Seat 5F

Mine is seat 5F. I don’t travel as often or as broadly as some, but my travels are relatively frequent compared to most and I have quickly grown accustomed to my usual seat, 5F. There’s a calming cadence to traveling alone. It’s predictable and peaceful most of the time.

I often sleep on airplanes. Curled up like a walking cane with my contorted neck and head propped up on my recycled United Airlines blanket, I fall to sleep immediately, as if anesthetized, when the cabin door is latched shut. I wake up usually about the time the plane touches down in my destination city. I’ve lost a few hours in the clouds, but have also gained shifts in perspective while jetting across the US in a compressed metal tube.

Lately, I have been stacking up stress like layers of bedrock. Stress of my career from the daily volume of tasks to the longer term quandaries of purpose and trajectory are thick, dense sheets of heavy stone. Worries about my family prod me like the spring governs a hen and another layer of life’s concerns stack up. My physical well-being suffers, my sleep intercepted by the sensation of fire ants at war on my skin. Even the most positive of anxiety-stimulating circumstances creates tempered excitement,  sensational clarity, and intriguing wonder like the life-giving layer of top soil covering Earth’s crust of stone.

Mt. Rainier from the airplane window. It's immense!

From 5F, everything can be scaled against a wider lens, set properly against a ruler large enough to measure the true scale of of stress’ shale form. Skyscrapers are sandcastles, highways are ant trails. Life on the Pale Blue Dot starts to quiet, slow, and dim. On two recent trips to Seattle, I caught clear and wondrous glimpses of Mt. Rainier out the airplane window. The first time, I glanced up to be greeted by a monumental peak, unconcerned about competition or challenge. There’s nothing small about this mountain, nothing insignificant about it’s stature. In my aluminum airplane, seat 5F shrunk along with the heavy bedrock in my grip. It’s indescribable and divinely peaceful from the ozone.

Pale Blue Dot is Earth, the small bright spot in the bright streak of light from 4 billion miles away. Photo taken by Voyager 1, September 12 1996

If I could step back farther and peer out over the surface of the earth or over the scoop of the universe where our planet hangs, I wonder how flaky and fragile my bedrock layers of stress would be. If I viewed Earth as the Pale Blue Dot that it is on the wider backdrop of a universal scale, what would justify elevated blood pressure or sleepless nights? How would I view emails, politics, and highly anticipated return phone calls? Would love matter more or less? Would prayer?

From 5F, my tiny human mind wanders in appreciation of the majestic heights of a 14,411′ volcanic peak and my imagination starts flapping its wet little wings, shaking it’s small tail feather to an infinite tune of possibility, scandalous freedom, and reckless wonder. I talk with God and my lists shrink, my heart swells, and my dreams start to gain a rosy color . Stress melts away as ice in sunshine. Nostalgia flows through my veins.

A shift in perspective can turn a planet to a spec of dust, a dream into a dance. From seat 5F, the universe is changed and I am smaller, more delicate, more true and still. Very still.


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