Flyover: Christmas in July
Flyover: Christmas in July, or How Green is My Valley?
We live on one of many flight paths to Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, although we are about two hours out (without traffic). I often look up from gardening, hear jets slowing down their engines as they gently decrease their altitude, and imagine the flight attendant’s or captain’s voice coming on saying “We’re beginning our approach to Dulles Airport serving the metropolitan Washington D.C. area, where the weather is …”
I sometimes look up and wave just for the sheer silliness of it, knowing no one up there can see me down here, but just because I love traveling and the places planes take me.
We also frequently see small planes flying over, sometimes dusting crops but more often, just sightseeing.
One day my husband said casually, “I’d love to be able to fly over our place and around the valley,” I made a mental note to check into such an adventure maybe for a Christmas gift for him. He’s gotten to the place in life where he doesn’t really need another drill or saw, so excursions and special events and family occasions are high on our family list of things to give to him. He’d been up in a small plane once before with our youngest daughter for a birthday present to her when the Shenandoah Valley Airport at Weyers Cave offered trial flying lessons for just $25.
Last Christmas this is what he got from me. The pilot, Don Shank, said there was easily room for 2-3 passengers and he had 30 years experience, including being a commercial pilot for Piedmont Air back when they still flew in and out of the above airport.
We had a beautiful, restorative time.
But more than just checking out how big the neighbor’s new pond is, or being able to peek in at our old home and find to our delight the new owners are still planting a garden down the back hill there, I realized what the flyover reminded me of was feeling like I know so much of our community. This has been home now for over 45 years.
There’s where I went to college. (On the slight hill near the top left of the photo, right under the airplane support.)
Yonder’s the brick office building that I’ve called home for 41 years. (Directly across from the lovely high rise grain towers.)
We flew over our church since 1975.
Above is where one daughter went to college. Below is where one went to the old high school and the other two sweated out middle school.
Here are the rivers and valleys and hills that have threaded through and framed our views. I don’t think it would have meant nearly as much to do a flyover of a new area or someplace I didn’t know. I glimpsed a little of why our pilot said he takes people up just for a hobby because he enjoys flying so much.
As a person who believes in God, my mind couldn’t help but soar even higher in the heavens and contemplate the perch God enjoys looking at our planet and even the larger universe. Being up there takes you to another place where problems are maybe positioned more in scale. I could not see any weeds in my garden! I couldn’t see my to do list, or the edges of our yard that hadn’t been trimmed.
I knew the streets and boroughs of our fair city have problems a plenty, but nothing felt as immediate. Hopefully, the time above restores one’s soul for the problems below.
There was only one scene that marred our sweet flight and that was flashing red lights of a fire engine and rescue squad out in a nearby field, with what looked like the wing of a small airplane peeking out from under a tree. Could it be a plane wreck? The pilot thought so, which was sobering to all of us, and his wife had messages waiting for him on his cell as soon as we landed. She had heard news of a crash that happened just minutes before we took off. A father and son went down and the father pilot was airlifted to University of Virginia Medical Center, and thankfully survived although his recovery may take awhile. His son was treated and released at the local hospital. Their plane had not cleared trees at the end of a farm runway. I’m kind of glad I didn’t steal a shot of someone else’s misery.
I breathed some quiet prayers for those in the accident, recalling another small plane I had once been in with a load of teens heading to our Mennonite church youth convention in 1970 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. The pilot from our church taxied three times down the small local town’s airport runway in Blountstown, Fla. He was not getting up enough speed to clear the tall pines at the end. Wisely, he made the call to have us all get out, have his wife drive us to a larger airport 25 miles away in Mariana, Fla., meet him there with his plane, and then safely take off. Which we did.
There are inherent risks anytime we drive to town, or even head down or up the stairways in our homes. Somehow the risks seem bigger (even though the odds smaller) of having an accident when we go up in the air, and yes, I said my prayers.
I thanked the good Lord again for safety when we touched ground, for the beauty of creation; and after learning the people in the accident would be ok, thanked God for that too.