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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking Down from On High

"I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, till I'm just soul on a sunbeam."  ~Richard Bach

The View from Up There...

I am not a poet, and so it may be more difficult for me to effectively describe one of the most astounding methods of travel, and that is the gift of flight. To be above the world, looking down, is one of the greatest adventures ever accomplished by humanity, but in this modern world of the bus-like passenger liner we tend to forget to look out the window and see the world from a perspective only granted us only in the last hundred years.

Missing the Bigger Picture
All too often we regard flying as, at best, an inconvenience. And, to be sure, it has become such an everyday maze of ticket counters, TSA, gate checks, boarding, small seats, rude passengers and baggage claim, that it's easy to get drawn down into the miasma of inconvenience and forget the rest. As a passenger I need to deal with these little difficulties, without losing sight of the true marvel of modern air travel.

Whenever I'm given the option of whether to sit on the aisle on next to the window, I usually opt for the window. For me it's the truest sense of traveling adventure you can get on a modern airliner. Sitting in the aisle seat certainly makes for more convenience when making a bid for the head (restroom), but the view is pretty much the same as you get on the aisle in a pre-stadium seating small, crowded theater, without the big screen or filmed entertainment. More claustrophic, in fact, given the much lower ceiling,

Phoenix Int'l Airport
(I try like the dickens to avoid being caught in that airliner Purgatory known as the "center seat", usually only suffering that ignominy when I am traveling with my lovely bride. I'll take the seat so she can have aisle or window -- she likes the window as well, most times.)

Regardless of the time of day -- daylight hours being preferable, the view out the window is usually pretty fascinating. An overcast day or long voyage over an ocean being exceptions to the rule, most of the time the view offers something far more interesting to look at beyond the seat back in front of you.

Leaving Honolulu
One of my more recent travel-related hobbies is photographing things from above. I've begun collecting airports, shorelines, mountains...or other geological features which we can't see from the ground, and are easily missed in a center or aisle seat.

Looking out the window was something I learned to love at an early age. It might also be the source of my acrophobia, but that's a supposition for another time. I recall one flight in particular, in which we were on a flight from Boston's Logan Airport to Los Angeles International. This would place it in the very late sixties, or 1970. I would have been nine, which closely matches my recollection. Assuming then, a transcontinental flight, I'd tend to think we were in a Boeing 707, the importance of which I will arrive at momentarily.

( http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20141020-the-plane-that-changed-air-travel )

Crop circles over Nebraska
As noted, I like the window seat. I love looking down at the world as it passes by, seemingly just below my feet. On this one particular voyage, we were crossing over the northernmost portion of Arizona. I know this because of what happened next. The pilot came on the overhead -- remember, this was the heyday of the JetSet experience we all remember so vividly and probably incorrectly -- and let everyone know we were rapidly approaching one of the greatest views on Earth: The Grand Canyon.

Above Yosemite
This, of course, got me very excited. Right up until the point the Captain decided BOTH side of the aircraft deserved a view. Slowly the plane turned first one way, and then the other, giving the window seats on both sides of the aisle a special downward view of a vast hole in use ground. Not good if you've got a span scent fear of heights. What had been a relatively uneventful flight was seared into my memory for at this point, four plus decades.

But it never left me, that feeling of looking down. Yes, that adventure over the Grand Canyon scared the day lights out of me -- echoed decades later in a much smaller plane above the Inside Passage in Alaska -- but it also excited me at the things you could see if you simply looked down. And so, all these years later, despite the tug of nervousness that sometimes nudges its way into my consciousness, I love the window. 

My hometown of Long Beach
Looking down, looking out, you understand what it is to be moving, going somewhere, doing something exciting. 

As much as we complain that the airlines are rapidly becoming/have become little more than Trailways in the sky, from a window seat you can always sit back, lean your head against the window frame...

...and fly.

My soul is in the sky.  ~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

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