For the first time in my life, I watched the sun rise and set on the same day, while flying.
Homeward bound on Wednesday, I saw the sun rise above Finland on a Finnair flight from Oulu to Helsinki.
And I saw the sun set somewhere over western Europe on my Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Boston.
Nothing quite so inspiring.
This week I flew to Sweden for a one-day meeting. That humanity even has the ability to do that is a miracle and something to be grateful for. But that’s not the point of this post.
My flight left Boston shortly after 7 pm Tuesday evening, and a short five-and-a-half hours later, I was changing planes at Heathrow. Although it was morning in London, my body clock was protesting that it was still the middle of the night, albeit confused seeing the sun.
This photo was taken somewhere over England, on the flight from London to Gothenburg. The combination of morning sun and the usual cloud cover made for a spectacular view.
The warmth of the sun’s rays streaming through the window even made up for the short night.
And did I say that it’s a miracle we can do this?
Traveling on business isn’t as glamorous and fun as often imagined. Crowded airports and planes, up early and late, hurry and wait, delays, jet lag, traffic, getting lost, missed or hurried meals, and boring meetings are the routine.
Now that I’ve convinced you of the negatives, I’ll hasten to add that there are a few moments in most every trip when I resonate with the awe of traveling: the miracle of flight, an occasional spectacular view from the plane, seeing a place where I’ve never been, meeting people and learning a bit about their lives and the universality of life.
This week I had a meeting in Boulder, Colorado. The night before, I arrived well after dark in a rental car from the Denver airport. The next morning I awoke fairly early, still on eastern time, and had the opportunity to watch the day develop. While making my ritual trip to Starbucks, I was able to capture this photo of the Flatirons, the mountains that define the geographic persona of Boulder.
Who knows when — even if — I will return to Boulder. So having a few hours to be in the presence of these mountains was a real gift.
My dream was interrupted by a soft British accent, a BBC announcer in London where it was already mid morning. It took a moment to shift from my dream to realize it was already time to rise if I were to make my 6:10 flight. While early morning flights are fine in theory — I can make it to the west coast before noon – I usually question my choice when the alarm goes off.
This morning, the flight from Manchester left the gate early, took off to the north, and banked eastward. Sitting in 3A, I had a near-perfect view as we turned south at the ocean, Portsmouth below, and traced the coast to Boston, the distinctive crooked outline of Cape Cod clearly visible and seeming smaller than it should be. Still pre-dawn, the eastern horizon was outlined in the glow of hot embers, yellowing at the point where the sun would soon rise.
Witnessing the dawn from 30,000 feet more than justifies a 4 am wake-up.
The last of July, my son Grant and I spent a carefree week hiking and exploring the high Sierra just west of Donner Lake.
We were part of a Sierra Club family outing, with nine other families from around the country and two capable leaders. Home base was the Sierra Club’s Clair Tappaan Lodge, which provided lots of wonderful food and a comfortable place to sleep.
Growing up in Reno, on the eastern edge of the mountains, I feel a strong connection to the Sierra: it’s inherent to my identity, and the grandeur brings me a palpable connection to the sacred. This trip was an opportunity for me to spend time with Grant and to introduce him to an important part of my life and a place just to have fun. The continual vistas of mountains, lakes, meadows, and stars recharged my batteries and reminded me of a few of life’s priorities.
Looking across Flora Lake, where this photo was taken, I penned these thoughts:
Clouds proceed across the blue backdrop.
Granite cascades to water’s edge,
competing with pine and brush.
The breeze – no wind – gusts across the lake,
rippling water and bushes along the shore.
Chilled, I move into the sunlight.
The breeze stills and the sunshine becomes hot,
sending me back into the shade.
Nature plays this game
and lets me join in for too short a time.
An afternoon out of an eternity.