Why jet trails are just like life

TRAILSEver stop to think about the pattern of your life? The weaving in of good friends and bad, of wicked enemies and teaching enemies, of strangers and lovers, friends and acquaintances, passersby and lingerers … anyone who has touched your life in some way?

I generally expend significant energy on that topic, but I stray there today because of this morning’s sky. Driving to work, I glance toward the City Park below my house. First, I see the Great Blue Heron fishing in the pond. I appreciate the irony of the sight – how adaptable nature is to send a heron into the city outside its natural element. It’s like driving an hour to shop at a premium grocery.

From there, my gaze drifts upward and I catch my breath in awe. What a sky! It’s that deep blue of early dawn aflame with the gold of a new day etching its way. A diverse grouping of jet trails paints light-reflecting paths upon the sky, upon my vision, and deep into my awareness. I take photos (yes, I pull over to do it). That sky speaks to me, although it may take a while to figure out just what it’s saying.

Consider the jet trail, more properly a “contrail” (short for condensation trail). You may know them as vapor trails. They’re long, thin, artificial clouds, usually triggered by water vapor in the exhaust of airplanes or by changes in air pressure thanks to the passage of the plane’s wings through the atmosphere. Contrails can last for seconds or for hours and can be skinny or spread out for miles, eventually resembling regular cloud forms. They can even affect the global climate.

This morning’s light show sends my mind to musing about those trails. At first, I think, it’s a great reminder that we all travel our own paths. Sometimes my path intersects with another’s, a thought that arises from the criss-crossing of those man-made clouds across this morning’s sky – no less beautiful, in their way, than a nature-made cloud. Life’s like that, isn’t it? You have a vision, a goal, a purpose, and you follow it. Sometimes you intesect with others who have something for you, or you for them, and you continue on, a little wiser for that intersection. Sometimes you walk alongside others for a time, maybe even forever. Sometimes you tire of carving your way and you follow other trails, and sometimes others fall into your trail. Whatever it is that you do, your trail is your very own, and it has the potential to blaze across the sky, just as these do this morning.

I’m reminded of that, and, while that thought resonates, I realize it doesn’t quite capture what’s flirting in the shadows of my peripheral awareness. So I continue to roll that image around in my mind, searching for the wisdom it holds for me in this time and place. And by the time I reach work, I have it.

Those lovely, glowing contrails, as they cross and expand and recross and change and continue forward, illustrate the process of weaving. I believe we weave our lives using bits and pieces of our relationships and our visions and our dreams – all captured from our travels through life and from other travelers we encounter for a moment or a week or a lifetime.

We incorporate those pieces from other contrails into our living tapestry, and they add depth and emotion, knowledge, texture, and maturity to this curiousity we call life. But we not only take, we also give – bits and pieces of ourselves. Think of it as our own contrails, our own water vapor that we turn into clouds and sprinkle, like pixie dust, across the sky and into others’ lives. As Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “…the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning.”

So it makes me stop and consider what kind of contrail I leave behind as I make my way through life.
What I hope is this: I hope it intersects with thousands of others. I hope the pieces others take from me to weave into their own tapestry are both colorful and neutral. I hope they elicit pleasant thoughts, careful thoughts, and the wisdom of our encounters. I hope they are fun or least enlightening.

But most of all, I hope that my contrail causes someone, somewhere – maybe even on the way to work – to look up in wonder and come away with the knowledge that all life is truly interrelated … and it pays to leave a contrail worthy of such a sunrise.

May your contrails, and mine, leave behind a view that’s all the better for our passages across such glorious skies.

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2 thoughts on “Why jet trails are just like life

  1. sarahwbartlett says:

    So many resonant lines here: the great blue heron and the great blue sky (see my first chapbook, INTO THE GREAT BLUE, Finishing Line Press, 2011 – speaking of how our lives intersect)!! Then this: ‘I believe we weave our lives using bits and pieces of our relationships and our visions and our dreams’ and ‘ But we not only take, we also give – bits and pieces of ourselves;’ ‘So it makes me stop and consider what kind of contrail I leave behind as I make my way through life.’ and ”But most of all, I hope that my contrail causes someone, somewhere – maybe even on the way to work – to look up in wonder and come away with the knowledge that all life is truly interrelated … and it pays to leave a contrail worthy of such a sunrise.’

    Yes – like-minded thinkers, we. Thanks for your back-and-forth on FB and for directing me here. I hope to see you more frequently on WP and elsewhere.

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