Friday, December 18, 2015

The Power of Lift

Thoughts while in Canada in December

The week before Christmas wouldn't be my first choice for a time to go to Canada. My brothers and I are here for the memorial service for my uncle, my father 's younger brother.  I am grateful we made our trip here in June, in happier (and warmer) times. 

The miracle is that my mother is also here. It is no mean feat for a woman of her age with various challenging physical ailments to get to this smallish town in Eastern Canada. My brother travelled with her. We shall have to submit his name for sainthood. First they flew from the States to Montreal, or as my mother called it, "That horrible city we had to go through."  Strictly speaking, she means "the horrible airport where we had to pass through customs."  My mother has many years of experience travelled internationally, mostly due to my Dad requiring her to vacation in Pakistan, India, Albania, Israel, Ireland and more. (I went on some of those trips with them.  My husband always says, "How come your family never wants to take a vacation in, say, Paris or London?") But it's been a long time since she made those trips, and air travel has changed considerably. 

To reach our destination here in Canada, she and my brother flew on a prop plane, a 20-seater.  I can only imagine how much their flight might have resembled a video game. 

Airline flight never ceases to amaze me. Every time I am in a plane I am astonished when we actually are able to lift off the ground.  My son has tried to explain the physics to me.  It's something about higher air pressure under the plane's wing compared to the pressure on top of the wing, and this is called "lift."  I can't say that I really understand the principle.  I have to take it on faith that air pressure is a strong enough thing to lift up an entire airplane with me in it.

The other thing that amazes me is that I am not frightened out of my wits to fly in an airplane. In my young adulthood I developed a fear of heights.  Acrophobia is supposedly an irrational fear of heights, but it seems perfectly sensible to me to fear falling off of high things. Yet on an airplane I prefer the window seat, so I can look down on the beautiful and fascinating world below.   My faith in lift must be pretty strong. I go with the notion that God invented physics and lift, so for me, faith in lift is a sort of faith in God. 

I have to admit that when we experience turbulence, and also during landing, I kind of abandon faith in lift and revert to Anne Lamott's prayer litany of saying "Help! Thanks! Wow!"  I can't say with certainty that I believe in the omnipotence of God (don't get me started on theodicy or we'll never be back in time for tea), but I do believe that in our struggles with lift, and with life, God travels with us. That's powerful enough. As we head off to the funeral home to honor the memory of my uncle, a kind person of great integrity, wit, and inner strength, that is the best place to leave my faith for the moment. 

4 comments:

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Taking off and ascending, turbulence, decent and landing: all times when HELP. THANKS. WOW! become my prayer as well.
May you, your sainted brother, your mom, and all of your family find comfort in being together at this time.

I've never been on a prop plane, so the concept of small plane travel as akin to a video game made me smile.

Angie said...

I, too, marvel at the miracle of flight. Sure, science may make sense, but it's easier for me to simply consider it a miracle. I'm also afraid of heights but do not fear air travel. Have a good trip, CHM!

The Crislers said...

I can read about the science of human flight and have it explained to me and say, "Yes, that makes sense, thank you very much," but the second the plane takes off, it's "WHAT IS HAPPENING? IS THIS A MIRACLE? ARE THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS TURNING WATER INTO WINE BACK THERE?" I'm like a small, not very intelligent dog mid-flight. It's very sad.

I'm so sorry about your uncle. I'm glad both you and your mother were able to attend his service, but especially that your brother was, as that means you did not have to, although I'm sure the attendant blog post would have been HILARIOUS.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm glad you made it around safely--and your mother did, too.
I find flight fascinating and amazing, sure wish one of my kids would take me up on my offer of flying lessons. It would be cool to have one of them take to the air.
Sorry about your uncle. Loss at this time of year seems particularly cruel.