Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour

Rest and Reflection

Zurich, Switzerland

Today is a day of rest. A welcome break from life on the road, living out of a suitcase, eating hotel and restaurant food, flight planning, flying, making decisions. Today I can do my laundry, organize my navigation charts, update my airport info books, and make lists of all the stuff I need.

Mattias is back home with his wife and son, and it's good to see them together again. He is great with little Hendrik, very loving and gentle and patient. They have just returned from a visit with Mattias' mother, who is very sick, and the reason why Mattias has cut short his flying vacation. Hendrick is asleep now, Nici has gone swimming, and Mattias is tending to some things around the house. The sun is shining through broken cumulus clouds and big jets are passing low overhead, on final approach to Zurich airport just a couple of miles away. Except for the occasional jet, it's quiet around here right now. Tonight Nici and Mattias will have another couple over for dinner, (so I'll eat good again).

All in all, I am in the middle of a typical picture of a typical home lived in by a typical family doing all of the typical things they do on a typical Sunday. When I am flying above the cities and farms and looking down on all of the homes below me, this is the way it is with them, living their lives in quiet anonymity and relative peace, loving and sharing, and yet not without their daily challenges of hardship, and illness, and death. All of these experiences are happening below my wings, and I know it, but I do not know of it. The great tapestry of life is unfolding below me, and to the participants in this great play it is the totality of life, their life, but to me it is just another passing town, just another rooftop, or the shape of a car in some long line on a highway, waiting for a light to change.

From their perspective, my plane is possibly just a vague noise overhead, or a shadow that crosses their lawn, just another airplane going somewhere. There is no thought of the pilot, the human being at the controls. I am as anonymous to them as they are to me. We are lost in each other's lives of the moment. We mean nothing to each other. It is as if we never existed at all.

Only rarely is there any connection between us. Sometimes I will look down on an ancient castle perched on top of a hill, or a sailboat running with the wind, or a family cooking on a fire in their back yard, and I will think about their lives and wonder how it is with them. Just as sometimes, I know they see my plane and wonder what it must be like to fly such a wondrous machine, or to fly at all! Such connections are for the most part fleeting, and the real world quickly returns. The father in his back yard must turn the meat on his barbecue, the sailor must tighten a line, the lord in his castle must order his drink, and I must turn back to my original heading. And we are again alone in our worlds. And so it goes.

Once in a great while, there are the exceptions to this humdrum noise of life. Once in a great while I will meet some special person whose eyes light up with an inner beauty and it seems to me that we have known each other from another lifetime, or how else could there be such a strong recognition between us. It is for these moments that we all live, it seems to me. It is for these rare connections, a smile or touch or glance or brief word of knowing, a spark or chemical reaction, a remembrance of long ago. I wish I could collect these rare people and keep them for later, to get to know them better, to find out more about why we have made such a connection, regardless how brief it is. But all too soon, I am gone again. A brief encounter, a bittersweet meeting, and then separation.

I have thoughts that all of Europe has been preparing itself for my brief visit, the Alps have been growing for millions of years, the people have been building their castles and bridges and towns, having their wars and babies. And now I am here, and now I am gone. A bee visiting a few flowers in the field, impossible to sample them all, too little time, too many flowers.

But for today, I rest.

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