On a recent journey I was in a window seat of an aircraft flying from Philadelphia to Indianapolis. On this flight there was not really anyone to talk to. I had moved my seat to allow someone that had survived a fall down a mountain to more room for his splinted leg. This meant about an hour of isolation, in the single seat on the port side of the aircraft.
I rarely bring out my laptop anymore. Or make any serious effort to engage any electronic device. The time in the air offers a mostly meditative experience, away from the rings and the dings and the buzzes in my own thoughts and my own place. Like Superman, you have to find your better self wherever you can. Phonebooth, Embraeer Jet, etc.
As I was sitting in a my Whitman/Melville/Wayne Dyer mood It occured to me that our route would take us directly over my hometown. Given that I now had a window, I perked up and looked forward to a 450mph flyby of Tomato Town, Ohio Stadium, and the land where I learned what it meant to be me and the glory of Hot Pretzel Nuggets; Rolling Rock Beer, and pizza that is dismissed by snobs of the genre as "saltine crackers with some red crap on top". (Ohio is, above all else, an acquired taste).
But in the midst of my anticipation, a funny thing happened. I lost my normally great sense of space. There was just enough cloud cover below to obscure the landmarks. I thought I knew where I was, but between the white puffy skyblocks and the etches and scratches on the window, I was no longer sure.
A strange sort of panic overcame me as for a brief moment I felt totally unsettled, as though my compass and my maps and the street signs all became Wonderland Characters, leaving me dazed, confused, and a little out of sorts. For a person that loves maps, exploring, and learning there are few emotional horrors as great as loosing your bearings. Being lost is never a problem, if you can still feel where you are. If you still have the confidence that what will be found around the next corner will be magical, special, and true.
But those 15 seconds, where every Rand McNally I have ever owned flashed before my eyes, where moments from a terrible dream flowed Niagara like over my mind. Dreams where the Mets and Cubs somehow play each other in the World Series and still both manage to loose. Where your winning lottery ticket leads not to a life of wonder but of perpetual heartbreak. Where a million gifts of talent, life, and love become a million links in a chain of fear, longing, and missed opportunity.
As my lip quivered under the weight of the questions the oddest thing came into view below our plane. 30,000 feet away, 30,000 lifetimes from the past, runways came into sight. Two parallel runways. And in the distance two other runways. It clicked then. The distinctive sight of the two largest Columbus Airports. And a few moments later, a giant stadium, and the another Airport. And although I was 30,000 feet above it. Although I could not touch it. Or speak to it. I could know it. And where I was. And where I have been.
I may not know exactly where I am going or how. The future holds answers to questions I do not even know to ask. But at that moment I found my place on the map, despite a window of scars and a sky of obstacles. I wasn't even supposed to be sitting there. Did not start my day planning to have that view. But like so many of lifes great gifts- this simple sight was provided without even asking, or knowing that it was needed.