The plane window is too small for me to view much of the world outside, and what little my eyes can reach, they see through a semi-somniac haze. Everything is dim. The clouds, mercifully so few over the past week, have fallen from heaven to embrace the earth, as though to make up for the previous abundance of blue sky by getting as near the frozen ground as possible. This is no wispy fog, no stray tendrils of mist. Instead, all is enveloped in thick, ashy grey. It turns the world to mystery, to loss and melancholy, to a dampened, solitary realm of silence. Months spent pushing myself until the hope of rest seemed a fading dream of earlier times have left me numb, but in the silence of the clouds I begin to thaw.
My plane hasn’t yet left the tarmac. The ground crew looks lost, out in the cloud, stumbling silent through a dead sea, heartbeats overpowered by the throb of jet engines. I can’t hear the engines now – my mind is too muffled by the tired aching of my soul – but I can feel their pulse vibrate through the windowpane and into my forehead, pressed against the plastic. I close my eyes.
When I open them again, we are in the air. The airport, the flat expanse of Michigan city, the cloud-wrapped world drop away below me, and I lose sight of earth. The dense fog passes against my window, stained orange by the reflected light of twenty-two thousand streetlamps, polluting the clouds. The lights flashing on the tips of the aircraft’s wings send hazy beams of white cutting through the fog. I watch, half asleep. The numbness of exhaustion and sadness still weighs heavy on my eyelids.
And suddenly everything goes dark. It takes me a confused moment to realize that this is because we have reached the other side of the clouds. Out of reach of the reflected artificial light of the streetlamps, it is night. We break loose of the cloud haze, leave it behind, and I gasp. Above the impenetrable blanket of Michigan fog, I can see again, at last, my stars. My plane is sailing above a murky, phosphorescent sea, and there, directly across from my window, spangling the impossibly deep shadow of the sky, hangs the Big Dipper. The Valacirca. The sight of it calms the last numb achings of my heart and whispers me into sleep. It stills the throbbing of my soul, dries the burning tears I have not let myself shed, and tells me I am going home.