The View from 30K

I recently flew from Boston to the West Coast to see my oldest and closest friend.

I don't fly often, but when I do, I try to get a a window seat. Yes, there's less legroom, and yes, I have to step over people if I want to use the restroom, but there's no other way to get the view from 30K, and the view from 30K is important to me.

On this particular trip, it was especially important. My friend was dying, an incalculable loss, and I hoped that the view of the world from on high would in some small way prepare me for our last visit.

Parents should never tell their children that one of them is their favorite, and so by extension I suppose friends should never tell their friends that, either. But I have cherished every minute of the nearly 50 years my friend and I have known each other - the bad jokes, the sage comments, the sayings I still quote, the warm hugs, the astonishing art, the brilliant writing, the times we've worked together, the conversations, the meals, and even the silences, which for me were never really silent because he has always been in my thoughts, always in my heart. The day we met was a lucky one, and I'm grateful for all the lucky days since then.

Most of the ride to our last goodbye was nondescript. It was hazy across much of America that day.

Even when the haze broke, the view from those brief stretches was often distorted. Because of the sudden urgency of this trip, I'd had to make my flight plans last-minute, and the only window seat left was just behind the wing. The visual distortion from the heat of the engines imparted a spooky, shimmering quality to the world.

When we reached Washington state, however, the air cleared, the sky opened up, and for a few minutes the Cascade Mountains fell sharply into view.

In the time I spent with my friend, his friends, and his family, and in the weeks since then, I have often hearkened back to those mountains: to their steadfastness, their durability, their near-imperviousness to the passage of time and the forces of man and nature.

On this particular flight, I could see that even the fierceness of a forest fire's raging would have only a transient effect, soon forgotten in the long, long life of a mountain.

Seeing these ancient structures helped me - just a little - to put into perspective what I knew was happening with my oldest, dearest friend, and what was yet to come. Their memory helps me still.

I am of an age where the course of the dying of my parent's generation has largely completed and the thinning of my peers is in full swing, a watermark of the mortality of those of us who still remain. I've found comfort at 30K.

The subtle mix of smoke, ash, and clouds as it caressed the nearby mountains, lapping at their sides, before it, too, made its way to the Pacific recalled descriptions I'd heard, as a child, of Heaven.

20 thoughts on “
The View from 30K

  1. Stunning photos combined with poignant reflections, a perfect reminder there’s so much to appreciate.

  2. David
    Such reflective words and photos capturing the essence of your trip’s journey….
    As all have said, I am so sorry for your loss. Yes, we are in the “age of losses” – and we must discover, with curiosity and opening to all possibilities, the “places of gains”.

  3. Such a powerful message and so moving. I grieve with you for the impending loss of your bestie; there is no preparation for that. How lucky you both are to have one another. May your memories sustain you, and may his memory be for a blessing.

  4. So Sorry for your loss David. I’m sure he was as enriched by your friendship as you were. Much love,
    From Kansas,
    Cynthia

  5. What beautiful writing of such sad and loving thoughts and what gorgeous pictures–I don’t know how you got them, but I know you have great skill as a photographer, so I could only observe, and learn, with admiration. I am sorry for the loss of your friend, and for all the losses of friends and family that our cohort is undergoing–but I found inspiration in this post.

    1. Thanks, Sue. I knew, before I wrote this, that mountains and the experience were connected, but it only came clear as the images and words came together in this piece. I seem, for all of my writing and picture-taking life, to have gravitated toward linking images and words, just as my friend did. Part of our connection.

  6. David –
    This is indeed a poignant and painful post. You have accurately captured the emotions of such a time. And set them in perspective against the endurance of the earth via those spectacular pictures of the mountains. One does not think of a time of death as a mountaintop experience but perhaps it is as it clears our vision to focus on what is most necessary to us. And one of those things is knowing that in spite of all change and tragedy, some things abide in order that we might not be swept away. Earth abides. May you find some comfort in knowing that. My thoughts and prayers accompany you.

  7. This cry from the heart is very moving. Your anguish and the expression of your feelings comes across movingly in this lovely piece. Losing a dear friend is a tragedy, and you have caught the poignancy and the pain beautifully. Healing thoughts to you from another friend.
    Davida

  8. Another great post. Love how you observe what most of us sort of gloss over as we hurry about our lives. Condolences on your best friend. A tough marker in time. All the best.

  9. Congratulations on this beautiful post, the spectacular views of the mountains and the thoughts they inspire. I am terribly sorry for the impending loss of your friend and all that you have meant to each other. Your writing in tribute to your personal relationship with this special man, and the meaning you derive from the 30K high journey to see him, moved me to tears.

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