My husband and I attended a conference in Southern California last week. We stayed in a hotel on Mandalay beach. As appealing as the days filled with salt-wind and sunshine were, the most memorable portion of the week was the morning that astronaut Jeff Williams came to speak to us. Colonel Williams has taken more photos of the earth from outer space than any other astronaut and he brought some of them to show us. Out of the billions of humans who inhabit the earth there are, by comparison, only a handful who share his unique experience and perspective—less than 600. By the time he was finished speaking to us, I felt so crammed with creation I was ready to burst with the wonder of it.
Colonel William’s interest in photography developed during his first six-month assignment aboard the International Space Station. He said that, while he had the option of watching movies or reading during his free time, he chose to spend it doing things he couldn’t do on earth; so looking out the window and taking pictures from 200 miles above the planet became his passion.
The astronaut’s words resonated within me as our plane departed from the Los Angeles airport a few days later. I usually read while flying and had a book in my bag that I was already engrossed in. But it was a clear, sunny day and I had a window seat, so I left the book in my bag and spent the first two hours of my trip enjoying a vantage point I couldn’t appreciate with my feet on the ground. At sunset, as we began our descent into O’Hare airport, I remembered I had a camera in my bag and pulled it out to take pictures of the sunlight glancing off the cloud tops.
Even though I am not much of a photographer, I regret that I did not remember my camera sooner. I took pictures with my memory, of course, but my memory often frays as time goes by. Still, I carry with me a mental image of the boundary waters of a continent, the wave-worn shores of a sinuous blue coastline dissolving into mist; the diamond-glare of solar fields harvesting sunlight in the desert; and the sudden wrinkle in oceans of dust as they climbed into mountain cliffs and dove into deep canyons the color of sunset. I watched two whole hours of landscape pass beneath me before clouds began to intrude over the Rockies. Even then, the clouds have a quality of mutable wonder belonging only to them and are worthy of remembrance.
I think that the next time I fly I will keep my camera closer than my book.
"The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."
~ G. K. Chesterton ~