Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vapor Mountains

Cruising in a jetliner at 39,000 feet, sliding over the lunar scar-scape called 'Nevada'. Harsh sunlight splinters in the scratched lexan window but out beyond there are wonders; blinding white billows of cloud, fat white mountainscapes of cloud as white as paint; and there are bottomless canyons cleaving these mountains of vapor, voids that call for exploration. Expansive sheets of suspended mist are perforated here and there by enormous voids, revealing caverns of air illuminated by stray light. There are inexplicable towers of mist, too, they seem to be drawn upward.

Up here, in the lower stratosphere, we're above 80% of the Earth's atmosphere; despite the brilliant sun I know the air outside is bone-cracking cold, I know the metal of that wing would burn the hand. We can only survive here because we are encapsulated by devices approximating the pressures and temperatures of our terrestrial cradle.

Looking up, the sky darkens rapidly towards the zenith, where it is black. The gulfs of space are in reach. But we are already powering down for the descent...

Looking down I see Earth below. For five million years, I think, five million years we've been scratching around down there--swimming, running, sailing, trekking, dragging sleds across plains and oceans of ice...even burrowing down! But we've only been coming up here, into the stratosphere, for fifty years. To think we know this place, to think that we can describe it yet, and with a terrestrial vocabulary, is funny.

Down we go, sliding down now towards the dry lakebeds and several days of test-flying my paraglider in preparation for the Winter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

to think we know. very nice.