I’ve seen enough of this globe from 37,000 feet above sea level. The deep blue waters of the Pacific are beautiful, gashed and dashed by an occasional tiny line of white foam cresting what must be an enormous wave. But it has crawled beneath us at 500 miles per hour for over 12 hours from Brisbane to Los Angeles.
I always enjoy looking down on the great Columbia River, even from a bridge or an airplane window. Looking out this window I realize that we’re only about ¾ as high as the 11,235 ft. top of Mt. Hood as we climbed out of Portland International. Beneath and behind us out the other window, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens stand like inviting piles of vanilla ice cream, waiting for chocolate syrup and a giant cherry on top and a big spoon to dig in.
The rolling prairies and ravines of eastern Montana slip slowly beneath, appearing boring from this altitude. Even on the ground, those lacking in appreciation for the ‘wide open spaces’ would probably think it tedious and tiring. The land where seldom is heard a discouraging word, or an encouraging word for that matter looks great to me from either vantage point.
Like scraps of ribbon and colored strings left on the floor of the earth, the Missouri and the headwaters of what will become the mighty Mississippi soon appear. Strait lines evidence man’s determination to scar and mar the landscape with fences, power lines and highways. The closest nature comes to producing strait lines is the Lodge Pole pine. And those only appear as a broccoli patch from this vantage point. Right angles below mean the corners of cultivated fields and pastures or the intersections of the highways and roads man constructed for his gas-guzzling, noise-making machines. Those monsters meant to hurry him on from one point of population to another in so-called speed and comfort. Green buttons one mile in diameter on a brown blanket are plots of alfalfa or wheat, irrigated from a well drilled in the formerly barren prairies and delivered thru a motorized, high wheeled sprinkler line.
The bumps and bounces that begin to rattle our ride are not ruts or rocks on the rough road. They are the building turbulence of unsettled weather assaulting the land below. Wads of cotton balls on a green carpet replace the sheet white blanket of clouds that finally fall away behind us.
Undoubtedly, Southwest or United or maybe even Delta may be the quickest way to move from the beautiful Pacific Northwest to the northwest Florida Panhandle. But I am not convinced that time saved is a justifiable benefit for being strapped to an uncomfortable cushion that “can be used for a flotation device in the unlikely event of a water landing.” Especially when it was designed to fit an anorexic Japanese preteen. I am inclined to disagree with the ad-man who tries to sell a pressurized cabin, artificial lighting and re-circulated air as ease and comfort. Streaking far above the pollution and population of crowding the big cities is only barely worth the mode of travel.
No. Flying over or even speeding thru, is not my idea of the best way to cross our great land. And not even rushing from one end to the other at the speed of legal on an interstate does it justice. So, I will be well satisfied if our Lord never takes me anywhere that I cannot look at from 6 feet high. That’s the distance from the soles of my cowboy boots to my bifocals. Or from the ground to eye level in my pickup truck. I would settle for 8 feet high only if it is from the cab of Michael’s F250 in Oregon or in a Florida pasture in Charlie’s truck.
I am looking forward to driving –slowly- from the beaches of Bay County to the shore of the Snake River. I long to plant my feet in Sumpter Valley dirt and gaze at length on the backside of the Elkhorn Ridge. I want to make my coffee from water I dipped out of Cracker Creek! And eat a Reuben sandwich made on an open fire. I want to listen to the breeze in the leaves of a Quaking Aspen. And stare at the stars on a cool night. Breathe clean mountain air.