Friday, April 08, 2011

His Name is Earl.

It is rare that I have a title and photos but fail to create text. Yet this post has been elusive - I tried to write it curled in a smoking room (oh, so icky) in SoCal and then again in a deliciously luxurious place located north on that same coast. I tried on the plane ride home, smiling at the creature on the wing tip in my photos and feeling great affection for Frontier and their marketing campaign.

And lovely it is to soar above the clouds, squinting against the sunshine and thinking - up there away from it all - of what may come next. What messages wait on the cell phone that's powered down. What I'll see, who I'll meet, how I might learn something new.

And so I went west - across the plains and over the mountains and past the desert beyond. And I thought of what I wanted - what I hoped.

The trip began peacefully. I crept from the house, quietly gathering my laptop bag and small duffel, loathe to wake my pup sleeping in the bathtub as she hid from the lingering storm. I drove through the pre-dawn darkness and misty rain toward the airport, parking my car and reaching in my bag to find my boarding pass and driver's license.

I go through security sleepily. 2 bins. Off come the shoes and coat. Out comes the ziploc baggie with liquids and gels then the laptop before they're pushed on the conveyor belt and into their security examination. I'm growing used to going through my own, placing my stockinged feet on the marks on the floor and holding hands above my head as my body is scanned. And I wondered - somewhat idly - if seeing someone without clothes helped you know them better. Revealed some clue or secret to their innermost desires. Motivations and hopes and dreams.

Moving to the next steps in my established routine, I gathered my belongings and tossed my coat over my arm, stopping to wrinkle my nose over novels and purchase a bottle of water. I walked to my gate, finding a seat and tucking my left leg underneath me before arranging myself comfortably and reorganizing my carry-on items.

"I've lost my identity," I mused silently, smiling as I thought of SpongeBob, and continued to paw through pockets and compartments, frowning when unable to find my ID. "I'm going to get trapped in California," I despaired, thinking of my planned commute north after 2 days and then my heralded return home on Thursday.

"I won't go," I decided cheerfully. But before abandoning my trip and responsibilities I searched once more and found the small card had fallen in my purse. I sighed, plucked it from its hiding place and tucked it in the proper pocket for future use. And flew to Denver, where I met Earl and continued on my journey.

And as I looked out at Earl from the window seat, admiring the landscape below us, and wondered about the stresses on his seams, glancing up at the ceiling and hoping it didn't open up as it did on the poor Southwest plane. Earl seemed sturdy though, offering televisions in his seats and pushing through the moderate turbulence like a good walrus painted on a plane might do.

I lost my license twice more on the trip, commenting to Adam and PrettyHair that I was struggling to hold on to it. I nodded when Adam told me it was a long drive home and I paused to look at the photo before frowning down at the elusive card. It's me, of course, and lists a number and address. But, much like that naked version of myself that I momentarily considered at the airport, it offers little insight into the person I am and who I'd like to become.

Perhaps I'm making this too hard though. Maybe it's enough - at times - to go through the routine. To take each day and go and learn and do. But it's not my nature to enjoy the ride. I feel compelled to squint against that sunshine and peer between the clouds, searching for meaning and purpose and peace.

So while it is pleasant to be away and above, I'm always eager to return to the world below. Pass my service items to the attendant as she passes through the aisles and raise my seat back and tray table to prepare for landing.

Because my name is Katie. And I have a better chance of making that important - of showing my response to stress and hope for great happiness - when I'm on the ground and surrounded by all the details that look so very small from 35,000 feet.

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