Breathe Normally

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Thunderhead from above over western Washington


There’ll be turbulence. You’ll drop
your book to hold your
water bottle steady. Your
mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall
may who ne’er hung there let him
watch the movie. The plane’s
supposed to shudder, shoulder on
like this. It’s built to do that. You’re
designed to tremble too. Else break
Higher you climb, trouble in mind
lungs labor, heights hurl vistas
Oxygen hangs ready
overhead. In the event put on
the child’s mask first. Breathe normally
~Adrienne Rich -from Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, 2011 National Book Award Finalist

We just got off a very turbulent flight from Chicago to Seattle due to thunderstorms much of the way, particularly in the northwest. The brief times when there wasn’t shuddering and bouncing and metal trembling were gifts. I could breathe normally for awhile, not gripping the chair arm, gritting my teeth and silently praying.

I’ve become less and less brave about flying. I know all the statistics about safety but they don’t reassure me in the clinch when hanging at 35,000 feet as if on a thin bungee cord.

Now safely on the ground, I wonder about the next flight, and the next. Like the stomach sinking drops that life can inflict unexpectedly, I know there is nothing to be done but endure what is uncertain. I can’t pedal fast enough to keep a plane in the air so I depend on others who build and maintain and fly planes to do that for me. I can’t prevent bad things from happening in life, but I can depend on the truth that goodness will prevail. I must trust solely in grace given as a gift and never earned.

I must put my oxygen mask on first and breathe normally. Then and only then can I help save others.

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Mt. Baker from above. Usually we admire it from the ground from our Whatcom County back yard