So much of our lives are spent in front of screens these days: computer screens and phone screens and tablet screens, even our books are now appearing on screens. Don’t get me wrong, I love my screens (shameless self-promotion of my latest book available on a screen) as much as anyone, but sometimes I just want to unplug and marvel at nature—the beach on a pretty day (without your music, thank you), the trees in a park. Or, perhaps my favorite pastime, watching the clouds from the window of a jet.
Looking at the world from an airplane window is a gift not everyone gets to have. Cities and towns and cornfields all look beautiful from the air. Train tracks and backyard pools and cars stuck in traffic on the highway, all much more interesting from ten-thousand feet up. I’ve never grown tired of it. Ever. When my family and I go on vacation we fight over the window seats. And then, when I finally get my turn to sit by the window—you know, when I don’t have work to do, like making radio calls or checking the navigation system—the flight attendants tell us to close our window shades so everybody can get back to their screens.
It makes me want to scream.
Really? What could be more interesting than watching the world and all its troubles fall away? More interesting than the magic of bursting out of a cloud into a sunny day with blue skies above? A two-year old episode of 30 Rock? Are you kidding me?
Our world is full of so much ugliness and busyness. I don’t want to be made to feel like a criminal because I’ve left my airplane shade up so I can look away from it for a while. The last flight on which I was a passenger, I did just that. And I felt guilty and selfish and withered under the disapproving looks of the flight attendants and other passengers. But I don’t care. Because while they were watching We Bought a Zoo or working on their spreadsheet or writing that report, I was watching the world go by, the real world, in the most magical way possible. And that’s the gift I gave myself.
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