Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chasing the Light

My FO took this picture (thanks!) with a very nice camera. Still, it doesn't do complete justice to what I’m about to describe. Like many scenes of seen from my office in the sky, to experience it fully, ‘you had to be there’.

It’s early evening during the first week of December. We’re westbound in smooth air at FL320 (32,000 ft) somewhere over Alabama, making way toward BNA (three letter identifier), otherwise known as Music City, USA (or Nashville, TN), known in the business as ‘Bananaville’. BNA, Get it?

How far does the silver gray undercast stretch beneath us? As far as, no, farther than the eyes can see, perhaps all the way to BNA, 1:08 away, maybe even past. It’s flat, texture and appearance not unlike a freshly shorn lamb’s coat laid out on the shepherd’s table. The sun, obscured by clouds in the distance, is blocked from our view. It sets without letting us peek at it dipping below the horizon.

We’re chasing the light of the fading day, my FO (First Officer) and I know it. We don’t have to pronounce what we’re observing together. Our TAS (true airspeed) is 430 kts (nautical miles/hour), but our GS (groundspeed) is 350 kts airspeed), making the headwind (you guessed it) 80 kts. In spite of that, we’re giving it a go; we’re going to see how long we can extend this magnificent dusk horizon light, which is promising and starting to deliver a glorious panorama.

My machine can do some cool things. It can make the sun rise again, Hemingway like, if you time your climbout just right. If your machine is fast enough, it can make the sunset become a sunrise. Just ask a retired SR-71 Blackbird or Concorde Pilot.

We’re not keeping up with it, but that’s alright. The undercast has darkened to a deep black depth, the far end of it meeting the colors which beckon us onward, daring us, begging us, to reach the other side, or keep trying to. Have you seen the film ‘The Truman Show’? It looks like the backlit sound stage he lives in, on the ocean, similar to the perfect dusky sky on the horizon meeting the water. Only better. If we reach the end, will we walk through a hidden door to the outside world like Truman did?

How can I describe the vibrancy, depth, and glory of the red, pink, orange, yellow, and blue my FO and I share in silence together? One faded perfectly into the other, and the blue changed so many shades to an octopus ink above us, as I marveled multiple times back toward the darkened earth of the east behind us. What, what is that there?

That, my friends, is something I’ve never seen, a stripe of green, above the yellow, before the blue. A quick recollection of basic elementary science, art, and rainbows confirms this. Yes, the green is in the right place, and it is incredible and beautiful, this sky that God has permitted me to experience this day of our Christmas season officially open (only after Thanksgiving).

I’ve chased the light before, but never appreciated it as much as now. This job, and my life, has many things in it I take for granted too often. Not anymore, I hope, and the inner voice that travels with me promises that as well.


Joe said...

Beautiful words to describe life on this planet and your inner planet as well. Mom

Shannon said...

Aww, honey, who knew? I always knew you were a romantic, but what a beautiful description... we both have really cool "jobs" don't we?
Love ya and keep chasing the LIGHT - get it?

Kim said...

So glad you are still talking to Jesus and that you hear him speaking loudly, guiding you on

Annie H. said...

So deep, Craig! As an English teacher, I have to say this is an awesome description of chasing the light. I can only imagine. Thanks Shannon for highlighting this blog entry on your blog. It's a keeper!