Thursday, September 1, 2011

America, the Beautiful

by Madeleine Kando

I have been sitting in this airplane seat for the past two hours, flying from San Francisco to Chicago. Mine seems to be the only window whose shade isn't down. Most passengers are either reading, watching t.v. or sleeping. What on earth possesses them to ignore this unique opportunity to witness one of the world's wonders up close? For me, flying cross-country is still an incredible adventure.

This plane is like a claustrophobic, smelly movie theatre, showing a super-sized, five hour long movie. The scene is continually changing. What is that, over there in the distance? A hazy yellow patch and next to it, tiny specks which must be houses. Is it sand, salt or just a dust storm the size of a small town?

How can one single country contain so much empty space? An enormous brown and golden colored expanse that reminds me of a painter's palette. Criss-crossed by rivers, mountain ranges, lakes, salt and sand flats. The sheer size of it makes me dizzy. Nothing but mostly uninhabited space, as far as the eye can see. Here and there some traces of human interference in this otherwise untouched territory. I see gashes that look like someone took a blunt carving knife and hacked out a piece of the landscape. Those must be huge copper mines or some other type of fossil fuel ripped out of the earth’s crust. I should feel outraged. Isn’t that what destroys our planet? But they look so small and insignificant in the midst of all this space. A mere blemish.

A line as straight as an arrow cuts through what must be hundreds and hundreds of miles of desert and prairie. Tiny, slow moving white specks give it away as a road. I am not sure where I am: Utah? Colorado? Wyoming? Why the hell don't they have a tour guide on board? I am tempted to pull on the flight attendant's sleeve as she walks by and ask her, but she is too busy serving juices and overpriced sandwiches. Does she know how privileged she is, if she only bothered to stop and look outside?

The scene has changed to farmland. Green pancake shaped patches dot the landscape. As if someone had taken a giant compass and drawn circles to pass the time, like I used to do in school.

The colors have changed from deep red ochre to pastel green. Rivers, lakes, roads, mountain ranges come and go. I am literally getting high on the view.

But highs never last. We are entering a low pressure zone and bit by bit, all the colors on the palette are covered by a fluffy white blanket that resembles sheep's wool. I am back in the real world. My back hurts, the person behind me is snoring and somewhere, a baby is crying.

I will have to wait for another flight out west to get my next fix. In the meantime I will make do with the knowledge that I live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. leave comment here