The following disconnected narrative was written on my way home from Montana, some on the plane, but mostly as I sat in the airport. It’s largely unedited, and it reads a little bit like a Tumblr blog, so prepare yourself.
Long valleys sprout veins- erosion paths in the plateaus that cradle creeks and rivers. They look like cracks in a hard-set Jello sculpture. I can see the rims of mountains stretching around the side like tree-less ribbons. There is a canyon like a spine sunk into the yellow earth, and its tributaries are red like Mars. If I was a bird, I would fly down and find out if that’s really snow I’m seeing.
It’s all so different from the air. When I’m down on the ground, I look up at the mountains twirling into peaks like full dance skirts, and I feel so small. But when I’m in a plane, I look down on the same mountains and now they’re the small ones. All that snow is a very long way down. If mountains that dwarf me are looking so tiny and far away, think about how small I really am. The Bible says man’s life is like a vapour. I am the chilly spray thrown by the magnificent waterfall cascades I saw yesterday. I am mist tossing on a river of holiness. I am a feather on the breath of God.
There are so many people in the Denver airport. So many different kinds of people. I was one of the last people to get off the plane, and walking up through the empty cabin made me a little lonely. Not a really sad kind of lonely, though- it was the emptiness of a screen door left ajar and an abandoned cup of coffee on a clean white counter. It smelled clean- not like bleach or anything, just cared-for. I was a little bit surprised that it wasn’t more impersonal, but it’s hard to repress the character of all these people who pass through here. The airport itself smells emptier- like Mrs. Baird’s bread or something. But the people are fun to watch. I’m sitting across from my gate (its own seating area is filled with people ready to board an earlier flight to Bozeman, MT), separated from it by one of those conveyer belt walkways, on which people are walking unnaturally fast; almost gliding. I didn’t use it- I used to love those as a kid, but now I prefer walking at my own pace. I’m not in any sort of hurry, anyway. I’ve got a four-hour layover.
A young guy just walked by in a dress shirt and a tie, but his tie was loose and so was his expression- looking around, wondering. He was carrying a big brown backpack and a thick book I didn’t recognise. A backpack plus a tie is a bit of an odd combination. I wonder if he was going to or from home.
Another fairly young man walked up to the beginning of the conveyer belt with his little son. The boy took off down the belt in a fit of excitement, and his dad grinned a grand smile and waved before playfully chasing after the kid. People with kids are the only adults who seem to get excited by airports. When you show something to a child, it’s almost like seeing it for the first time yourself. I saw a lady sitting on the floor with her kids, dealing out cards for a game of (probably) Go-Fish. There are quite a few families sitting on the carpet in friendly circles, eating airport food and wearing Disneyland hoodies.
A few seats down from me, an Asian man is yelling into his phone at 100 miles per hour, clearly incredulous about something.
I just looked up and made eye-contact with the boy across from me- a basketball-shorts-wearing dude with a red Nike shirt and blue, blue eyes. Other than his eyes, there’s not too much to be said for him. His earbuds appear to be glued in. I smiled at his dad, who only stared at me. I like it better when people smile back.
A lot of people here are dressed the same. Polos, t-shirts, Aeropostale shirts, jeans, cargo shorts, backpacks. Sometimes I see someone wearing something really unique, like the lady in the sundress that was longer in the back than the front. She was accompanied by a little girl in a similar dress, and both of them looked like they had come from the Bahamas.
There’s a woman pushing two strollers at the same time. I do not envy her. I remember dragging two roller bags around Boston a few years back, and that’s not at all my favourite memory of that trip.
There’s a guy with a musical instrument case of some kind. I can’t tell what instrument it is, but its small, rectangular surface is covered in vibrant stickers.
Airports are always such hubs of action. It’s almost overwhelming. One could come here to escape from life, and I wonder if some people are trying to do just that- they look so defeated. Here I am watching humanity stream by- hearing the rumble of suitcase wheels and the “ding-ding” of cellphones, watching the rush, the energy, the importunate crowds, and I wonder what the hordes of humanity think of me. I know the answer to that already, though: they don’t.
I went to buy a sandwich at Schlotsky’s, which was nearly twice as expensive as they are outside of this transport trap. There was an old man in line behind me carrying a box from Build-a-Bear. He said he bought it for his grandson. He also had a wad of $100s in his money clip.
Another man in this waiting area is playing rock music on his ipod, out loud for all to hear. He’s sort of singing along, too. That’s more something you’d expect from a teenager instead of a middle-aged guy.
I should write about Montana, but airports are so intriguing. Every time I look up, it’s something else: the lady and her daughter hopping like rabbits down the conveyer belt, the girl wearing multiple scrunchies around her ponytail, the man laughing at his wife because she’s going to buy a Colorado magnet despite the fact that they’re not even leaving the airport, the guy who looks just like Michael from the back, the little girl in the sparkly tutu, the European man wearing white linen pants (ew?). I’d like to see all these people in their natural habitats. I’d like to follow them around the world.
Remembering the highlights of my glorious week in Montana, I think the drive up to the pass on the way to Yellowstone National Park was the most gorgeous thing. We climbed that steep, winding road like trout zig-zagging upsteam. And suddenly, there were no more trees. And suddenly again, there was snow. I waded through it in my shorts and cowboy boots, ducking Alison’s little brother’s snowballs. And it was all so huge up there. Looking down was like looking down into another world. Mountains awaken my soul to sing. The week I spent among them was exciting and rejuvinating, filled with hikes up to cascading waterfalls, wild raspberries, rafting, s’mores toasted over the gas grill, Doctor Who marathons, and small-town charm. I had incredible hosts and incredible adventures. The only negative elements of the trip were the massive mosquitoes (you think everything’s bigger in Texas? I’m afraid not.) and the sunburns. Oh, but I won’t even remember the negative things. We had a brilliant time.
Favourite quote of the trip, an exchange from when we were stopped in a long line of cars for two hours in Yellowstone because a massive herd of bison was traveling along the road ahead of us:
Ali: What if we’re stuck here all night?! Where would we sleep? What would we eat? Where would we go to the bathroom??
Mrs. L: That tree. For all your questions.
Now here I am on a plane to Austin, drinking Pepsi without ice, ignoring the endless car commercials on the tiny television screen in front of me, and wearing a jacket. I’m going home to Texas and I’m wearing a jacket. For some reason, that’s amusing. I finished reading “Catcher in the Rye” a few minutes ago, which starred a boy with a pointless life. His pointless life was probably the point of the book, but I was unimpressed, except by the writing style imployed by Salinger, which was detailed and interestingly cynical. But like “Gulliver’s Travels”, the book was just too annoying to be enjoyed, and it didn’t resolve, and it had too much language.
Another airplane just flew under us, looking very tiny. The funny thing is, it was flying sort of horizontally. It looked like it was being blown off-course, following its pointing left wing. I hope that’s supposed to happen. I’m told it has something to do with physics and relative distance, which, although I did study it once upon a time, is endlessly intriguing and confusing.
The only bad thing about window seats is that, if you’re on the 3-seat row side of the plane, you would have to crawl over two people if you had to go to the bathroom… or, I should say, the “lavatory”. I wish they wouldn’t say “lavatory”. It sounds snooty. Is there something wrong with just calling it the restroom? Or you might as well call it the “loo”. At least that’s British.
There’s a picture of an ermine on the wing flap of this plane.
I forgot one thing I liked in “Catcher of the Rye”. A quote by psycho-analyst Wilhelm Stekel: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” I think that’s very true, and sometimes very hard to take. Sometimes, dying is easier.