From a distance

“From a distance, the world looks blue and green and the snow-capped mountains white….
From a distance, you look like my friend, Even though we are at war…”

So the words of the (once) popular song go.

agriculture clouds countryside cropland
Photo by Ákos Szabó on

I have mixed feelings about traveling by air, sometimes I wish that there are options for flying and not water. There is an assurance in feeling your feet are on the ground, not floating in air or water. Long road distances are not appealing either nobody has discovered the alternative yet. There is a kind of vulnerability and surrender that one is left with when flying. When the plane gains speed on the runway, my mind hums, “no turning back”. take off feel so final so you surrender and get swallowed into the skies, as you stare at what you are leaving. When on the ground, the skies are a welcoming, tranquility. The clouds are a maze of soft and warm cotton wool seamlessly gliding in a rhythmical dance. I enjoy gazing at the clouds. More correct, I used to enjoy. There never no longer time to gaze at the skies these days. Call it adulthood! There is much fun when you are pre-adult and with less care of the world.

As a child, I spent hours staring into the skies, sitting or lying on the ground, I watched the skies as clouds danced and slithered to meet each other. There were different images as my imaginative mind could create. When lying on the ground staring at the skies, the clouds look calm and peaceful. From a distance, there is perfect harmony.  That is until you are up in the skies and you appreciate the bumps that the clouds cause. When flying clouds are no longer gorgeous, no matter how alluring they look from the ground. Instead, they are menacing.

white concrete house near body of water under white and blue cloudy sky
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

The most magical moments when flying is when you are almost landing, low enough to see the ground but high enough you enjoy the scenery. No matter which place you are landing in, if not a water mass looks beautiful. If during the night you, the bright glistening lights will greet you. The cities look very organized and peaceful. The green vegetation looks serene. Even refugee camps look organized and homely. From the skies, you do not see any unruffled feather, but when you land life changes!

The blaring horns, busy people running and moving in different directions, dry hungry land welcome you. There is organized chaos at best. The reality sinks in, that what looked perfect from a distance is not as perfect. On a recent trip, watching the enticing scenery  I realized, it is the same with life. From a distance, things look more put together and sometimes getting the ‘inside story’ serves as a reality-check moment.

This is not a pretense, but that not everyone will be privy to your inside reality while other times people prefer to keep up an appearance. In other cases, the short moments spent with people does not offer the chance to scratch beneath the surface. Children are a perfect example. When one says they slept like a child, many parents will roll eyes and wonder “which child?” Many children who seem very peaceful at one time but brats in another moment. Many children sleep very peacefully for few hours, and when they wake up, the whole household and in some cases neighborhood is treated to a screaming show.

As adults, we have learned more skills in hiding behind the curtains and letting the world see what we are happy to reveal. I enjoy listening to people’s stories, understanding the journeys they have undertaken in life. It is always revealing when I hear the behind-the-scenes stories. When looking in from outside, some individuals look quite settled and unruffled that it is easy to imagine that they have had everything handed in a silver platter. That is one of the reasons that I enjoy reading biographies, as this enables one to see the human part of a person. Some families, marriages, jobs look like the perfect fir yet when we hear the inside story, it is no longer bliss. It is like watching a finalized theatre play. The many hours put in place before the D-day are unknown to the audience, as actors effortlessly rehash their lines. The ‘shoes you walk in’ are unknown by many people who may think you are having it very easy. It is only when we peel the outer layer that bonds are formed and true friendships thrive. It is that moment that we appreciate that things are not always as they seem.

I still want to admire the scenes from a distance. I enjoy watching the sceneries and the beauty they represent from a distance. I want to receive the meal at the table in a nice restaurant without seeing the mess in the kitchen with sweaty cooks and oil spills. One sure way of losing one’s appetite is peeking into a restaurant kitchen! I give it to the restaurants with a semi-open kitchen. Last year while on a work trip I was in a guest house that left a lot to be desired. The place looks beautiful and well-kept from a distance and being a new facility where the paint has barely dried, it looked perfect. However, all was not well but what broke the camel’s back was entering the kitchen. Luckily we could move from the guest house to another facility. Some things are better left to be admired from a distance.

However, I want to be able to peel masks with those who are close to me. I want to know not just what makes one tick, but the tears behind the smile. It takes a lot of strength and trust to be vulnerable.  We are not perfect and feeling that undressing the masks will not be judged is life-giving. That is what makes life interesting!

Despite how things look from a distance, there is a story.


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