Ships in the night



It's 20:45.


Seat 5F.


The lights of the ships on the North Sea below glow on the water like fireflies in the sky.


Nerve cells below. Different sizes but all connected.

Highway in the sky


One.  Two.  Four.  Six.  I spot six.


It's the morning rush hour to the East Coast.  I spot three planes tracking in a parallel direction, two opposite, and one crossing our path at a 30 degree angle.  Each pilot has been instructed to fly to a specific altitude in a neatly-stacked four-lane highway in the sky.


The sun has been nice this morning.  I've been lucky enough to receive a window seat portside - which means white light pouring through my window as we track northwest over Greenland.  The light is strong, warm, and unfiltered.  The reflection of the ice in my glass performs a mesmerising routine across my tray, much like the welcomed dance of a flickering candle in a dark corridor.


The sun's rays intensify as the minutes go by.  I don't want to close my shade.  I close my eyes and find myself transported to an empty beach at Laniakea.  The sun dries the ocean water off my skin, leaving tiny salt crystals behind.  The fast-pumping, well-lined rights are fun today.  It's 2-foot overhead and uncrowded.  I'm glad I brought my 6'1".  My mouth still tastes of Hawaiian salt.  Leila examines her collection of sea shells.  Over to my right, tourists are poking at the giant sea turtles sunbathing on the east end of the beach - just let them be.




The flight attendant repeats her question and I wake.  Chicken please.  Fish is too risky.  While I wait for my food, my attention diverts back through the window.


Five planes now in sight.  Of the five, one in particular catches my attention.  A Lufthansa, two-engine 777, driving in the lane next to us a few hundred feet below.  With our four-engine Rolls-Royce 747, we've not only caught up but are slowly inching ahead.  I'm reminded of a childhood car trip to Santa Barbara.  I remember sitting in the back of our station wagon, watching a family car in the lane next to us on the 101 highway...only to find the same family at the pool of the hotel later in the evening.


I look at the plane and wonder who is on that plane.  Where are they going?  Perhaps New York like we are.  What if we all end up in the same Terminal 7 immigration line, not realising that we've been on a parallel path for the past seven hours.  There must be somebody on that plane brimming with excitement to see the Statue of Liberty for the first time.


Lunch is here.


The planes on the four-lane highway slowly march ahead.

Familiar Halifax


Location:  Over Halifax

Heading:  258 degrees

Altitude:  38,000 feet

Speed:  761 km

Seat:  Window 61K


High into the Stratosphere, over an unfamiliar part of the earth, at a velocity that broaches the speed of sound and an outside temperature of -52 degrees Celsius, I'm reminded of the comfort we find in the familiar.


There are few environments that couldn't be more foreign to where man is supposed to be than this one.  Yet as a passenger, I'm reminded how familiar my environment is designed to feel.  The air is purified, heated, and pressurised to resemble that of an 8,000-foot fresh mountain top.  The drinking water is trusted and clean - pure from the Ochil Hills in Perthshire.  The wine has been sourced from vineyards off the foothills of Spain.  Even the nearby toilet is designed for convenience - so much in fact that I believe it's less distance to walk to than in my own flat.  I look around and see how comfortable everybody is staring at their screens - the blue and white glow flickering on blank faces as they sit in a cylinder of steel propelled by four jet-fuelled engines through a dark sky - almost as if everybody were seated in their own living rooms.


I too, am just as guilty.  I remove my headphones from my iPad as the final credits roll up to a film I was wanting to watch.  I question if it had been a good idea to watch 'Sully' while on board an actual flight, but given that no other passengers could see my screen, I decided 'why not'.


The man next to me types intently on his laptop, nervously shifting his glasses as he looks over printed documents, green highlighter in his right hand.  He looks stressed.  By an arrival location that has a different dialect to his departure accent, I assume he's preparing for an overseas business meeting.  We're due to land late into the night, and by the feel of things, I'd suspect his presentation is first thing tomorrow morning.  The uniformed cabin crew bustle about, exhibiting remarkable patience amidst the flurry of requests that come their way.  Water, juice, bread, tea, coffee.  I look out the window, and for the first time in hours, I see the scattered lights of land appear and slowly roll over to greet us across the dark horizon.  The onboard map reads 'Halifax'.


This alititude always seems to do funny things to me.  My mind begins to wander, jumping from topic to topic as if I'm at home choosing the next Netflix film to watch.  Do I explore this line of thought?  No, keep going.  How about that line of thought?  Sure.  Maybe it's nothing to do with cabin pressure and more to do with the fact that I'm not connected to the constant pull of the wifi push.  In one of the last bastions of a notification-free space, my mind wanders, explores and thinks freely.  It wanders through various mental neighbourhoods and decides to visit a curious thought of what life will be like in the future.


Let's imagine if the human race were to accomplish the unfathomable feat of interplanetary settlement, what would we choose to fill our future homes with?  It's an entertaining thought.  In an environment foreign and harsh, surely we'd need to make the unfamiliar feel familiar - just as we're doing with this plane.  Would we equip our atmosphere-proof utopian pods with TVs to watch the latest episodes of Game of Thrones and Black Mirror?  Would we welcome the new views of harsh landscapes, or would we prefer to install window installations that cycle familiar landscape images of New York, the Grand Canyon, or that mighty Alaskan Bear catching a fish?  Would a new style of cuisine emerge?  Would we eat Earth's Italian one night and East Utopia B the next?  Perhaps the hot new restaurant around the corner is an interplanetary fusion restaurant - where we dine with neighbours from Commune B and discuss the tales of the new mysterious family we've heard has arrived in Pod C, only to each crave the moment we can sneak back to our pods, relax, and eat our imported bag of fried earth crisps.


My mind stops wandering as I see the Brooklyn city lights emerge into view.


The cabin lights fade in and illuminate slowly; the captain instructs the cabin crew to prepare descent procedures.


A few hours ago, I was in a black cab.  Now time to jump into a yellow one.


Time to land.

Less and more visibility



It's the morning before New Year's Eve, and Leila and I awake to an unannounced guest in our neighbourhood.  We've seen her before - she manages to visit a few times a year, never announced, and she's always very quiet.  But unlike her majestic and beautiful sisters, Cumulus and Cirrus, whose sheep-like coats proudly billow high in front of the sun, this guest is of a different nature.  It's as if she's lost her way - wandering with no destination in mind.  She lacks form, has no height, has no splendid contours, offers no rainbows, projects no thunderous authority, and lacks a vocabulary to distinguish herself from the rest of her family.  Fog can only be, well...fog.

So as a black sheep does, she disrespects boundaries.  She hovers, she sinks, she uses the path of least resistance to intrude, she spreads, and she makes her presence known in her own way.  Her misty tentacles ebb and flow indiscriminately into each alleyway, between the red brick English houses of our neighbourhood, and in front of the church a few blocks away.  She has arrived.  And before we realise it, our neighbourhood view has taken on the appearance of a milky watercolour painting.  With the temperature at 2 degrees this morning, the tentacles of our guest has now traversed the outer walls of the flat and into our own bodies - past the border security of our skins, through our lungs, and deep into the marrows of our bones.  Now she's really arrived.

Like snow, fog is beautiful to me because of its power to take things away - reduction of clutter, excess, and noise to distil something to its most purest essence.  A view you've seen a hundred times over, refreshed as a clean palette.  The quiet of snowfall, offset with the crunching of your boot.  The lack of seeing, that actually allows you to see something for the first time.



Leila and I decide to take a walk in the Heath amidst the morning fog.  I pick up Beta's collar and find her lead.  Without fail, she comes running down the stairs - with her oversized tongue and dilated eyes.  I always admire the simplicity and purity of her desires.  Love, food, and adventure.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Lately, we're starting to see small signs of her ageing, but are comforted by the fact that her soul has never changed - her same positive soul from the beginning.



We walk through the Heath, take photos, and talk about the year that was and the year that will be.  We tend to follow the same route within the Heath.  With nature always changing, the same path never gets old.

We follow the mist, turn a corner, and come across a large tree.  The tree's capillaries reach upwards and whisk the fog as it dances within its branches.  The tree is impressively designed - its branches spread, split, and multiply by the path of least resistance.  And yet, despite its scale, nature never feels cluttered.  It's undeniably the most beautifully-designed operating system there is.

"Nature, not necessity, is the mother of all invention."



The tentacles of our guest have really reached deep within our bodies.  Leila, Beta, and I decide to make our way home.  Our neighbourhood guest stays for a few more hours, before departing just as quietly as she came.

It's the start of a new year and I'm looking forward to less and more visibility ahead.