Last night I'm flying home from northern Washington, cruising high over wilderness areas on a clear, star-studded night. Perfect for checking out who's out. I put my face next to the plane window and stare. Great reflections of the reading and aisle lights behind me. That's not going to work. I try something else. My hooded coat is perfect: toss the hood on my head and use the hood to seal the window. Excellent. I now have a stellar view of the night sky, untainted by the lights in the metal tube that's carrying me home.
The sight is magnificent: below me, the curved earth is dark. No lights in the Seven Devils. No lights in the Eagle Caps. Few lights in the spaces in between. Lovely. The planet is black satin. Round, sable, rich, soaking in ideas, sparks, flashes. I'm liking this a lot. No mercury vapor standards blaring vigilance across acres and more. No twin pyraminds of yellowed light prancing before vehicles along straight, light-ratched strips of road. No conglomerate of insanely bright beacons shouting "Car Lot!" or "Shopping Mall!" I'm liking this a lot.
Then I turn my eyes upward. Oh my goodness. The flight sky has never looked like this. Milky Way streaks herself across the pane. Oh. Look at the white blush of star, planet, nebula. Look how this old, old light streaks the plane's night sky. Look how the remnants of light centuries gone decorate this window pane. I haven't seen this before, from this height. I've seen it from the frosted pastures of Valley County, the subalpine slopes of the Windriver Range, and the wind-carved desert of Monument Valley, but I've never seen it from up here, from a perch thousands of feet above the globe's crust. This is different. I'm liking this a lot.
I've never sealed my in-flight view this way, never framed that precious scene outside. Wonder what my plane-mates are thinking: the strange woman tucking the hood around her head and sticking it to the window. She's still there. She hasn't moved. What can be so fascinating that she'd press her forehead to the pane for sixty minutes or more? Hello. What about the free airline snacks and the beverage cart?
Not the first time I've been regarded as eccentric and probably not the last. But I know that any future night flights of mine will most likely involve pressing my face against a window and sealing out the riff-raff of ambient light so I can savor the joyous stellar bursts dancing above the planet. While I'm up there, I might as well check it out, don't you think?