Earlier this week I sat in a plane, looking out the window as it took to the sky. I've always loved flying. This particular experience had a more surreal quality to it than usual. I watched the city below disappear to be replaced by farmland, then deltas; tendrils of clear water reaching out across the cracks in the land. Before long, I was looking down on the tops of cumulus clouds, the light from the sun coloring them from the sides, the subtle shadows making them appear soft and yet more substantial than they are in reality.
It was a sea of clouds like this, as far as the eye could see. The beauty of what I saw made my eyes start to water. It reminded me of those times I would look up at clouds from the ground and think of how they looked just like the Renaissance paintings of the heavens. Only, the shapes of the clouds from above looked different. I realized that the people who created such paintings had never seen the sky the way I was seeing it now. I realized that throughout history, there have been humans who have always dreamed of flight, that they could only have imagined an experience such as the one I was having now.
I thought about how it must have felt to be one of those first few people to go into space, to see their entire planet from far away. I thought of how most of us, if given such an opportunity, would be overcome with wonder. And yet today millions of people board airplanes, take to the sky, and go places our ancestors could not even come close to reaching. What is now common was once unimaginable.
That day I counted myself lucky. Had fate been different, I could have easily been a land-bound dreamer, staring up at the sky and wondering what was up there. Instead, with barely a thought at the start, I was flying. For the sake of all my ancestors with unfulfilled dreams of flight, I took in all I saw around me with the same wonder I would feel if I were drifting through the cosmos and amongst the stars.