Looking out the window, I can see how flat everything is. It makes sense, since we had driven an hour away from the mountains, toward Kansas. We had spent the week nestled up against the Rocky Mountains, and now we had retreated to the plains. The Great Plains. This was necessary because getting a jet aircraft up in the air would not be possible if we had stayed pushed up against the foothills. Sitting next to my son, we waited for our turn to take off, and after an hour's drive to the airport, another two hours waiting to board our plane, and then yet another indeterminate amount of time sitting at the gate. Waiting. Waiting to go home.
"Do you feel like you're going home?" That's what my clever son asked me. I had spent a week, reconnecting to the place I had spent the first thirty years of my life. Hadn't I just been home? Where was I going? I was leaving Colorado again. You might think I was used to this by now.
Taking off from the Denver airport is something I have done, off and on, for more than twenty years now. The anticipation of that moment when the wheels leave the ground and suddenly the world changed beneath me. Suddenly that hour's drive disappeared. The mountains were now below us. In that rush to get to the altitude where personal electronic devices could be turned back on, we flew over the summit of Longs Peak. Somewhere down there was the top of a mountain that took me an entire day to climb.
And then it was gone. So were all the other peaks that make up the Rocky Mountains. My son pointed out the snow. In July. I looked down with him. Through the clouds. The earth was slipping away beneath us. The jagged range that I grew up using as a compass were no longer to the west. They were becoming the east. And now the geographical features that seemed so prominent became softer: hills, desert. Utah.
I had left Colorado again, and even though I had my son's enthusiasm for the place, I felt a pang. Regret, sorrow, disappointment. Lonely. Sitting in the back of the plane next to my own flesh and blood, I felt the miles between my two homes come into sharp focus. That which was and that which is.
Then the hills appeared below. The ones that rise up out of the San Francisco Bay, then the Bay itself. The pilot found a nice flat place to put the plane down, and suddenly, if two and a half hours can be considered sudden, and we were on the edge of the continent: California. Home. Again.
My son and I got up out of our seats, and when we walked up the aisle and onto the jetway. We smelled the brine. Sea level. Some of the loneliness lifted. You can go home again. Twice in one day.