Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Blue Moment

The alarm clock’s brutal twanging sends a spasm through me. I peer at it as if it were a loathed thing. It is. Oh-four hundred, it says. I roll out of bed mumbling a homage to a deity.

Many years of professional flying have taught me that in order to soar with the eagles you must often get up with the pigeons. But it never gets easier.

Down in the hotel lobby I meet my first officer, Jay Thomas, who also happens to be my fishing buddy. He’s a hopeless optimist--grinning, yelling "Good Morning!" at me from 100 feet away. I look out the door and see an ebony sky, not a hint of morning, yet there he is, coffee in hand, teeth shining, ready to fly.

On the way in to the airport while I yawn and prop my eyelids open he’s jabbering about getting up earlier than this to fish, to hunt. This is nothing, he reassures me. I want to shove him out the door. But I won’t do that; I need him today.

He’s got the 757 ready to fly when I get there with the papers. We release brakes at exactly 0600, a perfectly on time departure, and taxi out as streaks of yellowish beams climb out of the east. We’re one of the first jets to get out today.

Within minutes we’re streaking westward acro
ss the Virginia horse country, gaining speed and altitude in a perfectly smooth atmosphere and finally I am beginning to make some sense of the world, to see purpose in the day. If I didn’t, Jay would most certainly tell me.

The only thing wrong with this otherwise perfect morning is the imposing overcast of thick gray clouds casting a dre
ary shadow across the land. As we climb it swallows us.

Jay turns on the engine anti-ice. We hit bumps. We wonder how long we must fly blindly in this depressing soup of boredom. I yawn and think of the sleep I’ve been cheated out of, while Jay chatters cheerfully and incessantly, yet never misses a single radio call from the center. He stops in mid-sentence, answers the call, changes frequencies, checks in with the new controller, and resumes his discourse precisely where he was interrupted. I yawn again and nod approval of whatever he is saying.

Then, in a heartbeat—BLUE SKY! Big blue. Huge, John Wayne blue. Long delirious burning blue, a poet-pilot once wrote

We rocket away upward, watching the tops

I look over at him and he’s peering out and grin
ning at the vast blue skyscape stretching forever ahead and over us. "What did you call it?" I ask.

"The Blue Moment," Jay responds, with a grin the size of Texas.

He’s right, I thought. This is what makes it all worth it. The Blue Moment is like an epiphany that gets experienced again and again, each time as fresh and as new and as awe-inspiring as the first time.

The Blue Moment is one of the pieces of trea
sure that you file way to remember and savor in the times ahead when your memories fuel your final years through life. Guys like Jay make my treasure file overflow.
Who was the poet-pilot?

A Golden Moment

What book and movie does this sight remind you of?Who wrote the book and who starred in the movie?