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Fear of Flying


The fear began a little over ten years ago. Panic attacks, tears on takeoff, the need to consume alcohol, Xanax, Valium while flying. A foggy landing in London where we couldn't see the runway below the wing, a turbulent ocean crossing where the flight attendant herself looked terrified. An aborted landing, circling back around only to land safely again. 


I used to be a great flyer. The rush of the speed on take off, the lift of the wings and the dizziness of banking. And the views: one of my favorite memories is flying over Greenland at sunset, seeing the long shadows fall behind mountains of ice for miles and miles. 


I don't know what caused the fear to come out, but I know this: to get to there — LA and a friend's baby, a little bundle of smiles, cuddling and swimming, eating and laughing, basking in the dry California heat, shielding our eyes from the sun on walks around the bright bougainvillea-lined streets — I first need to be here:


And so I battle the fear. On takeoff, I gripped the arm rest, but then watched the earth slip away, into fields, mud flats, canyons, and deserts. And I looked down. And it was so beautiful.


What a privilege this is. What sorcery. Seeing the Hoover Dam from such great heights, the sand-hugging suburbs of Las Vegas, the Great Salt Lake, our country spread out from sea to shining sea. The earth from above: who gets to see this? Which of my ancestors could have possibly even imagined getting to see the earth from up that high?

(Dedicated to Jennifer Lopez, whose first lines in What To Expect When You're Expecting were so ludicrous that I decided to look out the window instead.)

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.

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