When I was
a kid, I sometimes used to lie on the grass in our back garden
up at the sky, picking out objects and finding faces in the clouds
as they moved in slow motion far above me.
Often, among the hazy wisps and cotton wool constellations, there were
white lines drawn by distant jets that shimmered in the summer
sun. I'd lie there and watch them as they cut through the clouds,
disappearing and reappearing, traveling at speeds that seemed only
a little faster than those I could achieve on my bicycle.
As the jets flew into the distance, melting into the summer
blue sky, I'd give them a little wave, the kind you might give
child looking back at you from the rear seat of a car as
it drives away.
My Dad was often working in the garden, tending his beloved flower
beds or doing something similarly green-thumbed. From time to time I remember asking him where a plane was going. His answer
was always the same and often given without so much as an upward
glance. "France," he'd say, and with the kind of trust
only children possess I'd lie there and wonder what it must
be like to
to France, or indeed anywhere, in the kind of plane that threads
an evaporating trail across the sky.
Of course, they weren't all flying to France; that was simply my
Dad's answer to most of our childhood geographical questions.
at Southend beach in Essex, and he would point toward Kent just
across the mouth of the River Thames saying, "Look, you can
see France." That was back in the days when trips to
Danbury Common and Hylands Park seemed like adventures that
were far from
home, when in reality they were no more than a twenty minute drive
away from our house in Chelmsford.
Now at thirty two years old I think I might be the only 'grown up' who still
waves at planes. Their distant vapor trails look so peaceful,
and still they seem to move slower than anything around me.
I don't know what it is about them that fascinates me so. But even
now, all these years later, I still watch them draw
a line under the heavens before giving them a little wave to send
them on their way, to wherever that might be.
I think I like the fact that a tale is unfolding before my eyes.
No matter how routine the journey, there is always the possibility of new experiences and adventures. Perhaps even the kind of events
that become sewed into the very fabric of that which makes
us the people we are, creating the kind of milestones by which we measure our
befores and afters.
I often go to beaches not far from where I live to watch the setting
sun spectacularly dip into the cold yet somehow inviting sea.
No two sunsets are ever the same. The sky fills with saturated
shades of reds and oranges fading into deep dark blues.
It's then when the distant planes look their most alluring as
they make their way toward the horizon. Beneath them the golden
waves of the Irish
Sea, then after quickly passing over Ireland, just mile upon mile
of nothing but North Atlantic Ocean. To me this is what hope looks like:
a clear sky, an empty ocean, and a plane chasing the sun, leaving
only a vapor trail fading in its wake.
I know they can't see me as I wave. They don't need to see.
I'm not waving for them... I'm
waving for me.