Saturday, 11 May 2013

Night Flight to London

You leave JFK just as the homeward traffic hits the Van Wyck: it snakes below as you soar above. You leave it behind, land and grid locked, as you cruise under and across Long Island and its serene Sound, and on up along the east coast of North America. As dusk settles, you look down, via your aircraft's moving map, on homely Poughkeepsie, quaint Kennebunk, the New England spring evening as folksy and calm (you imagine) as you are in inhumanly fast forward motion. Onward, north-east you go, over the Gulf of Maine, past Nova Scotia, over the mighty Gulf of St Lawrence, to the easternmost tip of Canada above Newfoundland. Until you run out of land: until there is no coastline left to hug. As night falls, you head out into the dark blue; the nearest landfall now the southern tip of Greenland, too distant to be of comfort.

It's a long way from here to the shores of Sligo, which you will cross as dawn breaks; until you start your descent into London's new day. You know that this flying steel tube, with the earth, rolls onward into light. But for a few small hours, there's nothing above you but space, dark and empty; nothing below you but the ocean, cold and deep. Your fellow passengers sleep fitfully, or watch silent, flickering films on little screens: shut off from the vast nothingness that surrounds them. But you - you are in the loneliest place on earth. Indeed nor on it or even in it, but 35,000 feet up in the icy air above it. 

Nearer, my God, to thee.

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