Traveling alone always puts me in this melancholy state. It is the vastness of landscapes viewed from above: red mesas that rise out of deserts and then spill upward into snow-covered mountain ranges--all of it through the feathery mist of clouds.
It is the dizzying array of humanity--the sensation that grows out of it: myself as a tiny fleck of color on a massive canvas where faces and even names are disappearing and reappearing every minute, ever defying what I know of life, of art, of time.
It is the sense of being unmoored--at sea or on air and floating, floating along, embraced only by my anonymity, my traveling silence.
It is watching everyone doing the best that they can to move from point A to point B--how they must inevitably brush up against the other and then go on, never betraying the fear that has risen in their gorge and then dissipated, leaving the way it came.
It is the incongruity of discreetly stretching my body near a pillar--yoga in knee-high boots amid a thousand traveling strangers, all bouncing off of one another like pinballs.
It is airplanes lined up along a row of plate glass windows like horses to a trough. Someone is sprawled and sleeping on the airport carpet, half a hot dog in her open hand. Someone is calling what must be words into a P.A. system, and I am nowhere, I am in between, I am no one to anyone here. No thing of consequence in this vast place. None of us is, except perhaps for the little knots of family who travel together--or the lovers. I haven't the heart to tell them that they, too, are alone.
It is moving through time zones in dream time, the darkness falling at odd hours to my static heart. Shades of grey slipping like curtains, like veils, between me and the planet I was just on.
It is the single steel wing that cuts through clouds like butter. The thousand shimmering diamonds on my pillbox window at this elevation, the sunlight refracting through them every which way. They grow and connect like islands in a translucent sea.
It is the inconsolable infant whose new mother didn't know to have him drink during takeoff, so that now the pressure of our entire journey builds itself relentlessly in his tiny eardrum.
It is Sissy Spacek, old now, on a miniature screen, her blue eyes as bright as they ever were.
It is how my heart swells and feels as if even in all this wild space it can never really be accommodated.