I took a flight to Edinburgh recently. I realised that I love to fly. In fact, I can hardly grasp that some people have a mortal terror of flying. It seems incomprehensible to me. We, by nature, are land bound. Our entire perception of the world is bound up in the fact that we are creatures of the land. Sky is above, land is below our feet. That’s the way it is. Then you get on a plane and are whisked at crazy speeds thousands of feet in the air. And then, if you are anything like me, you grin like a loon for the duration of the flight, to the point where the cabin crew are starting to look at you in a funny way.
On this particular flight I was struck by what amazing things clouds are. I studied geography at university. I know all about the water cycle and water vapour and condensation and all that stuff. But something childlike wells up in you when you finally break through the cloud layer and are sitting in beaming sunshine on a carpet of white fluffiness which appears for all the world to be as solid as the seat you are sitting on. I was blown away by the fact that these clouds were all different- each one with its own little wisps and things. And I was utterly taken with the little dark inky splodge each one made on the ground far below me.
As we came in to land we flew over the motorway and I began wondering what was going on in the life of the person who was driving that little white car that just hung a left onto the side road. Where were they going, and why? Did they enjoy their job? Do they have a dog? How were all the family doing? And all the time I was conscious that this person was almost certainly totally unaware of the fact that I was looking at them. I kind of felt guilty then and started looking up at the clouds again so as not to intrude.
There’s something about that whole thing of being in the air. We’re just not really meant to be there, and going there gives me that little thrill of doing something that I really shouldn’t be doing.
I had a conversation with a friend recently about the fact that we are among the few creatures that inhabit this earth that are able to stay for any sustained period of time in the air, the water, or on land. Penguins can’t do it. Great in water, fairly comical on land, but throw one off the side of a building and you just end up with a very short, very wide penguin. Bats: amazing flyers, hopeless walkers and tremendously inept swimmers. Even Australian bats. Chickens have the worst deal. They are pretty much laughable wherever they try to go. And yet we have managed to get ourselves to hang around in these zones for quite some time. All very clever. Kudos to the human race for technological advances. We’ve done a lot of cool stuff, from the wheel right up to the 17” Apple Macbook Pro (if you’re a PC user, trust me, these things are the business). But I still can’t make clouds. No idea where to start. I mean, I can make a small cloud when I boil the kettle, but not one of those huge fluffy things. Incredible. Mountains? Can’t even imagine what I would do. Grass? Pebbles? Glaciers? I’m at a loss. So when I look at these things and see how amazing they are I cannot but join in with David…
“The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvellous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
Night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard;
Their message has gone out to all the Earth
And their words to all the world.”
Psalm 19: 1-4