Flying To Belfest

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade May 2001

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Learning to Fly Craig Raine's "Flying to Belfast, 1977" describes the land as seen from high above in an airplane. While on a trip to Montana I saw much of what he described, such as a city resembling "a radio with its back ripped off / among the agricultural abstract of the fields." The way that the buildings rose out of the ground were very similar to the wires and transistors of an open radio rising from a circuit. Sometimes I would see the sun reflecting off small windows on the buildings, as did Raine's when he wrote, "The windows gleamed like drops of solder." The clutter of businesses, steel, and pavement really did seem to fit together and be "wired up" as Raine wrote. However, there was a compact and almost claustrophobic feeling in seeing so many buildings and roads so close together.

The sky itself as the flight continued gave way to vast oceans of blue and deeply white clouds.

My father and I would look out the window and sometimes just see white such as Raines did when he wrote, "we entered the cloud and were nowhere." The sky and world would disappear for as long as the plane was in the hold of the cloud. A peaceful feeling came over me whenever the plane entered a cloud and it was as if for a brief moment the shuttle I was in was glimpsing heaven. Raine's depiction of the clouds as "shoveled snow / Apple Charlotte / Tufty Tails" also conveys a sense of comfortable visions and feelings.

During my flight towards Montana there were small squares of cultivated land that told that I was directly above Kansas. Those patches of land reminded me of a quilt and offered a contrast to the sparsely spaced cities that would pop up every once in a while as the plane soared. I spent much of the time just staring outside the window, letting my thoughts drift back and forth. Unlike some of the other passengers, I was content to be without an in-flight movie or music from the plane's systems and just be captivated by the views before me. Whenever I did look away from the window I saw that many people in the cabin of the jet were trying to crane their necks for a better view of the outside. The realization of how lucky I was to be able to see what some could not made me turn my head back outside.

The clouds, deep blue sky, and the plane's own noise gave way to a hypnotizing effect, and there is much of the land the plane flew over that I can not remember. Craig Raine's poem brought back some visuals that I had forgotten in the years since that flight. It was an opportunity to remember the most important part of the Montana trip, the journey itself.