The plane gently begins making its final descent. The pilot's calming words vibrate in my mind: "Hi folks. It's 44 degrees in New York, with clear skies for miles. It's simply gorgeous out tonight."
Since we're flying into LaGuardia, we glide north up the island of Manhattan. I can pin point the relative location of my office; it's easy to spot the Freedom Tower and Empire State Building; that dark rectangle must be Central Park. We cut east and the enormity of Brooklyn and Queens overwhelms my window view.
After spending the last two weeks in small cities (Denver, Boulder, and Portland) and even smaller towns (Fort Collins, McMinville) I am surprised at how huge, yet familiar, New York City is.
It's a place I've slowly come to resent. Its greyness and speed overshadow its diversity and opportunity.
I need less, and New York is more.
This city is not my home. But as the plane hangs over its boroughs, I look out at a sea of lights that seem to endlessly stretch over the curvature of the earth, and feel like I am returning.
I slightly lift my gaze. I see the lonely lights of what look like stars, but they hang too low in the sky. I realize they are other planes waiting for their turn to land. There must be a dozen of them. They hold people—pilots, flight attendants, families, children, fathers, and perhaps someone like me. They hold fuel—thousands of pounds of it. They hold coffee pots and flotation devices and lavatories. They hold the chance to experience the world.
And yet to me, they are simply little lights like the ones that sweep the earth and make up New York. I look higher and finally see stars, which look just like the planes, which look just like the city.
As we return to the runway, I wonder if there really is a difference between them all.