Flying may not be natural, but we humans have made it a necessity. We take airplane flight for granted, though I've often felt that if we were meant to fly, we'd have been given steadier stomachs, shorter legs, and narrower hips. My first transatlantic flight was on a TWA Constellation when I was seven years old, crossing from New York to Ireland in 12 hours, then continuing on to France after refueling. I remember walking unsteadily around the dimly lit and noisily vibrating cabin, wondering where I was. Hundreds of flights later, I still wonder, dreading lift-off and the stomach-lurching sensation of being untethered from the Earth. My mind may tell me it's okay, but my body knows that it is dangerously suspended high in the air. I do enjoy going to distant places, however, and I especially enjoy traveling to Los Angeles to visit my delightful son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, so I get on a plane willingly and often. My survival strategy is to curl into a window seat and hope the weather will stay clear, then I can distract myself by observing the world from the vantage point of the gods. With each flight, I am reminded that this is a beautiful and bountiful country. DC to LA is a five-hour flight, and no matter which route the plane takes there will be something surprising to see (once we flew north to avoid a storm system, and I found myself looking down on Lake Erie…). Usually, the urban sprawl of Virginia gives way quickly to the Appalachian mountains, the rolling greenery of Tennessee and Kentucky, the quilt-like rectangles of midwestern farms, and depending on the route that day, some part of the majestic Rockies. When we start to cross over the desert states, I have my camera ready. The distinct patterns of erosion, and the subtle colors of desert sands and canyons are spellbinding. Time, wind, and weather have crafted exquisite "paintings," and they're only visible from high above. There's not much time, and my workspace is cramped, but with every sunlit flight, I capture a few more miraculous images. As the plane starts its descent between the mountains into LA, I feel a renewed connection to our planet. It's a perspective I can only get from above.
"Above and Below," a new edition of prints from the perspective of my airplane window, will appear soon.