I am in a plane and I am a prayer. That was my first sentence. Every sinew of self stretched to silent supplication. The beginning of the essay about the time I moved to London, that one time I packed a suitcase, a carry-on, and two ziplocs of trail mix and moved not just across the country but out of it. I was going to be scared and second-guessing, I was going to make evident my insanity but perhaps eventually arrive at some small understanding, conclude with a quiet sentence in favor of strength. It might have been really something.
Instead, I am in a plane and I am a prayer of irrepressible hallelujah. This is my first sentence. To be fair, round one of the flight was mostly foreboding — from Salt Lake City to Chicago I watched clouds collect like an inverted tundra beneath our wings, mottled, thick, and frozen. At one point I felt compelled to recite The Wasteland, Unreal City,/under the brown fog of a winter dawn. But even I had to admit that was too dramatic. And the woman next to me seemed concerned. Talking to oneself. Generally worrisome.
But I am in a plane and I am every cell singing impetuous praise, and I can’t tell you exactly why or where it is coming from except to explain that sometimes answers arrive only after you have accepted the question, and as my triple seven lifts up over the Windy City it seems to me that this is Heaven’s version of a hearty high-five. The sun setting behind us has painted clouds the color of the Renaissance, and the Sistine sky rolls from gilded rose into deep purpled blue. One particularly painterly thunderhead flat-bottoms like a mushroom cloud and it is not sinister but somehow holy and I find myself wanting Wordsworth to write this, remembering that he already has. Trailing clouds of glory. Intimations of immortality. I watch the sun set until I can see only stars.
There are still things to worry about. I do not know where I am living, I haven’t fully finished enrollment at the university, I don’t know when I will next talk to John or what exactly to declare as my intended purpose for entry on the customs card the stewardess hands to me with the tonic water I requested. I can’t sleep on planes. I can’t sleep unless I am lying down and it is dark and it is completely quiet, and on planes I am 0 for 3. I have a lot of time to think about what I’ve done. There is another hour of asphyxiating anxiety in the early morning, when I choose to focus on the shadows between the stars rather than count out the constellations. But I force myself to close my eyes and fall into fitful half-dreams and when I wake up it is proper morning and below me the sun has tipped over the edge of the world and the river lights up like liquid gold, spinning into the heart of a city that has my whole life spoken to me like home. Have you ever seen A Room with a View? Joy! Beauty! Love! From above, every building, each street, every turn of the Thames declaring the eternal yes.
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All of this was six weeks ago. I found a flat. I’m more than a month into my masters program and in the thick of theses and thinking. I talk to John more than most people would assume necessary but is somehow not ever enough for me. And while I still can’t tell you that I know exactly my ultimate purpose in being here (on the card I settled with “study;” this might prove the most pertinent way to define my daily walk, though I meant it more innocently then), I can say that this morning I woke up happy, that there are few things more whole and holy than knowing you are in the right place at the right time.