Due to the the extensive interstate and non-interstate travel of my youth, through my teens, and into my adult life, when I fly anywhere in the United States and look down, I’m certain to have driven on the roads below.
Beyond the large and obvious landmarks of The Tetons, the Grand Canyon, and the Mississippi River, I always know what region I’m flying over, what towns and cities are below, and which roads break it all up. Flying over the United States is like being in a time machine that, in just a few hours, can visit every age of my life.
Last week, enroute to San Miguel de Allende, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, my flying experience was changed. Flying over the interior of Mexico, though I’ve been on a few roads and through a few regions, was strange. No less spectacular than flying over the American southwest, but foreign. No hillside, lake, village, nor road seen from above had ever been in my view before.
I looked for all the usual suspects — Shiprock in New Mexico, Lake Mead, the Colorado River, but nothing. The land formations, washes, and all the towns and villages were a mystery. As I took it all in, I couldn’t help but think the natives looking out the windows in front of and behind me, might know every square mile. At one point, flying over a massive body of water, I tried to recall what the largest lake in Mexico was. It had escaped me that I’d be flying over the Gulf Of Baja. One of my favorite places on earth to be on the shoreline, is differently spectacular from above.
I thought about culture too. My daughter, an archaeologists, once told me that the word culture can’t be defined. I might’ve been the lone American male on my flight. I was also the only one in short pants with a ponytail. The other men, regardless of age, wore denim pants, leather shoes, and had well-groomed hair — and their shirts tucked in. Nearly every woman, regardless of age, had their dark straight hair pulled back in long ponytails. Despite my daughter’s edict to the contrary, I think that’s the very definition of culture.
My return flight, from Guanajuato to Tijuana was different — it was at night. Flying over the United States at night, I know well the difference between the lights of St. George Utah, Flagstaff Arizona, or the quad-cities of Illinois and Iowa. When I see a narrow line of lights stretching 100-miles in length from south to north, and it’s bordered by complete blackness to the west, I’m looking down on the cities of Colorado’s front range.
Flying over Mexico at night was guesswork. Dozens, hundreds of clusters of lights below were indistinguishable — just a scattering of small towns and villages flickered into the slowly moving horizon. A half-dozen large cities surprised me. Maybe they were home to a half-million or a million people — I don’t know. They existed though, in airborne anonymity to me. I had no idea where I was.
Last week’s trip is a story for another blog — or two. Flying to and from though, wasn’t so much a reminder of how small the world I live in is. It was a reminder that the world beyond my world, though not infinite, is spectacularly large — and largely unexplored by me.
This is what I think about when I fly… Jhciacb
If you dig it, please share and help spread the word. Oh, and there’s this from Graham Nash. Enjoy…!
All photos were taken with an iPhone 11, and with no color adjustments — only slight contrast adjustments when needed.