Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Breaking Through the Clouds

Sunny Savannah is behind us. The month of December 2013 must now stay content with becoming a memory, a welcome escape from America’s winter. But not for too long. We land in Detroit, and as we prepare to board our final hour-long flight, it starts snowing, slowly, then with a teasing fury.

Waiting to board a Delta flight, Detroit to BWI
We board. The plane begins to circle around, as if contemplating the implications of a real take-off. The Captain announces that they are going through a de-icing process. I’m seated right behind the right wing, and I can see the caking of ice begin to melt on it. The clouds above are a forbidding gray (I’m learning to spell “gray” the American way – I don’t know why I have to; ah, the "grey" fog of twice-colonized minds… but that’s a blog for another day.)

The snow is not letting up, and I’m worried that we may not take off. 18 hours from Kenya is enough butt-time sitting in planes and airports. Buttitis; that’s the word we coined for that protest moment when the posterior has taken enough abuse and turns against you, refusing to be sat on any longer. One must not sit too long through any situation. Your butt will always give you a cue. You must then get up and move, do that which scares the daylights out of you.

I have seen this many times. People just sitting there. Sometimes praying flamboyantly in public squares. With vicious desperation. Africans tend to do that a lot. I’m not averse to praying, which I personally do; I’m saying don’t do an idle thing so long thinking you’re changing things while in essence, you’re too scared, lazy or full of excuses to admit that you need to actively do something to de-ice a situation and allow you to take off from stagnation.

De-icing the plane, the gloomy and treacherous outdoors daring us to take off

After almost an hour, the plane lines up its nose against the runway, ready for take-off. It still didn’t look good. Outside, the falling snow thwarted my visibility, taunting my vision of where I wanted to go in the coming year, what I wanted to achieve, how I wanted to get there, making me falter in my new year’s belief that I will get “there” this time around. The blurry look of things momentarily scared me, made me think we really shouldn’t take off.

Then a sour bile of memories rushed forth and filled my gut; memories of a year strewn with false starts, aborted take-offs, and heavily invested de-icing processes that thawed the situation yet left me stuck on the ground for fear of taking flight. What happened to your plans for this-and-that, friends ask, and you mumble some silly explanation where someone or something else is to blame for your not taking off.

It’s utterly ridiculous, how sometimes, in cautious wisdom (or so we convince ourselves), we wait for the clouds to clear, the snow to stop falling, the rain to abate, and when the sun actually shines through, we still sit there, all the obstacles gone, yet stupidly satiated in the new warmth, our desires to take off to new heights all forgotten. A year comes to an end, and we are still stuck on the runways of our dreams.

The plane started moving, the engine sounded wrong, the take-off was too bumpy, and the vessel was thrown about as it struggled to break through the falling snow, the unrelenting freeze, the brick wall of grey clouds solidly looming above. My husband reached out and held my hand, his face squinting worrisomely as the engine got strangely louder, as if something was about to snap. He knows something about planes, I’d worry if he worried, and I worried.

The pilot pushed the vessel up to meet the gray wall with steely determination, the thick clouds swirling about in suffocating waves as we rocked in turbulence. Nothing was visible. I said a prayer, in thanksgiving for the wonders of life and love so far experienced, trying to forget that sometimes take-offs can be the end as we know it. I held my breath. Whatever may come—and suddenly, whoosh! We broke through. The sun shone above us with a fierce burst of life, and below us, a fluffy bed of clouds showed off a deceptive calm.

Thing is, you can never get to your destination without take-off. May you break through in 2014.

I took this picture immediately after we broke through the clouds.
Any attempt to describe the feeling is cliche