Monday, November 9, 2009

The Angel of Flight

I am not at all afraid to fly. But last night, I was afraid in flight.

The plane was descending into the New Orleans area, and the dips, drops, and buckling caused by wind gusts were enough to make my hands sweat. I couldn't help but watch the all too flimsy looking wing whipping up and down out my window. Every time the little light blinked at the tip of the wing, I got a momentary glimpse of rain pellets being driven sideways. The ground looked so, so far away: cozy homes dotted by soft yellow lights, petite streets with silent cars and trucks, the reflective bayous—all rendered targets from this perverse missile-perspective of the plane-about-to-lose-its wings. My hands sweated more.

It is in times like these that I pray to the angel of flight. I first learned of the angel of flight at the Sacramento airport, when I saw a statue of it next to a random wheelchair—as if it had healed someone and, biblically, the person had risen and walked away:

I think about the angel of flight, I think about that empty wheelchair, and I know that everything will be okay, because the angel of flight watches over everyone, or most people, most of the time, excluding fatal crashes, in which case the angel of flight is not to be considered. But in this moment, crashing through clouds into the stormy orange glow of New Orleans, I found myself worshiping, reverently, the angel of flight.

The truth is that I don't know the name or meaning of that statue at the Sacramento airport, and I did not pray last night as the Airbus buckled. I sat there thinking about my life, about what I would miss if I were to die, and about what it would feel like to crash. I wondered if I should move away from my window seat, if I should put my USB drive into my pocket in case I had to do a duck-and-roll move to escape the skidding, burning wreckage of the fuselage, in order to protect the work that I'd done over the past few days. I basically thought these thoughts until the plane touched down; and then I thought about all the other things in life that get put on pause in flight.