he sky from the ground; the ground from the sky. Thatís how things ought to be seen.

We still can see the sky. More of it than ever before, in fact. But if the Wayís cost us anything in payment for all itís given us, itís that feeling you get when you see the ground from the sky.

Iím not talking about seeing planets from space. What we donít have now are airplanes and spaceships, and the feeling of taking off and flying up inside a machine and looking out the window at the ground and seeing things from that perspective and in that perspective down below.

 


How often I lifted off from the airport at Zephyr I canít tell you. The world was Baraboo, and itís a world with a long wintry season in its settled hemisphere. Whatever gods or anything else there might be to swear by, I tell you I really miss that world.

I loved taking off from the airport after a light snow. Back then I wasnít much for spaceflight. It was before the Way for me and I was too bound to the world, too given to making a living. I flew a lot on Baraboo. From Zephyr to Antearch, to Misteldown or Bram or Kulos.

Some weeks I made two, often three trips, as many as eight hours in the sky, next to the window, staring out.

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The first snow of the year, always early in the fall, was only three or four inches deep. It covered fields and cities alike, pelted buildings and trees, whitewashed the world, and chilled us, making us more alert to the way of things and the way of our feelings. The plane you rode in would climb and youíd get the best look at about 15,000 feet. It was best just before sunset. The light was hitting the ground at a shallow angle then, just grazing the world with shadow to show you how the snow had just covered the ground, lightly sticking to the worldís contours; how the wind had blown across and marked it so that it was now a world of muted whites and browns and grays. The sky would color with sunset. If there were planets in the right position youíd have an evening star visible just before sunset, an icicle-silver point of light close to the horizon near the sun, almost as bright in the falling daylight as it would be at night.

The plane would climb up to 30- or 35,000 feet and level off. The clouds would come down, first just a mist of them streaking under the plane, bits and wisps of wintry breath.

The fog engulfs. The plane pulls up above the cloud layer and youíre staring down at the billows of them, piles of spun glass heaped beneath the path of your plane, too real, too substantial to let you believe that your plane ever passed through them.

In the fading red glare of the sunset thatís a thing to see, the colors on the clouds, as beautiful and unbelievable as anything the Way has given us.

In the Way you walk the concourse and feel strangeness and wonder

 

that gathers in the marrow of your bones. You watch the light flow by, marking forces among stars and worlds. Pantheon, you hear those songs Ö Worldsongs. Starsongs. Cometsongs and meteorsongs. All the sounds of the Universe. All the stuff thatís in you comes to the surface and you marvel at how much better it is than you thought it would be; because it always is. The Way gives, and it changes you, making you what you can be and should be. But it doesnít make you less than what you are or other than you must be. It canít. Only you yourself can do a thing like that.

We grow.

We step from the Way onto any world we can walk to Ė any world in the universe. We can live there, breathe the atmosphere, withstand the pressure and the gravity and the temperature and most of the forces. When itís time to leave we go back into the Way and walk to another world, guided to it by the worldsongs.

The part of me that never changes is the part that loves the sky, that longs to see the world from 15,000 feet. Sometimes I step out of the Way not onto the surface of a world but into its sky, thousands of feet above the ground. I fall free toward the world and for that time I let the wind be my worldsong. Those seconds stretch into minutes, as many minutes as I can manage before I have to slip back into the Way to keep from smashing into the ground. I fall and watch the sun and the stars, the ground rushing up at me with its fields and cities, lakes, streams and trees.

We grow but we grow from a seed. A seed is simple. In its way a seed is changeless.

Planetary Stories
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