Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Vault of the Heavens

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. Genesis 1:6-8
I have always enjoyed being in the air, high above the ground, separated from the cares and concerns of life on the ground. I know that eventually I'll be back down there, amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but that's okay. I live for those moments when I can be aloft. Watching the clouds. Looking at the deep blue vault of the Heavens.

Flying down to Virginia on Saturday required my presence at the airport very early in the morning. Every day there is an 0600 flight down to Reagan. So I was up and about while most of the neighbors were still abed. While I am not a morning person per se, that's more about not wanting to get up early than having a problem with morning itself.

Many were the days back in my youth when I greeted the sun after a long night at work. My favorite mornings were those on Okinawa when I worked in the Radar Cal docks. Our shop was out on the flightline itself. Down below the F-4 Phantom parking ramp, close by a couple of C-130 hard stands. Just down the slope from us was the runway.

In the early, early mornings, before the sun got too hot, I would sit outside after a long night and watch the day begin. In those days I was a smoker, don't judge me, and I would take the opportunity to sit out back of the dock, light one up and watch the base awaken.

On some days I'd watch the first tanker head out to support the day's missions. This was after all  back in the bad old days, the days of the Cold War. Over the horizon to the West was the mass of mainland China. To the Northwest was North Korea, far to the North were the Russians. The Soviets as some called them, to us they were always the Russians.

But in the early morning light, all that had no meaning, no existence. For a few brief moments, everything was perfect. Then the phone would ring, day shift would show up and it was back to reality.

So while I don't like awakening too early, I still love the mornings.

Saturday we were gear up at 0600. The muted greens and browns of a wet spring morning were quickly swallowed by the overcast. Into the cotton fuzz we went. While that is somewhat disconcerting, as we trust to our pilots and their instruments, I always reason that one way or the other, we'll get through the cloud. So far we always have.

Once we got above the lower layer (I could see at least two more above us), the sunlit cloudscape was spread out before me. No towering storm clouds, just an unbroken layer of wool (for so it appeared).

That was pretty much the view for the first 45 minutes of the trip. Somewhere over Maryland the clouds began to thin and I could begin seeing bits and pieces of the landscape far below. Time to put the book away and watch the show.

Hhmm, those photos are fuzzier than I would like, but hopefully you get an impression, however vague, of how things looked as we made our approach into Reagan. After a week of unending drizzle and rain back home, it was good to see the sun.

Trip complete. A short and lovely trip, up into the sky which separates the waters.

Into the vault of the heavens.


  1. Having dined on a Cracker Barrel Country Boy Big Breakfast for supper, that second photo makes me think of a huge bowl of grits!

    1. That's as good a description as any. Now I'm hungry...

  2. Thanks. An enjoyable post and a potential for next week.

  3. I also love the sunrise. I seldom see one during the week as I am already at work
    and usually in one of the labs. But on weekends my favorite place is on my deck,
    coffee in hand and enjoying the sun coming up over the horizon. You brought back
    some great memories seeing the sun come up from the Cal Docks and watching an early
    flight take off especially the occasional Habu.

    I don't enjoy flying as much as I used to but only because the airports are such a
    tremendous hassle that it takes all joy out of the real experience of flying itself.

    Thought I would leave you with a poem I came across many years ago. If I remember
    correctly it was written by a Spitfire pilot during WW 2 and it's always stayed with me:

    I sweep the skies with fire and steel
    My highway is the cloud
    I swoop, I soar, aloft I wheel
    My engine laughing loud
    I fight with gleaming blades the wind
    That dares dispute my path
    I leave the howling storm behind
    I ride upon it's wrath.

    I laugh to see your tiny world
    Your toys of ships, your cars
    I rove an endless road unfurled
    Where the mile stones are the stars
    And far below, men wait and peer
    For what my coming brings
    I fill their quaking hearts with fear
    For death…is in my wings.

    1. Great poem. Spitfire pilots, gotta love 'em.

    2. The first line says it all - even for today!

    3. This poem has haunted me this week. I finally found the author.
      Gordon Boshell, written after watching Battle of Britain dogfights from the streets of London.
      Thanks for posting.

    4. Thanks for tracking that down Dave.

  4. Wonderful pictures. When I was paid by Delta as a mercenary to fly their heavy equipment (well bigger than my Phantom), one of the "funnest" things we'd do (when legal) was to slow to 250K just above an overcast. It gave the folks a real sense of speed and they loved it!
    Just now reading David McCullough's book about the Wright Brothers. An absolute must for aviation fans and those who love to fly. What an amazing story.

    1. Thanks for the book tip Dave.

      Just above the overcast, yeah we love that. A lot!

  5. Morning IS the best time of the day! :-)

    1. We used to experience mornings. As I recall it was just about when we got back to Ubon after a night of fire and steel.

    2. Now those mornings must have been special.

  6. Three days a week I depart the shop at 0340 or so. Watch the sunrise over the Wyoming prairie if it isn't storming. A peaceful time that I enjoy while the body says, "We should still be asleep".

    1. There is something magical in that.

      But yeah, "should still be asleep," I've heard that voice before.

  7. One of the true joys of helo flight. Punching through the overcast to find yourself...

    ...between layers. ;)


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