Flying from one coast to another makes me patriotic. Leaving in the morning from just a few miles off the east coast, then landing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, you get the chance to look out over the great nation and realize we really do have it all here. From coastal waterways, rivers and streams, lakes, ponds and dammed rivers to the flat farmland of the midwest and the Rocky Mountains. We have high desert and low plains, mesas, forests and cities. Our small towns dot the landscape across the vastness of an entire continent. Somewhere 30,000 feet below me, children are playing in parks, swimming in pools, riding their bikes on paved and dirt roads, fishing in streams and a million other things that kids do. Their parents are watching or working or shopping. Some are tending vast expanses of farmland or ranches with cattle. Some look after backyard gardens, while others navigate city streets or waterways from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
This vast nation of ours is sliced and diced by highways and dirt roads. Snaking streams and rivers cut through the landscapes leaving little curvy swatches of dark, moist green amid the pale, dusty cropland of the west and the flooded blobs of America dealing with recent heavy rains. We pass over the mountains, black and gray, giving rise to deep chasms and hundreds of shades of red and brown. A smattering of deep red makes me think of Georgia clay even though we are probably passing over Colorado or Arizona … maybe Utah. Once in a while a building or object below catches the sun just right and a flare of light bounces our way. It’s easy to see how different we are from the rest of the world when you’re this far up. Other nations form towns and farm or ranch around them, coming back to the relative safety of neighbors each night. We put our homes right in the middle of huge expanses of land, isolated while surrounded by our own little kingdoms.
I think of Greg as I look down on a runway. He can spot small landing strips everywhere and when we fly together he points them out. He always seems to know which one we are flying over. Has he been here? I wonder. Down below, we fly over a huge snaking canyon. The power of water is awesome, cutting through the land in curling, swirling depths. I’ve never understood the description of the view as a patchwork quilt. There’s so much zig-zagging. A quilter would never sew such curvy, seemingly unplanned lines. Yet, God creates the landscape as if doodling on a scratch pad. Sadly, we come to clouds and my view begins to disappear beneath a blanket of white batting; it’s a sheen of haze that doesn’t quite obscure the view, but hides it behind a misty-like curtain.
In the west, the power line cuts are wider, more clearly defined. It’s obvious what is manmade and what is natural. Nature doesn’t create perfectly straight lines, preferring the artistry of a path made by nature’s winds and gravity and unseen forces.
Another pretty good-sized population center comes into view at the base of a mountain. There’s the runway … a long one. This sprawling city hugs a river. Bridges connect the two sides linking homes and businesses, lovers and friends.
The scene is repeated again and again. Flat farms, snaking rivers, hills and mountains a cornucopia of green, brown, red, silver-topped buildings and navy blue lakes. A plane flies below us. It’s big – no doubt a commercial jet, glistening white as it glides away from us to an unknown destination.
I am transfixed by the view. We’re 80 percent of the way to our destination. The Pacific lies ahead. I can’t see it yet, but the flight attendant announces less than an hour to go and advises passengers who need to get up and go to the bathroom should do it now.
The squiggly lines of rivers change constantly. The peaks below now are like waves on an ocean of brown and gray. Wind and water and weather create vein-like expanses. Strange shapes are clearly man made.
We begin our descent into LAX and a solid layer of clouds appears just over the edge of the coastline. We break through over one of our nation’s biggest cities and another change of view. This is America. We have it all; rivers, lakes, coasts, plains, deserts, mountains, towns, cities.The next time you fly, get a window seat and check it out.