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Another Day in the County

Taking flight once again

© Another Day in the Country

Because I have a grandson with two working parents, I do the commute between Kansas and California fairly often. I think of myself as a seasoned traveler, but every time there’s something different, something not planned for, something unusual in the flight experience.

It’s pretty normal to change seasons when I fly. I leave Wichita wrapped in winter’s ice and land in San Francisco in springtime with everything green and wildflowers blooming.

I fly out of Kansas in 100 degree weather, shorts-and-tank-top temperatures, and arrive in Oakland in a cold, damp, drizzle mumbling to myself, “Did I bring at least one long-sleeved shirt?”

I find it hard to imagine one extreme while you are still at the other end of the spectrum. But, those fluctuations are normal — to be expected — with a 2,000-mile flight.

Flight! Winging through the air is what is NOT normal. How do we kid ourselves, land animals that we are, into thinking that cruising along above the clouds at hundreds of miles per hour is normal? How dare we encase ourselves in this thin metal shell and presume to be shot through the air from one place to another, nonchalantly chewing on peanuts?

When landing at airports in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or Phoenix, (hot spots) the stewardess always says, “Would you please lower your window shades before you get off the plane so that we can keep the cabin cooler.”

Nice idea, but immediately when getting on the airplane, I raise the shades. I have to see what is happening out there. I want to be able to watch the plane leave the land and not just feel the liftoff or hear the engines pitch change.

Flying from here to there we always cross long expanses of dessert. I’m always shocked by the color of the land. The closer you get to the coast, the more vegetation you see and also more habitation. This time between Ontario and Oakland I tried to find my bearings.

Were we going over the Central Valley with all the fields of produce that keeps Barnes Grocery in lettuce and tomatoes? Were we following the coastline and Highway 101?

For the first part of the trip I saw bare land with a smattering of clouds. When we got to California the clouds changed. Instead of the drifting, billowing clouds we see in the Kansas sky, these clouds looked like someone had dropped a small package of cotton balls across the terrain — just a few small round globes here and there.

When we are flying into large cities, I always wish the Wright brothers were sitting next to me. They would have loved this view, rejoicing over the world they’d opened up to future generations.

“Who can afford these huge houses?” we’d wonder. “Who would want to live so close together?”

Sometimes we fly for miles and miles above the clouds, and you can’t even see tiny toy cars or string-like roads with Monopoly-size buildings here and there. It’s slightly disconcerting. And then, when it’s time to land, we descend through marshmallow crème into civilization, trusting the pilot and his instruments to land us somewhere significant — all safe and sound.

Once my feet are on the ground, I smile, “We made it! Now comes the good part — meeting my kids.”

People talk about “going toward the light” when they die, but I wonder if death isn’t a little like landing in Oakland.

I’d like for the flight to go by quickly — the view above the clouds breathtaking, the descent steady in the pilot’s experienced hands, the landing smooth. And then a stewardess would say, “Welcome to...,” and you’re off to meet your loved ones.

My friend Darlene died recently. She’s the lovely lady who became our neighbor when we moved from California to Kansas. She’s the one who said to us when we were still just visiting Ramona, “If we feed you, will you stay?” And we did stay, just for the joy of spending another day in the country.

Last modified June 29, 2017

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