This week, the weather meandered through each ephemeral state: sun, clouds, rain, and wind. I have no fear of stagnation during Alaska’s summers; nostalgia is the only real danger. Winter will come soon enough. Over Ship Creek and Knik Arm, more sea than river, I rise up in my Cessna, to practice for a flight review. Last night’s rain is this morning’s low clouds. I level off at two thousand feet over the Point MacKenzie Correctional Farm. Other traffic is far below, and I lift each wing to be sure, before I start steep turns. First left, then right, keeping the horizon flat, as the plane turns 360 degrees around. My feet work the rudders, so the front and the back of the bird fly together. The plane shutters over my own wake. I wonder if it is cruel to fly over the farm, and Goose Creek Prison: to exercise so much freedom over those who have so little. I think about lives cut short by anger and violence, be it their own or others’. I think about potatoes, their taste and their labor: thousands of potatoes and ten thousand years of growing them, maybe more. I think about butchering a pig and its likeness to a human; so much so that we can stitch its organs into our bodies and go on living, half man, half pig. Maybe the real miracle is that we can live together at all, us angry pig-people, rolling in mud, despite our intelligence. I remember my grandfather laughing at my reluctance to eat Sophie, our pet-turned-ham, as a kid. I wing-wave goodbye to the farms, to the prisoners, and tell Air Traffic Control that I’m back inbound, having taken one more trip towards understanding.
Jessica Cherry, PhD is a scientist, writer, and commercial airplane pilot living in Anchorage and Fairbanks.