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The Miracle of the Everyday

Joy, Beauty, Rapture—it all comes at a price.

By Ryan FrawleyPublished 5 years ago 3 min read

I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in signs and omens. As though the future can be seen somehow in steaming entrails or the filth at the bottom of a cup. Nonsense. The universe is not a novelist, and it doesn’t foreshadow. Making stories is a human concern, not a cosmic one.

So when I passed the curled corpse of a bird on the way to a waiting airplane, I wasn’t worried. The blue light of the Azure Coast streamed in through the windows, and on the metal grate outside the glass, a starling lay dead. Drawn to the immensity of the bright Mediterranean sky, it mistook the glass for empty air and broke its frail neck. And a slow stream of sweating passengers trudged by on their way to a flight of their own. If anyone was worried, no one showed it. I don’t believe in that kind of thing.

But I do believe in magic.

I always take the window seat, and not just because I’m a huge fan of personal space. As the plane rolls slowly to the runway, I read a mediocre book, and waited. But when those big engines start to roar, the book goes down. There’s that sky again, paler and calmer than the sea that runs white fingers along the grassy edge of the runway itself. I crane my neck to peer through the awkwardly offset spiracle of the triple-paned window. And the plane begins to move, and the white painted lines on the runway streak past, faster and faster, chasing one another into the past, and the wings tremble in the suddenly raging air, and the sea and the runway fall away together as the plane lumbers into the sky.

These are the moments that approach something of the religious for me. The plane at a forty-five degree angle, half angel, half ape, its nose already in the air while its back wheels still race along the ground. It’s awe. It’s a miracle, no matter how many times a day it happens. This unimaginable weight of people and suitcases and metal and fuel springing into the air as though born for the sky.

But the miracle passes us by, worn with overuse. Once, I flew from Edmonton to Vancouver on a bright, clear day, and the endless beauty of the Rocky Mountains below was matched only by wonder at the passenger’s disinterest. Window shades drop; all that high-altitude sunlight makes it hard to play games on your phone. We don’t need mountains, we have pictures of them. They look better with an Instagram filter anyway, don’t they?

I’m not saying I’m any better. We need to ignore the miracles that are occurring every day, all around us. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here at all. Those of our ancestors who could spend an entire day in rapt wonder at the green of the trees ended up as wolf dung. The callous brutes survived, and prospered, and gave birth to us. Flying is one of the only times when I’m unable to ignore it, that’s all. A mundane thing I’ve never gotten used to, no matter how many times I see it.

Forfeit awe, and the universe becomes a marketplace. Unfortunately for us, though, the beauty and the wonder is heavily top-loaded. They don’t bring the bill until you’ve already had the meal. And we get old and tired, and our eyes thicken with the years, and we forget what children know. When I think of all the hospital vigils I probably have coming my way, the losses that will inevitably mount up, the horrible price of absence that is the inevitable cost of caring for anyone in this world, I dread the waiter approaching with that bill. It all has to be paid for, you know. The joy, the beauty, the rapture. It comes at a price. And this is not a European restaurant, either, where they’ll let you sit at your table all night without bothering you. The service here is American-style. The bill comes when it comes, not when you’re ready for it. If you’re ever ready for it.

The only way I’ve found so far to stave off the fear of that bill is to try to live in such a way that when it does come, it will have been worth it. It’s coming anyway. But if the feast is everything you hoped—well then, who cares what it cost? Hence the flights, the travel, the hunger for the bright places of the world. The starling that launches itself into the wide open sky.

Towers Temples Palaces: Essays From Europe


About the Creator

Ryan Frawley

Towers, Temples, Palaces: Essays From Europe out now!

Novelist, entomologist and cat owner. Ryan Frawley is the author of many articles and stories and one novel, Scar, available from online bookstores everywhere.


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    Ryan FrawleyWritten by Ryan Frawley

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