Monday August 15 dawns wet and foggy. The plane is half an hour late because of headwinds, but I don’t mind. I enjoy watching people in airports. There is a couple from London sitting on the same bench, and an elderly man from the Toronto area, and we begin to chat. Finally, at 3:20 p.m., we are called to board flight 561. We taxi out onto the runway for what seems a very long way, but we must wait for another plane to take off. Now it is our turn. We take off smoothly and rise into a dense cloud where it seems we are floating in the midst of a silent sea of white mist. I see only the wing of the plane. I know we are still climbing, but there is no touch-point to detect the ascent. We break through above the heaviest cloud and everything suddenly becomes scintillating radiance, even though there is but a small expanse of watery blue, more cloud than clear. The blue ‘window’ through which the sun beams its bright rays is opening wider before us. From my seat, I can only catch a glimpse of it. Below are hills and valleys of dull white with grey shadows. It is like a vast frozen barrenness, snow piled in huge mounds broken by bottomless chasms.
We are traveling at an altitude of 20,582 feet and a speed of 404 mph. Suddenly we emerge into a fresh new world. Thick cloud has been replaced by a very thin veil sprinkled with countless cotton balls. A large river winds its way haphazardly over a dark backdrop. Fields and big buildings appear. As I watch the changing landscape I notice large luminous regions that seem to hover in the expanse below us. They are shimmering with rainbow color as if they were alive. Soon they disappear and again I see only a sea of ever- thickening cloud. We come out above it and the horizon of cloud is sharply visible below a clear, deep blue heaven. Again it is an ice-bound arctic fairyland, a solid mass of white-grey with long streaks of deeper grey shadow.
We come to a clearing and I look down on what I assume is a forest set in the middle of hundreds of acres of orderly, geometric fields. Rivers snake along; buildings dot the landscape. Roads straight as a rod cut through the fields. Wisps of mist, like a stream of jet exhaust, trail, not behind some aircraft, but behind small, dense bundles of cloud. In the distance, the terrain takes on the appearance of shadows cast by giant trees, branches leafless and spreading over the landscape in every direction. A series of smaller oblong fields comes into view, and looks unexpectedly similar to the keys on a xylophone. Huge lakes appear. They look like mud puddles from this height. Everything appears uncluttered.
Fields gradually fade into the distance and are eventually hidden by a bumpy sky-scape of little white mounds glistening in the sun. A major river changes shape and size. It looks, in places, like a pair of giant reptiles writhing across the earth. The river ends in a huge lake that, from my viewpoint, is curiously shaped like a bird preparing to take flight. More irregularly-shaped lakes, milky marble and tan, are scattered over the terrain. Some are swirling hues of sombre grey, creamy white and cold steel-blue. Fields, splotched with green pock marks, stretch like disease-riddled flesh across the landscape. Here the heavens are a deeper Prussian blue. It is like being on another planet with no visible life outside the aircraft. Puffs of cloud now mushroom out of a flatter overcast area like huge bubbles surfacing in a boiling vat of soapy water. In the distance are gigantic mountains of whipped cream.
Suspended within the window glass, I discover a tiny metal tube about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter, perhaps less. Frost is accumulating on the outside of the window and directly opposite this little tube is a perfectly clear circle surrounded by a dense formation of sparkling crystals creating a half-inch-wide band. Small spikes radiate from the outer edge fashioning a stylized sun of crushed diamonds.
Cities and smaller communities relieve the checker-board monotony. Roads extend unswerving into the indistinct distance. A four-lane highway arcs around what looks like farm buildings and forest, only to straighten again, then form cloverleafs–on and on until it disappears below the aircraft. Another river wildly snakes and loops in a tortuous path for countless miles until it, too, disappears towards the horizon.
Clouds take on peculiar, life-like shapes–a giant with his chin leaning in his hand, a sleeping man, a dog laying on its back with all fours pointing to the heaven above, laughing in ecstasy at the idea of floating so freely above the earth. Another dog, carefree, floats on a sea of nothingness. Volcano-like eruptions of foam boil up from cotton candy cloud. A child in the midst of a back flip hangs upside down, suspended in empty space. Billowing cloud, solid in appearance, bewitches me into imaging myself sinking into the luxurious softness of a feather bed.
We are climbing higher, though at a slightly slower speed, over another thick blanket of cloud, but I can see farther than ever into the distance ahead. As we glide past it, a vast forest spreads below us. A field in the middle of squares and rectangles, curved at top and bottom, forms an oval with squared-off ends. Other fields are interspersed within virgin land and pristine forest. There are now more lakes than land, too numerous to count. What appears to be a small community of white-roofed buildings on a narrow strip of land spreads out in a long ribbon reminiscent of toothpaste squeezed carelessly from its tube.
A large body of water with a few inlets and no visible islands comes into view. It arches in a very smooth, gentle curve along much of its northern shore. I spot another plane headed in the opposite direction. It is so far away that it looks like a fly making a beeline towards its next meal. Looking back as I follow its path, I am dazzled by the lakes which have suddenly been magically transformed into exquisite pools of pure gold spilled randomly over the landscape. The sun’s reflection is almost blinding on the smooth, mirrored surfaces.
Thin, wispy haze hovers above a motionless, opaque mass of cloud. We are climbing again. I look down on several layers of varying density through a thinly translucent film of mist. Still we climb. Shadow covers much of the land because of the cloud suspended above it. Where land is visible, geometric shapes appear again, some small, some large, some irregular, some, to the naked eye, perfect. We are flying at an altitude of 42,190 feet. Surprisingly, buildings are still visible, though nothing more than tiny white dots and dashes as though made by a child playing with a piece of chalk. So many layers, shapes, and types of cloud form a fascinating scene. Whimsical little tufts resemble a forest of snow-covered trees observed from above. Still we climb into ever-changing panoramas. The only constant is the wing of the plane sporting the dark blue WestJet.com on the tip.
We are now flying over Wisconsin, south of Lake Superior, and heading for Lake Michigan, north of Green Bay. Earlier we passed over North Dakota and Minnesota. We crossed above the Canada/US border somewhere east of Montana. I can see the main body of Lake Michigan as we fly over it. It has become a little hazy below. Though I cannot see much detail at this height, I am still able to detect the occasional tiny white dot of a roof. A three-quarter moon hangs high up in the blue beyond. We have reached 42,694 feet, about the highest altitude of the flight. Endless snowfields of creamy-gold cloud banks are shadowed with soft grey-blue as the sun shines from behind us. The view through my window suddenly takes on the hue of hazy rainbow colors–a magical moment.
We are beginning to descend. The rainbow returns, filling the window with such fragile transparent color that I wonder if it is real. Or is it merely a fleeting fancy that has insinuated itself on my rather fertile imagination? No, for the rainbow continues to reappear and disappear, a specter playfully teasing me, enticing me. My eyes follow it only to find myself peering out into a tinted, gossamer universe. We are now at an altitude of 21,304 feet. Communities are more densely scattered over the countryside below. Roads are still, for the most part, straight, and mark off huge squares of land. Lake Huron is coming into view. The sun reflecting on the wing of the plane sets it ablaze with iridescent orange highlights. In dramatic contrast, the water below is a deep purplish- blue.
Beautiful emerald fields with contrasting dark green and sand shades are interspersed with dense forested areas. Long, soft sweeps of pale pink, muted orange, and lovely mauves, with an intricate array of soft blue and grey tones gently swirled like marbled icing on a cake fill the evening sky. Areas of trees take on picturesque forms: one is a turkey, another is a deer frolicking in the field. Lights are becoming visible in the distance as dusk begins to fall leisurely on southwestern Ontario. A field, perfect but for small spatters of dull green, lies serenely below. Pink and orange swirls radiate into the evening sky, filling it with a soft dream-like quality. Fingers of color reach out into the bright azure, softening and blending together into one indescribable hue along the horizon. An unseen artist has gone wild tonight with a pastel palette and broad strokes of His paintbrush. He has creatively captivated my imagination. That artist is the God who created this marvelous panorama.
London is sparkling with lights–yellow, white, red, green– a sprawling Christmas tree twinkling in the descending darkness of a summer sky. A huge gravel pit extends over a prominent area on the right. Small, brightly-colored boats line a long stretch of the bank of the Thames River like fringe on the edge of a garment. The sky has become deep orange. Its reflection, soft as a breath, rests on the wing of the aircraft like the hand of God gently bestowing a blessing, reminding us to give thanks to the Lord for yet another safe landing.
Thought for the day: Look for the hidden things in God’s wonderful creation, in His word, and in His people.
Prayer: Our heavenly Father, so often we go about our business day by day and never observe the beauty all around us. We take so much for granted and do not take the time to search out Your secrets. Psalm 25:14 tells us that “the secret of the Lord is with those who fear” You. Solomon believed that if we search for understanding and discernment as if we were searching for buried treasure, we would discover the fear of the Lord. Teach us, Lord, to search out the hidden things of God. Teach us to fear You. Open to us the secrets of the Almighty that we might see all the hidden beauty of Your creation. Psalm 91 speaks of the secret place of the Most High. Help us to find that secret place and abide there. Teach us to see with Your eyes. Teach us to hear with Your ears. Make us aware as never before of the little things we so often pass over without a thought. Transform our minds and our hearts, Lord, and make us more like Jesus. We give You praise. Amen.