It is not so long ago since the last edition and "I stood, gazing upwards, into the sky." Now I am about to do the opposite. I take my seat in the aisle. Two ladies take their seats next to me. They know each other but find it more comforting to be silent. The pilot introduces himself in the way that all pilots do: the voice is firm, reassuring and professional. Here is someone in control. We are to be flying at thirty-two thousand feet, there is a strong head wind, we may be a little late, and we may have a bumpy ride.
There is a hush; it fills the air.
The stewards are suddenly by the exit doors; the roar of engines consumes the senses. We begin to move backwards. Screens unfold from the roof: this is how to "brace, brace, brace", this is how the oxygen will be delivered, this is where the life jacket is. "Please pay attention, this is for your safety".
The hush is palpable; I yearn to touch it.
I wondered how many, like me, were saying to God: please give this aeroplane your undivided attention for the next four hours. The lady next to me examines the brown paper bag. "No! Its not for rubbish", says her friend. I retrieve my book. I sneak a look at those around me. Before I can assess the mood of my fellow travellers we are pushed with exhilarating power into the skies. Tension succumbs to the recycled air of forced ease. There is the sound of the trolley and nervous steps to the toilet. The bumps begin, the intake of breath is as if by corporate co-ordination. I become aware of my own mortality and wonder if the God I believe in is ready to take me home: I hope so but not just yet.
The wonder of the earth below, and the realisation that I am but feet above genocide and civil war, frightens me. Not long to go as I rescue the Kenco from another bump. The seat belt signs light up. We begin our descent rapidly, steeply; another intake of breath, and another uneasy hush.
Could the pilot be the one in whom I put my life-long trust, I wonder? Could the steward be my mentor and spiritual guide? Is the exhilarating power the birth that pushes me into flight for that metaphysical home which secretly I long for? Is the bumpiness of flight nothing but an accommodation to the environment and the stresses of life? Will I need the brown bag? Will I finish my book? Will I land safely and be able to look back and say: "Thank you, Ive had a wonderful time"? The hush becomes a silence. Im home.
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