I spent most of Sunday at the airport with my family, waiting to see if my flight back to the UK was going to go or not...and after a five hour delay, I lifted off. My 19th trans-Atlantic flight. Not many it seems, compared to how many it feels.
And while we were in the air, the plane flew over an amazing lightning storm, the first I've ever seen from the air. There was so much turbulence I didn't get out my camera, so today went onto Flickr to see if anyone had taken a photo of this phenomenon. And I skimmed through the photos to find the one most like what I saw, and I found this one. Originally posted here. An amazing photo, no doubt. And as close as I could get to what I'd seen. Except on my flight the storm we flew over lasted nearly 40 minutes, and I'm sure it was the end of the horrible tornado weather that swept through the south and killed 10 people in Mississippi this past weekend. I knew it would be somewhere out in the Atlantic, and I knew we'd have to fly over it.
In the dark, on my own again, my family left behind on their home ground, we flew over this amazing quiet landscape of light, the clouds red and orange from above, and sometimes it looked like bolts of lightning flashed upwards out of the clouds. And all the while other planes flew in the distance just within sight, parallel to us but only flashing dots. And as we flew I fixed my eyes on a reference point, like I always do during a night flight, a sort of horizon line in the dark to navigate by. And even though it wasn't me navigating our plane, I felt the star I found to stare at, and come back to again and again during the 8 hours, was a point for me to navigate my way back across the vast expanse of water and cloud, back to the UK and my life here.
One day at a time, one moment at a time, the mantra I kept saying over and over this past month came back to me during the flight each time the turbulence got really shaky. And I realised that there is no rush. There is no end point I must hurry to. Even though I know this, I forget it as often as not. This journey, my life, and that particular flight were and are steps on a path, and the path so much more important than the destination. How terrifying Sunday night's flight was. Scarier than any since my third trans-Atlantic crossing (maybe one day I'll write about it here). And how beautiful the sky was, the light streaking below me, the colours in the clouds, the stars in the dark dark sky. How beautiful my life is sometimes, even when it's tough and I'm exhausted and worn down.
And I forget in these breath-taking moments just how linked physical and emotional journeys can be. In fact, one of my students reminded me of this today, her final paper for the term on just this topic. And I mused on my own life journeys after reading her paper and thought, yes. Why do I always forget how linked these two types of journeyings are? The goodbye and the flight back. Closing the door and leaving. And here on the other end, finding my home just as I'd left it. England just as gorgeous as the trees and red clay in the US southern parts. Each in their own ways. Each ground able to hold me when I'm there. And the long flight between like a bridge and a place where I can do nothing but surrender, let go and look out the window at the sky. As far as I can see in every direction.