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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wheel-watch

I am on a flight from Keri Keri to Auckland in a smallish aircraft and for the first time on any flight I'm sitting next to the wheel. It is one of those aircrafts where the wings run across the body on the top and so the body sits rather low and close to the wheels. As the plane taxies, I watch fascinated as the wheel rotates balanced on what seems to be a flimsy leg, and I feel like I'm in a giant mosquito, big body and paltry legs. The wheel however, does not think like this and therefore takes us up the runway, ever accelerating, and very soon it gets lifted off the ground and almost immediately a hatch opens up underneath the wing and the wheel still spinning gets folded up and neatly slips into it. Wow! The plane is now wheelless and airborne.

The scenery that unfolds under me is stunning. A veritable feast of green - fields pockmarked with sheep and cattle, neatly hedged, undulating hills shaded with hues only nature can paint. Dark splotches where the clouds cast shadows below. Rooftops among the fields, in red, brown or grey slate. Forests of dark pine which look so mysterious on the ground, look surprising demystified from the air. All this punctuated with blue, gleaming strips of tiny lakes, streams, rivers. After a while I can see the sea glimmering in the distance, the deep aquamarine shrouded in mist like a blue, shy secret. We then climb over the clouds and we are flying over these cushiony billowing masses of confectionary perfection.

As we near Auckland, we descend below the clouds again and the sea is directly below us now, or at least the bay is, gleaming blue-green and sparkling naughtily, almost beckoning me to join in and sink into the waters. In the distance a small strip of land shimmers hazily and all of a sudden the wheel hatch opens and the wheel descends. I look ahead into the distance and see no land. I wonder if the pilot is planning a sea-landing. But we don't need wheels for that, do we? I then can't help thinking how our lives are like that too. We fly over nothingness sometimes lost at sea and we look into the distance to get a grip of our bearings, to see if there is any land where we can park for a while, and panic sets in when we see none, entirely forgetting that our Pilot can see ahead and is steering our lovingly into dry and safe land. And then of course, the landing strip appears below us right out of the sea and the wheel fulfils its raison d'etre and makes contact with the hard land and wheels us safely to the airport.