Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Flying away

I am following the girl westward, flying away to Australia on a crisp winter's day. She had to wake up before dawn in Saddle Grove to meet the friend who would take her to the airport. It is not easy to assess the heft of the main suitcase, with the personal effects and gifts to sustain her for the next eight months. But she goes bravely into the dark pre-dawn, to the bustling early morning airport. Then the text messages begin, "through security", "waiting to board".

Four hours or so later, "landed in MIA," and the mind's eye sees her with backpack, the iphone in hand, amid the lights and signs of Miami's airport shopping mile. The backpack doesn't weigh her down so much as allow her to keep her most valuable possessions close - the precious computer in which lies access to all the under-ocean work which will build to the PhD to be conferred by the University of Queensland Oceanographic Institute - and so she carries it lightly like a tortoise the home of his heart.


She has enough time to get the flight to LA, as scheduled for her by efficient agents in Oz. There's time to send text messages across the Atlantic to keep up to date with the visit to the venue for the brother's wedding. "Location is nice, with areas for ceremony, then cocktails, then dinner and dancing;" the sea changing from transparent grey to inky on that future evening, backdrop to the nuptials. "Flight is delayed," she sends a message back. "One hour delay."

"Will you make the next flight?" Yeah, there's enough time. "Flight Brisbane leaves near midnight."
"We're boarding now should arrive by half 8." This last message is around 5pm Trinidad time, 4pm in Miami.

Does she see the expanse of the  winter storm, the vortex bringing Arctic chill across the USA below, as the plane chases the sun off the California coast. Maybe she dozes, watches the small screen, reads the kindle. Maybe she completes the book, Pao, Kerry Young's story of a Chinese immigrant and the family he begets in Jamaica.

At 12.37 am in Trinidad, the message comes, "I'm in LAX now." That's 8.37pm in California. It's the message that I see at six in the morning. Useless now to respond, she must be on the flight from LA to Brisbane, 14 hours and ten minutes above the vast Pacific. So around 4am this morning in Saddle Grove, she was over 4,000 miles away, boarding the Qantas plane for the last leg of the journey that will locate her 10,000 miles from Saddle Grove.

The mind boggles to calculate the time zone of an object moving so far west that it crosses the International Dateline at which point you lose a day. At this instant (8am in Saddle Grove), she is almost into tomorrow, four hours into the journey with another ten hours to go.

Perhaps she will eat - something appetising and special for a trans-Pacific voyage - and then sleep long and deep enough, to wake refreshed on the other side of the world. When she wakes, it will be morning in Brisbane, balmy and bright, a hot summer's day. It will already be Friday January 10. The sun will be setting in Saddle Grove, 6pm on Thursday, 14 hours behind.

The messages will resume, by computer with the facilities of email and skype. I will adjust again to the 14 hour difference - night time here morning there; midday here she's probably going to sleep there - and my Saddle Grove clock will run parallel to the Australia east coast.

A new day near the east coast of Australia

But for the moment, all the forces of the earth and stars, the sun and universe, suspend a silver tube soaring south west over the unfathomable waterworld that dominates this planet. Today in suspension, we will cook and clean, and scurry about the business of getting and giving, the minutiae that add up to a human life on planet earth.

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