Thoughts from a Plane: Orientation

I like window seats.

Whenever I fly, I always hope the airline gives me a seat with a view. Usually I get stuck in the middle seat between a sloppy teenager with his face buried in a smart phone and a business person with a load of work in his hands but every now and then… buena vista. Today on Southwest Airlines I got to choose my seat — first-come, first-seated — and I made a beeline for the window. I was heading to Austin first (yawn) but from Austin the plane headed west, young man. All the way to San Jose. No, that’s not right. Sorry. It rhymed, though. Actually, I landed at LAX, aka, Los Angeles.

I’m attending the Engage Retreat this week in West Los Angeles, a five-day event put on by Christian Associates for hard-core missionary candidates. You know, the kind who wear camel’s skin garments and eat locusts and honey between fire-and-brimstone preaching sessions. No, that’s not right, either. Sorry again. Sounded dramatic, though.

I love window seats because being able to see the ground below always helps me to set aside my fear that, somehow, we’ve lost contact with the atmosphere and blasted straight to Venus. Can you tell I’m not the biggest fan of flying? I like to see the earth beneath and its various colors and shades, scars and patterns — some created by God, others by mankind.

Another reason I love to see outside has to do with orientation. I enjoy trying to identify where I am on the map. What’s that river? What’s that mark on the earth’s surface? Is that a volcano? Today I stared out my window as the plane glided over West Texas (yawn), New Mexico (cool) and Arizona (never been there). I was looking for the meteorite crater of Odessa, the volcano fields of Carrizozo, the Rio Grande, the desert mountains of Phoenix, and the mighty Colorado. I wanted to know what I was looking at so I could, mentally, place myself somewhere other than “in limbo” or “in transit.”

It always is nice to see where I am. There’s something spiritual in all this, too, but I’ve just been warned to turn off my phone (the flight attendant looks like she means business), so… it’ll have to wait! Just think: orientation, God, and remembering where you are. Then draw up a three-point outline, add 1/2 cup lemon juice, two tablespoons vanilla extract, stir and serve over ice.

— John