I am endlessly fascinated by flying…utterly transfixed by the view from 31,000 feet. As I write this, I’m watching a quilt of orange pin-pricks float by on a black canvas of – Kentucky, probably, or Tennessee. At altitude, at night, everything seems close and tiny, as though skimming just above a doll’s world.
Even better, it’s a full moon tonight, and no clouds anywhere. I can pick out ground details from my seat in this MD-90: Snow-covered patches glow in the moonlight. Darker, probably tree-covered areas predominate. And everywhere, the bright orange-and-white points of human habitation.
Actually, I’m mistaken. What I thought were patches of snow are in reality low, low clouds – maybe fog. As we fly over little lakes, I can see the moon reflecting its disk in them, and lighting those clouds up like a ghostly flashlight from below.
Looking back from my window, the red light on the wingtip blinks cheerily – hello…hello…here we are. The dark edge of the rakishly angled wing eclipses the little pinpoints.
# # #
Three hours ago as we were making our descent into Detroit, I realized that I was seeing the city at the prettiest it could possibly be…in this decade. I grew up in Michigan, and Detroit was always a rough, seedy city; on the downward spiral even before the auto industry forsook its roots and sacked the whole place. I’ve seen photos of Detroit from the 1920’s through the 1950’s and it was a gem – a vibrant, bustling model city. Starkly contrasted by its present shell of itself.
But at evening rush-hour, from about 3,000 feet, it looked that way again. The twilight hid the details of streets and buildings, leaving a bright carpet of streetlights and porch-lights arranged in artistic rows and patches. From our low altitude as we approached the airport, individual cars’ lights were visible, and the roads were packed with them: twinkling, bustling along – seemingly full of life. Detroit looked alive again, full of light and motion. It was like I was seeing a remembrance of its former self, and even if it was just an illusion brought on by distance and altitude, it was a welcome illusion, and one that I was willing to believe, if only for the few minutes before we touched down on runway 21L.
Yes, I am endlessly fascinated by air travel. While most of my fellow travelers hide behind the screen of their smartphone, I prefer to gaze out the window like a kid, and be transported far beyond the physical destination on my ticket.