Head in the Clouds

Although they can be slightly claustrophobic, too hot, too cold, a bit cramped, and sometimes even nauseating, I have a strange appreciation for long flights. During those journeys that take me across continents, oceans, and time zones, I am forced to sit still and be alone with my thoughts. Which is why, even though I am prone to mild chitchat as I go about my usual day-to-day routines on the ground, once I board an airplane my goal is to tacitly let the world know I want to be left alone. I keep to myself, attention focused out the window, headphones on as soon as I'm allowed. Armed with crossword puzzles, podcasts, a few magazines, and, now, my husband's Kindle, I settle in for a long stretch of hours when I am immune to phone calls and emails, not to mention Tilda.

One thing that usually happens on these flights is my creative ideas morph and multiply. With free reign to flit and flutter wherever they want, these ideas go in all sorts of directions, filling my brain with visions of magical weekend workshops, art installations, books, trips, tea parties, and performances on stage. I make a lot of lists on these flights, and I take some of those ideas as far as I think they might go in my mind. I daydream. I visualize. I let any and all sparks of inspiration run wild.

I always come to the same conclusion as my plane touches the ground, which is that it is a maddening, magnificently beautiful gift to want to do so much. It is not humanly possible for me to pursue all the ideas I come up with on any given week (or flight), which is why another tendency I have is to throw ideas out to the world and dive right into them too quickly. My ambitions usually far exceed what I can realistically pull off, and one repeating cycle in my life is to bite off more than I can chew, wear myself out, collapse in a heap of tears, and then start all over again. I'm getting better, but I doubt I'll ever completely escape that routine, and I'm actually OK with that.

I had lunch with a friend last week, a date that had been on our calendars for weeks, yet we both came within inches of canceling, each of us already pushed to the limits time-wise with work, home, life, and impending travel. Immediately we both admitted we weren't "at our best", weren't feeling especially great about how frazzled we let ourselves become, but determined not to let the noise of our lives prevent us from sitting down and sharing a meal. And that time was so precious for so many reasons, not the least of which is that we both reminded one another that this is the life we have chosen and created, this life of endless creative ideas, a wide circle of friends and family, and a profound determination to devour life in every way possible.

Most of the ideas I outlined in my journal on yesterday's flight probably won't see the light of day. The majority of the visions that filled my head with glitter and joy won't go any further than that. But that is OK. I can't do it all, but I can do a lot. And for all the ideas that I'm not able to make real in the here and now of the world, there's always the next flight, when I can let them fly freely in the wide open skies of my wild imagination.

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide