We are, after all, in New Zealand.
Here’s what it took to get here, to the house in Tauranga where we’ll stay for a few weeks:
- 3 hour drive to Kansas City
- 2 hour flight to Houston
- 4 hour layover in Houston Airport
- FIFTEEN HOUR flight to Auckland, New Zealand (oiy!)
- 4 hour wait in Auckland airport during which Mack and I fell indecorously asleep in a couple of those massage chairs, mouths hanging open for all the world to see (and thank you Amalia for once, for NOT taking pictures of this)
- 14 minute shuttle to bus stop
- 4 hour bus ride to Tauranga
- 10 minute car ride to our host’s house
When I’m in a new situation, my gentle readers, I am hypersensitive to stimuli. I notice e v e r y t h i n g. Are you this way, too? So as we started our second leg of the trip to New Zealand, of course I was in this hyperalert state.
It’s a blessing and a curse, believe me.
I grabbed some scratch paper and wrote the following, during the first leg of our trip, from Kansas City to Houston.
Everybody ought to fly--in an airplane, that is–at least once, if for no other reason, than to feel this delicious sense of being very, very small. That one can step into a pod made of metal–made by man!–and rise up into the sky, way above the clouds–an unthinkable feat just a few generations ago–and travel nearly anyplace on the globe, is simply magic.
As I feel the jarring thud of the plane leaving the ground, the wheels pulling up off the earth, I leave my current batch of worries below: that bill that I didn’t pay before we left. The dirty dishes that I left in the sink (alas!); did I take care of that last load of laundry, or did I leave it in the washer to grow moldy while I was gone? That thing that I was feeling sad about, that other thing that was waking me up during the nights with worry.
All those things I leave behind, as I gratefully watch the earth getting smaller and smaller. I feel lighter, as if I’ve just shed a coat that is too heavy for the day.
From up here, the worries of the earth are of no consequence. I see a schoolbus. A man-made pond. Roads with tiny vehicles moving along. A meandering river, its lines loose and curvy; dark smudges of cedar trees, leafless deciduous trees, all getting smaller and smaller.
In just a few minutes, we are moving through wispy clouds, then we are engulfed in them, and now we are above the clouds. I look across the aisle at the kids, in delight–are they watching out the window? They are, of course–they are my children, after all, and are as wild about looking as I am–and my heart clenches as I notice that Amalia’s arm is flung around Malachi’s waist, and they are pressed up against the window together, as far as they can get within the restraints of their seatbelts.
I won’t think about the rubbing-each-other-the-wrong-wayness of the past few weeks, as we were all under a lot of strain, getting ready for one trip after getting home so recently from another one; worrying about this and that.
Trying to pack too much into every blessed day.
I am, after all, no longer mortal. No longer of the earth.
I’m in awe of how orderly and tidy and lovely the earth looks from here. There is no political rancor from this vantage point; no confusion or dismay about events in the news; no environmental distresses; no evil or corruption. The earth is an exquisite grid now, greens and grays and browns all laid out like an artist designed it. Oh, but yes, one did. From here you can’t see how man has messed up the perfectly beautiful earth that God created. Or feel sad about it.
We are now above the clouds! I am looking down at the tops of clouds. I gasp. I am thrilled. I am struck with what an earthly thinker I am, after all. I forever see life from my 5’4″-vantage point. God sees the earth from all angles, including this one, which is most impressive. My brother Matt is a pilot, and this must be part of the appeal of piloting an aircraft, of seeing everything from a different perspective. I would think that there were times when you wouldn’t want to return to earth.
I am gazing down at an endless yardage of cotton wool, pulled out of a paper bag and spread out as far, as far as the eye can see. It looks soft and thick and dense, and I think that if I were somehow able to jump down on top of it, it would hold me.
I could take a nap on it, pulling a corner up over my hips, punching another clump down to just fit the shape of my head.
The kids gesture excitedly. They have spotted a rainbow, and it is–of all things–circular, not bow-shaped! We’ve never seen anything like this before. These are the things that you can see, when you are spirit and are roving above the earth.
There is a break in the clouds and I can see the earth again, now–from much higher up–and it’s all patchwork and shiny globs of light–bodies of water, which are catching the sun: puddles of quicksilver! The airplane hits some rough air, and my earthly side feels momentarily troubled, but just for a moment. It passes and I remind myself that there are no worries from this vantage point, not even of death.
Breaks in the clouds come more and more frequently now, as the clouds below us are beginning to clear. We are descending now, little by little. There’s a large body of water appearing below us–a large puddle of gleaming mercury. I am beginning to feel the pull of the earth again, as the clouds clear. We’re getting closer and closer to our destination.
I am being pulled back, inexorably, to the earth. I wonder how long our layover in Houston is. I feel a bit queasy. I am the world’s worst traveler and motion sickness gets me, even in an elevator. I know that I have a very long day ahead of me.
Suddenly the plane leans way over; the wing that I am sitting close to dips sharply, and I catch my breath. I have a better view of the ground now, and we are close enough that I can see that the water below us is being whipped by wind. I see waves on the water, rooftops of rows of houses, laid out in an orderly subdivision–one with swimming pools in every back yard. A water tower. A business area. The climate has changed, and we’ve left the bare winter trees of Nebraska behind, and I’m gazing down at the verdant green of spring below me.
We’re in Houston. I am mortal again. I lean over and pick up some trash from the floor beneath my feet. I am tired.
One leg of our trip is behind us.
Next time: Getting to Paradise is not easy. We are here, part II. The Pain.
- Welcome to the world, baby girl!
- And we’re here, Part II. The pain.