Maciej is flying again - this time back to Beijing from NYC, across the North Pole. Readers of this blog already know that he is one of my favorite writers on the internet, and his description of this journey will not disappoint, even after he leaves the places where our lives intersect:
The 777 takes off with the usual grace and speed of fraternity brothers trying to move a heavy sofa, but soon the plane is airborne and you have that stupendous view of the New York City skyline to gawk at. Within an hour the plane has entered Canada from Vermont - a strange glimpse of seven years of my life - and then it is overflying the crooked boomerang of Montreal, the big Manicouaga circle crater and the endless forests of northern Quebec.
At the end of the wondrous essay, Maciej wonders if there is any way to recover the sense of the earth's vastness. I've often wondered the same thing. Having grown up in a time when the world really did seem huge, where places like Beijing felt impossibly far away - so far that to imagine being there was truly the stuff of fantasy - I often lament the wistfulness of those daydreams, and the loss of my own innocence as a traveler, just as my grandparents must have lamented the disappearing days of travel by horse, train, and ocean liner. And as if jet travel weren't effective enough at putting the final nails in the lid of my travel hope-chest, well, Google Earth appeared.
As is true for most humans faced with similar choices, my curiosity always wins out - so I take the virtual flights. And I exclaim with outward delight, while cringing inwardly, as each new bend in the Amazon or Nile unfolds before me, and Damascus and Jerusalem reveal their playgrounds and parking lots.