I watched, through the kitchen window, a butterfly dive again and again into the up-blast from the A/C condenser unit on the deck. It would zoom straight in, just above the spinning fan, twirl and flip up like litter caught in a dust devil, and then circle above for a moment where the flow had dispersed. A few seconds later it flutters back down and dives in again.
It did this enough times to establish that it was deliberate, it was clearly having fun, like a youngster going back for another spin on the roller-coaster. After five or six times the A/C unit cycled off. The butterfly landed on the nearby table and rested, like a kid exhausted from play.
I still don’t know where to file this bit. It’s a whole new category for me.
A Red Admiral behaving like an adult.
The air doesn’t need to have cracks in it. You can fall right through the thing itself. It plays with pressure and motion, mussing your hair or pulling your boat against currents on a shifty sea. Cup it in your hand, out of the car window. Blow it. It makes shapes you can hear. It’s there when you laugh, the material of your voice. You suck it in when you’re shocked. Release it slowly and the world becomes relaxed. Breathe it, if you want to stick around to see how this all ends.
The airfoil hypnotizes the sky and we ground-dwellers, with a cocky new take on gravity, call it flight. Aloft, we hold ourselves in a makeshift certainty where heavier-than-air flight is possible, our nerves as jumpy about being seated in the sky as they are when a nagging fear gets us to doubting. The cabin is pressurized, the air outside losing interest in the meaning of weight. Travelers impatient, we race ahead through time, out of this purgatory, rehearsing in our imaginations the getting on with it. But objects are always stationary to the geometry of their own locus. The X and the Y form a point on a plane where the pilot admits, through a crackling intercom, that we’re all hurtling to our destinies.
And she even knows the temperature on the ground for when we get there, but for now, the clouds make faces at us through the windows, and the turbulence flexes our wingtips. Intrepid goers and comers with our itineraries and phones, minds in airplane mode, we submit to continuity and see landing as a kind of taking off into an alternate, less valiant sort of sky. Back on earth we breathe each other’s air with a sense of autonomy, a sense of privacy that is groundless. Meeting and parting, crossing time zones, our connecting flight is the unshuttered air above, the midwife of all our doings. Terminals, they are called, and we keep passing through them.
Airport now in the rear view mirror, flying down the highway, who can ever see how this all ends? It’s all just beginning, is it not?