the Everglades stretches itself out below us. Pools of water mingle with tall green grasses.
Further on west, the landscape transforms into a patchwork of open plains.
Then the geometric circles inside of squares of the midwest become smooth brown mounds, lined like elephant skin. As we soar above the barren land of the desert, life starts showing itself again. Red, orange, and beige colors the brown.
I see what must be a dry river bed. The vegetation grows more dense and I’m in awe with how life finds a way.
The earth starts folding itself, crashing into itself. Mountains appear rising up from dust and lined with ready streams to rush water to its valleys below.
And I remember as a kid the globes I used to run my fingers over. I’m seeing it now. I understand it now.
Now I see where the love of geography comes from, and where the love for this land comes from. From sea to shining sea we have in America a world of variety. I feel more grateful. There are things I can’t know until I see them myself. America is beautiful. This acid green landscape enveloped in clouds; these brown and dirt green peaks and valleys is beautiful.
After a short stop in Los Angeles, we are above China at dusk and it is like nothing I’ve ever dreamed of. The city has huge electric, lighted veins. It is a river of lights. No spots that haven’t been conquered but lights as far as my eye can see. The clouds beneath us are dark and hanging over the city like pulled cotton. I can see through them flashes of city streets.
I have been so busy admiring the clouds below me that when my eyes finally rise up, I am taken aback to realize a sky full of stars in front of me and above me. Who would voluntarily give up a window seat? Who would choose to miss the magic of this world; the magic of the land and sky?
P.S. The optimal time for stargazing is in that time immediately after takeoff before the cabin lights turn back on.