Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fear Of Flying

While I do not suffer from the physical fear of flying, I do have a metaphysical aversion to it. Flying is, for the lack of a better word, unnatural. And I would claim that it's not so just to me, but for the entire human race. Not that you'd know it from the gusto with which we've embraced it. To think that a hundred years ago, most of mankind was still earth-bound for most of their lives (lest they be lucky (or unlucky) enough to ride a zeppelin, be a flying ace, or a part of a balloon company, like C's great-great grandpa in WW1).
Even in my own childhood, flying was a treat, an occasion, something to save for, something to savor. Now it's like boarding a train, or heck an escalator. We are bored the moment we step into a plane; we pull out our newspapers, our idodads, watch the inflight movie, get drunk, all at you know, 30 000-40 000 feet. Blind to the sheer absurdity of being trapped in a metal cylinder with two flimsy wings defying a force humans have been dreaming of conquering for centuries. We are free from the pull of the earth and we don't seem to even care.


We fly everywhere now, to vacations, holidays, getaways, get-togethers.

We fly like we're some avian race, awkward birds. We fly with reckless abandon. We fly like it's no big deal.
So what? You might say. People have been traveling far and wide for humanity's whole history. This is just its most recent incarnation. And maybe you'd be right, if it wasn't for the time-traveling, the sudden transition from season to season, time-zone to time zone in a matter of hours, and how strange all of it  seems. How your body rebels against it through jet-lag and dehydration. How your skin turns brittle and your eyes bloodshot. How you feel like your soul takes a few days to catch up to your body.
Yes, we as a race have always traveled. But we have traveled by boat, canoe and sled and mostly, by our feet. We've camped along the way, sometimes for years, we've built and dismantled shelter and caught food and watched the stars tell us the right direction.

Even if you account more modern forms of overland travel,trains and cars, there is a connection to that which you travel through. Coming up from California on a train last year I saw spring turn back into winter and understood perfectly how far South the Golden State lay. I imagine its the very same with ocean-going vessels. You experience the changes in the breeze, the fish, the flora of the islands you pass. You are not simply flying above them.
Whatever one may think of it as a means of transportation, flying is also, to put it simply extremely detrimental to our environment. There's no two ways about it. Airplanes are one of the biggest adders of carbon into our atmosphere.

For years people have been asking what we, "the little people" could do to combat climate change, yet the few things we know we could do we are categorically incapable of actually doing (one is not to fly, the other to cut down our consumption of meat). Even the most environmentally-minded folks (myself among them!!) seem to have a blind spot when it comes to air travel.

While demanding the president and the congress to take climate change seriously, we refuse to do so ourselves.

"But I have to fly!" We exclaim. Our families are too far-flung, our vacations too short. And most importantly, since everyone else is doing it, it doesn't seem to make  a difference if we deny ourselves this pleasure (if you can call it that) or necessity.
I certainly can't deny the call of that "necessity". There is no way in heck or hades I'd be able to tell my mother that she will never see me again because flying to her goes against my beliefs and values. I wish I could, but I can't.

What I can do though, is not look at it as something one simply does. Flying is a luxury, a privilege, it's a magical power one should not abuse, or waste on casual fun. It can take us home to our loved ones, to gatherings and funerals and 80th birthday parties and bi-annual visits, but it is not as mundane as we as a culture perceive it. It's special. It should be special.

We are more migratory than any people ever before us and Americans are the most migratory of all migratory races; a whole country of people constantly packing up and moving, leaving, returning flying in different directions like huge migrating flocks of birds made from all kinds of species. We are a people in constant motion and not very grounded, for obvious reasons.

Whereas ten years ago, I would have been thrilled, more than thrilled to be boarding a plane, I am sad to leave behind my home in spring time; a place where I now know a little what happens in certain seasons. How Salmonberry blossoms follow the nettles, how humming birds and lambs come after turkey vultures.
In so many ways I would rather stay here walking with goats and watching my love paddle the new slow, sea-faring vessel he built with his own two hands.
But like so many of us, I am of two places and so I have to go.

So here I am, at Sea-Tac airport using free wi-fi and marveling at people's Iphones and how everyone, but everyone seems to own one of those new, thin Patagonia jackets; and while I'm excited for my trip, for family and friends, I am the most excited to come again back home in the end of it all, a place that I belong.
See you on the other side! Blogging will be spotty, but I have some lovely guest posts lined up for you in my absence.

Thoughts on flying?


  1. I have been thinking a lot about this topic since I flew to Hawaii last month with Asher. it was the first time he had been on a plane since he was 2 or 3, so it was - to him - the first time flying that he could remember. he was excited and scared. as a child, i used to LOVE flying. it was a special treat, with special relatives on the other end. we would dress up in nice clothes and carry our handmade satchels (sewn by mom) filled with books, games, and activities. now - yes - iPods and iPads are the norm, and i am no exception. i paid ten bucks to rent the little movie thing for Asher so he could entertain himself that way for the flight.

    i do, however, still view flying as special. though it has lost its glamour (except for the very rich), i still view it as a special treat and something that does not come easily. also, since becoming a mother, i have developed a slight fear of flying. or like you mentioned - a mistrust. seriously? this machine will fly me and my child over the ocean?? but again, i am grateful for opportunities to travel and to take Asher places that change his vision.

    Above all - and i have often dreamed a blog post on this - i wish that flying was more community oriented. i wish that all of us humans rushing through terminals, buying expensive food, and sitting next to each other for several hours could understand the immediate bond of traveling together. i wish we could leave our children with each other while one strolls and stretches ones legs. i wish we could hold each other's babies while the mothers struggle to fold strollers and cram heavy bags above their heads. when i travel by air, i am often so disappointed at the distance between two humans that are so close together. traveling as a mother has changed my whole perception of airports.


    have a wonderful trip.

  2. I love Louis CK's thoughts on flying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3dYS7PcAG4

  3. I rarely leave comments but this post was so timely. I share your thoughts on flying but find myself doing it way too often. I live on the east coast but am from California and most of my family and friends have their roots in the west, and I have very close ties with the gulf coast - it feels like I'm tri-coastal these days. I'm trying to plan a summer trip for important celebrations in San Francisco, Maui, and Colorado. This all has me thinking more and more about the importance of being on the west coast eventually, and within reasonable train or driving distance of loved ones (well, guess you can't drive to Maui, oh well). But I hope you have a safe flight and enjoy your time with your mother! I actually really indulge in flying over the pacific northwest - I LOVE how the mountain tops peak out from the clouds, so cool! (And I love the Louis CK bit above, dead on.)

  4. Straight from my brain outta your...mouth? fingers? Anyway, yes yes resonance yes, right there with you, think about this a lot....i burn up fossil fuels to go to shasta county and our deep love for maine compels us to purchase air flight tickets. even getting to see my mom more than once a year (and fern her grandma) requires a flight. and i consider not doing it and think "but those flights are going to go anyway, with or without me". i would happily give up flying if something else comes along because i do have fear of flying. no. i have fear of sitting in a giant metallic bird that is defying gravity...of being in it the moment when gravity comes to its senses and we go plummeting to earth in a fiery ball. yup. afraid of that. not to mention, i hate being dehydrated for DAYS after flying. and my poor soul running on foot to catch up. yuck.

    you write about this so succinctly and perfectly and WTF milla with her goats and little red coat. STAAAAAHP IT! no, don't stop. i love it. but gol dang, you and your cuteness. do you really follow the goats around? and i feel wistful for you missing spring. i hope that the springtime of your childhood rises up to greet you and nourishes all the ancient yous, all the past girl selves.

    but really, what i want to say about this post is....C MADE HIS OWN BOAT??????? radness. you both are.

  5. Such a pretty batch of photos Milla! The last few make my heart sing. I hope you made it safely to Finland and had a great little stay in Iceland! Much love from the south end of the island! and p.s could agree more, Flying suckssssss!!!! but we all gotta do it to explore this vast world of ours. Maybe one day I won't have that the urge to travel so far away. xoxo Lissa

  6. kajakkifani ihastelee ja osoittaa hiljaista kunnioitusta! (meni vuorokausi hiljaisuudessa sitten vasta tokenin kommentoimaan)
    En ole lentänyt nyt muutamaan vuoteen,mutta pitkien matkojen tekeminen on tehty kyllä aika hankalaksi ja kalliikksikin muilla tavoin.
    On ihan typerää,kuinka jo suomen kokoisesa pikkumaassa lentäminen on joko samanhintaista tai jopa halvempaa,kuin esim. Junalla matkustaminen.

  7. I'm a lurker. I need your wisdom. Today I wanted to tell you something.
    Oh, you have spoken my thoughts. I am opposed to air travel, it's unhealthy for the earth, and it's unhealthy for humans and is another way we conquer, defy, and exaggerate our place on this planet. I will never travel by air again...

    That's what I want to say with conviction but with that comes the knowing I will probably never travel again. I live in an island nation at the bottom of the world and I'm kind of terrified of water (even the shower causes me anxiety). I have wanderlust, have always had wanderlust from my grandparents stories - one growing up within ear shot of the Bow Bells in the East End of London, another a soldier at the inception of the IRA, and my grandmother who died earlier this year and whom is my other from Prague. To say I will never travel these stories, some of which I have seen, some of which I will never live enough of, shreds my soul...

    But Milla you have put into words the sentiment I wanted - to always get on that plane with purpose and love, to plant trees and whilst up there feeling safer than I do in a swimming pool to be mindful to my world. (actually I don't get in swimming pools, or rivers, or oceans - too scary, but planesI feel safe in those. i have some working out to do obviously).


  8. oh girl, I can't get on a plane unless I'm two sheets to the wind.

    I felt nauseous just reading this post :)