Some moments in life you simply never forget. I think I just had one such moment.
I am on a plane from Houston Texas to Frankfurt, Germany. Flying through the night and the various time zones losing hour upon hour.
The flight up until now had been much the same as any other transatlantic crossing, eventless and on the most part just another challenge to try and find the most comfortable position in your seat so as to grab what little amount of sleep you can.
There is, of course, a screaming baby managing to make itself heard above the constant low noise of the jet engines. The in-flight entertainment is amusing some, but most have elected to ignore it. Lufthansa are not my favorite airline, but to be fair to them there really isn't anything they could do to make this long journey any more interesting.
I'm restless, not able to sleep. I close my eyes and try to drift away, but it simply doesn't work. I'm not drifting anywhere, I'm awake and I probably will be awake all the way home. The joy of jet lag once again awaits me on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The plane is dark, the lights are out and there is just the flicker of the overhead TV screens in the center isle to illuminate the cabin. As sleep is not an option I decide to put on my headphones and listen to some music on my laptop, the music playing is a soft track called 'Elevator Beat' by Nancy Wilson. There's nothing to look so I open the window shutter and take a look outside. It's dark so I expected to see nothing, but I am spectacularly proved wrong.
The sky is awash with millions of bright stars. I use my hands to block out the reflection of the cabin, and there are even more than I initially saw. Amazing, breathtaking, truly awe-inspiring. I am quite genuinely staggered at just how many stars I can see.
I look back at the cabin for a moment. Everyone is either in airplane sleep mode or watching the not very entertaining 'in-flight entertainment.' So I find the standard-issue blanket then put all worries about looking cool aside as I put it over my head so I can look out of the window with absolutely no reflections from inside the cabin.
Below me are street lights, I can make out streets and what I assume to be a coastline, probably Canada, maybe the United States. A few wispy white clouds float below me lit, I assume, by the moon which I can't see from this angle. In the distance there is another plane, it seems to be on the same path as us, slightly behind us and to the right. And then there is a dark ocean of space, completely drenched in glittering stars and distant planets that now feel just that little bit closer.
This is amazing. I don't even feel like I am on a plane anymore. I feel like I am just suspended in space between the clouds below me and the infinity above, sitting in a chair listening to music and somehow floating without a care or concern in the world. And then, as my eyes begin to get accustomed to the darkness this moment moves into the realms of unforgettable as I see shooting stars make their fleeting and final journeys across the night sky around me.
This is the kind of moment that makes me feel human, that takes all the concerns I have and puts them into the perspective we can so easily lose. I feel humbled by the sheer magnificent's this all, and honored to be able to witness this too.
While the rest of the plane simply sleep or watch TV, I have left them for a while to see something I can honestly say I will never forget.
There's nothing left to say, no more words to write, as if words could even illustrate this moment. I've still got a long way to go and the sun will rise soon so I'm going to get back to my sky.
What a great way to start 2003!