3:00 PM, Boise Airport - The plane I am supposed to get on in a little while "missed the approach" to the airport, it was just announced. I'm thinking the pilot should be replaced. How do you miss an approach? Boise is in a big wide valley and it has a wide runway with hundreds of buildings and hired hands everywhere. It seems to be a pretty obvious place considering other smaller airports on pinpoints of land I've flown into. Don't they have to be able to use instruments to guide them in even if its cloudy?
8:00 PM, Pacific Grove - The jet plane we were waiting for came eventually. We loaded into its belly and it flew west, eventually releasing us like regurgitated lumps. Sitting inside the silver beast, we joggled back and forth when it blundered into speed bumps of turbulent air, a whole bunch of bobble heads in four long rows. Babies punctuated the white noise of the jet engines with little cat squalls and then the snack cart trundled down the aisle with its pair of attendants opening soda pop cans: Fsh-shwockkk!
Approaching San Jose, the flaming tatters of a gorgeous sunset were spread across the whole western sky. It looked like a band of vandals had raided the earth and was displaying its gory spoils of war. The earth was left darkened, licking its wounds. All it needed was a grand orchestra playing a victory flourish with brass and drums.
Mundanely, the jet's wheels met the tarmac with a brief puff of smoke and we became earthlings once more, shuffling away to find our luggage, flush toilets and look for the exits. It wasn't a letdown so much as a shift in reality and attention had to be paid to dimension, time, and human space.
I hadn't been flying so much as flung in a long trajectory from one point to another. Creatures who fly adjust to air currents, temperature variations and subtle changes in atmospheric pressure as it is felt along the lengths of their bodies. Feathers and outstretched wings must feel uplifts and downdrafts, thermal vortices and fend off rain or snow. A whole nervous system must sense the constantly changing air and adapt to it instantly.
I had simply sat on a synthetically covered seat with a seat belt around my hips and waited for permission to stand up again. Aviation is very ordinary compared to what birds or bats or insects do. Not to say I didn't enjoy the view; it was spectacular. The only ones who can say they flew were the pilot and copilot, and even that's a stretch. They worked controls and the jet roared into the sky in a fury with its engines blasting compressed air backward and sucking it into its gullets greedily. I rode in a seat lined up with other bobble heads, drank juice and then dozed while I rode in the belly of the beast.
It was very convenient to fly, very simple a system to negotiate. But show me the most ordinary bird and you've got no contest at all. Show me a hummingbird, and I'll show you real flight. Maybe someday mankind will fly very similarly to the tiniest of birds. For now, they fly circles around us and can do it backwards if they want. Maybe upside down, too, with their eyes closed. All I know is we are powerful but we have only produced clumsy imitations of the true masters of the air, our avian friends.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way