When you put me on an airplane, I basically turn into a small child. Not in the loudly crying or endless-seat-kicking kind of way. I mean in the tingle-of-excitement-before-takeoff kind of way. Like in the I-have-to-have-a-window-seat kind of way. I never tire of the taking off or the touching down parts of flying, and I usually spend a good bit of time watching the views from my window.
I have an embarrassing amount of airplane window photos in my library. Sunrises, sunsets, mountains, oceans, canyons, clouds, clouds and more clouds. The wonder and marvel of being 40,000 feet above the earth has never worn off. How cool it is to be safely tucked into a chair, drink in hand, and get a view of the earth that even the birds don’t get.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t love parking shuttles. I don’t love security lines. I don’t love hauling my overpacked carry-on through airports. The entire experience isn’t pure joy. I’ve had to do a lot of flying for work over the years and like most road warriors, I can get exhausted by it. But for the most part, it all goes away when I’m in my window seat.
A few weeks ago, on an early morning flight, the most spectacular sunrise unfolded out my window.
It was as if Pixar had somehow made the kaleidoscopes of my childhood come to life. I felt a strong urge to shake my sleeping neighbor to make sure he didn’t miss this incredible thing unfolding right out our window. (I didn’t). I listened with disappointment as I heard the clunk of window shades being slammed shut to block the infusion of light.
Even as I write this (yes, I’m on a plane right now), I’m distracted by my view of what might be Oklahoma unfolding below me, and the giggles of a little girl in front of me as she delights at being on top of clouds. I feel a bit of solidarity with her as we pay attention to what everyone else seems to be ignoring.
Wonderful, amazing things happen around me all the time, and I’m often too distracted or busy to notice.
Or worse, I think I’ve stopped reacting to them with wonder. As things move from novel to familiar, they shift from being a provocation of joy to a subject of complaint or mere tolerance. The gorgeous flowers from the expensive seed catalog stop being admired and become yard work. The outfit I splurged on and waited weeks to arrive becomes laundry. The amazing humans that we live with become roommates or tenants.
Of course, we don’t move through life in a constant state of wonder.
I can’t help but wonder, though, how much choice we have about our presence to the beauty and miracles in our everyday lives.
When we land, in an hour or so, many of my fellow passengers will deplane, rested from a long nap. Others will have checked out with a movie. Some will stagger off, exhausted from keeping an infant quiet or occupied with catching up on updated spreadsheets for tomorrow’s meeting. Of course, there’s not one thing wrong with napping or vegging out with a good movie during a flight.
I think the difference for the little girl and I is that we’ve paid attention.
Feeling like we’ve been on a bit of an adventure. I have new pictures in my library and she has little wings pinned to her chest. I think about how much I’m missing out on in my regular life. What other opportunities to experience the wonder of a child do I miss? What other parts of my life would change if I always picked the window seat?
What about you?
What wonders have you missed?
And yes, if you’re interested, I have about 20 pictures of that sunrise.
Just some food for thought.