Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Above the Clouds
I've been filming in Sydney a little bit of the last 2 weeks, and so have had the opportunity to take a couple of plane rides. I enjoy flying. I've done a fair bit of it in my lifetime, but it never gets too old. I always (always) check-in online so I can get a window seat. I always open my eyes for the takeoff so I can look out the said window (this is of particular note when you've gotten up at 3am to make it onto the 5am flight). I always watch during the landing as well. But most of all, I love just how beautiful the world is up above the clouds. Sometimes I wish I could just float up there for a few minutes, just to feel the quiet that I sense exists when there are no airplanes around.
As anyone local (or anyone not so local who has a bunch of East Coast Australians in their Facebook feed) will know, we've been going through the batterings of ex-cyclone Oswald over here - and it's been a little crazy. On Sunday afternoon, it was one of the biggest weather battles I've ever had to make it the 20 metres to my car in the car park after church. The WIND and the pouring rain was inTENSE. I was doing battle with my umbrella and a box of Seminary supplies and my handbag and scriptures and car keys, and that WIND. All in my high heels because my flats were too wet to wear from the storm battles of the day before! And Monday morning when I was driving to work at 6am, I noticed only a couple of people out on the streets, and every single one of them had a poncho that was being so whipped by the wind and rain that it was practically a useless pile of plastic around their necks, and each of them were struggling to hold onto an umbrella that had blown backwards, Mary Poppins style. Yes, every one of them had a blown out umbrella!
Anyway, on Tuesday morning, as I was driving to the airport at 4am, I noticed that I could see the stars and see the moon. There were no clouds at all in the early morning sky; the storm was finally over. And after a solid week of rain, it was kind of nice to be flying through the sunrise, up high above the clouds. The sunshine was just glorious, and as the flight went on, down below for as far as the eye could see, there were the most magnificent, fluffy, white blankets and fabulous clouds. The looked so strong and gentle and beautiful all at the same time and I just wanted to get out and walk up and down them and enjoy all of that peace. It was so evident that the hand of the divine was in that sight.
After an hour or so, the pilot announced that we would be landing shortly, and we started our descent. I always enjoy going through the cloud layer. It's just a tiny bit thrilling and scary since you can't see anything, and I find myself having a lot of faith in the instruments up in the cockpit and straining to see the image of the ground below as it emerges through the bottom of the cloud layer. It seemed to take longer than normal to get through the clouds though - the layers were really thick. And when we finally burst out through the bottom of them, I did a bit of a double take. It was so gloomy and rainy and windy and dark and cold! I had, of course, followed Oswald to Sydney.
It was probably just because I was tired and not thinking that clearly so early in the morning, but I was a little shocked! And it reminded me of another time, a few years ago, when I had the similar experience of breaking from sunshine into unexpected doom and gloom as we came in to land on another flight. At the time, it got me thinking: I wonder how often I look up and see gloomy clouds, and rain and darkness, and I wonder how often I get to thinking that that's all there is? And I thought about how often the sun is streaming down gloriously, just on the other side of the clouds. I think sometimes clouds gather because of a difficult test or trial, and those storms are real and valid, and require a lot of faith and effort on our part. And there's not much we can do about them. I think sometimes I put the clouds there because of a bad attitude, or sin, or a general inclination to refuse to have hope. And then of course I think there are the times that the cyclones of life just blow on in without giving us much choice in the matter.
Regardless, I continue to find it comforting to realize that no matter how dark the clouds might seem, the sun is still shining beautifully just above them. Ultimately, they'll dissipate - clouds always do - and the constant and brilliant sun will be visible again.