In Glorious Anticipation of Burying my Toes in African Soil
11 August 2013
I am not the only person in the world with a flying phobia. I would in fact wager to say that it is probably one of the most common fears in the world.
As much as my heart palpitates, and my palms get clammy, and my throat twists shut, even then I wouldn't -- I could't -- not do it. Not only because it becomes the proverbial stones by which we cross the stream, but also because … I love flying.
But because it is my irrational, overly emotive and dramatic phobia, almost every time I fly I intimately acquaint myself with the notion that it could be the last thing that I do in this body. That I could die in a metal straightjacket, clawed by pandemonium (apology for the drama). Eventually, when rationality returns bearing bouquets of peace, when the panicky feelings pass and I am still here, with the sun rising over our beautiful planet and I remember that I am in the heavens ... then I am in such a state of pitch-perfect exultation that all I can do is weep.
I flew to Europe with Singapore Airlines on an airbus, next to a mother and daughter from Sao Paulo. The daughter also had a flying phobia, which I recognized just before take-off. She was clutching her mother's hand and her eyes were squeezed shut, and I knew -- I knew -- what she felt.
So I found myself comforting her.
And she told me, "If you are okay, I am okay."
I smiled. "I am okay."
Yesterday morning I watched the sun rise over Sao Paulo, the largest city in South America. This morning I watched it rise over Africa. The Sahara desert. I cannot, with all my human intelligence, fathom or understand the beauty that is on and surrounds our planet. What does it mean, to be SO beautiful? How could it be so? After all, in this case, it is only a celestial ball of gases billions of miles away, and yet…
I have a prime vantage point of seeing the first rays of daylight caress the Sahara, and I imagine Northern Africa's creatures waking ... Fulani cattle herders and Tuaregs and fennec foxes and everyone else I cannot name at this moment. And I realize -- Africa is below me, just under the plane. There she has been since the last time I left her, when I was irrevocably changed by the moments spent on this flawed and tragic and glorious continent, rich in ways we have forgotten. I am reminded of these words I heard once:
"You would be an easy woman to fall in love with, but a difficult woman to love."
This is how I could describe Africa. So easily she captivates, but so difficult to love her ... but when she lets you in, human by human, tree by tree, breath by breath…
I didn't mean to write about Africa.
But how could I not, with her northwestern coastline just below the clouds?
"You would be an easy woman to fall in love with, but a difficult woman to love" - :-) Interesting line in itself and for describing Africa!
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