Cuties in Cudjoe

There’s something to be said about traveling while you’re young. I don’t know yet how it feels to be in a new place at sixty, or forty-five, or even thirty, but I do know that every trip feels like an adventure when you’re nineteen, and I hope it always feels that way. Travel should always be exciting. The world has so many treasures to offer to those who take the time to find them.

Hannah decided that when she graduated high school this spring, instead of a big party, she wanted a quiet trip down to the Florida Keys to visit our grandpa. So our amazing parents booked flights for Hannah and I, along with one of our best friends Lily, for a week-long trip in the Southernmost town. We didn’t bar-hop or party or mix drinks and oysters, but we did spend long nights under the stars, get lost beyond reason, and stuff our stomachs with tacos and pizza. We acted like kids quickly becoming adults, with all the awkwardness and giggles and wonder of three girls exploring on their own. Strangers were kind to us. Waiters were sentimental. Even our grandpa seemed joy-filled and choked-up to sing in the car with three out-of-tune young women who just couldn’t be happier in the sunshine.

We flooded everyone’s Instagram feeds with our little daily stories, but I couldn’t resist re-sharing the iPhone photos here, on my big public journal, as one last keepsake of our week in the islands.

-Rachel

 

Pink Sky

I remember trying to count the number of airports I’d visited by the time I got back from Asia last spring. A quick calculation added up over thirteen airports in four months. Then I started thinking about all the other places I’ve flown over the past nineteen years. New York, Seattle, Portland, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Orlando, Chicago… I must have taken over fifty flights in the past decade. Some of these have been with friends, some with family. But a startling majority of them have been alone. I have spent many dawns rising with the sun, many nights slinking across the coast, and many meals sitting at a gate with a cold piece of pizza in one hand and a boarding pass in another.

But it could never grow old. There is not a time when gliding across the planet at thirty thousand feet stops feeling magical.

THINK ABOUT IT.

You’re in a giant floating ship. Strapped in your seat with your elbow bumped against a smudged window, sharing space with strangers. Babies make noise when their ears pop and there’s a glow, even when the lights are dimmed, from the screens and phones and booklights. And on this fourth or sixteenth or thirty-seventh flight of yours, someone is looking out that window for the first time.

Maybe it’s a little boy, with salty pretzel fingers and a red cranberry juice rim around his lips, pointing at the airport tower shrinking beneath him. Or a seventeen-year-old girl, with her iPhone in hand, filling the camera roll with fifty seven photos and ignoring the book in her hand.

The sky is changing, as always. One moment it’s blue, overwhelming with its hundreds and hundreds of small, floating white clouds all around. And when the sun hits the clouds they sparkle, and you’re in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by an innumerable amount of islands. The plane becomes a ship, bobbing in the blue.

And some nights the sky is a swirling cotton candy machine. The clouds are pulled thin and sugared with pink around you. This time it’s a wade. With each mile you’re pulled through the color, cradled in the cotton. There’s nothing like an electric bubble gum sky. The jagged tips of mountains form cones and you want to scoop it all in your hands. But your fingers are cold against the window, nothing like the warmth outside. It’s a wade, but it’s a treat and you taste it all inside.

How many shows has the sky put on? When was its opening night and what were the first reviews? When man first stood audience beneath a tree, watching the light turn orange behind the leaves, did he dream of a front-row seat? Grandmothers have grown old rocking their chairs at night while children have stretched and grown and searched and named the stars. Clouds have taken the shapes of bears and tigers. They’ve attended afternoon tea parties from thirty thousand feet and given shade to hikers on blistering days. Boys and girls have fallen asleep under a moonlight canopy on a cool cement ceiling and stars have formed and died and sometimes moved. For millennia, men have explored and fought and changed and conquered, but no one has touched the sky.

Who was the first man to dream of floating in the clouds? Some children imagined they felt like cotton, light and squishy beneath their fingers. They made up stories about men in the moon and floating balls of cheese and chariots pulling the sunset. But, night after night, who stood among them? Who but God enjoyed their show?

After centuries of time and thousands of failed and successful experiments and lives, you’re here tonight. Brushing the clouds, scoping the earth. Two thousand years ago, men fell asleep with their chins facing the stars and right now you’re just beneath them. How many nights did God look down at sleeping man and know you’d be the one to see this? Billions in the grave and you, small person, in the sky.

THAT’S THE MAGIC OF FLYING.

It’s not just the sun glitter around you. It’s the fact that you are the person who gets to sit here and see this. The sky has been this beautiful since the beginning of time, but for thousands of years humans have missed out on the wonder that is flying in the clouds. You will die just like the others, but you have lived to see so much more of the world. You have felt the pressure of soaring. You have seen cities grow small and large and passed castles in the sky.

Your plane is cramped. A bald man is snoring and the pretzels are making your mouth water and the seat belt light is on. You’ve been through this a thousand times and yet, remember its newness. What you have here is a gift that men have dreamed and built and fought for.

A pink sky is just a sky. It’s a sunset high above us that casts warmth onto our earth but merely covers us for a moment.

But, in a plane, a pink sky is your entire world. An engulfing, sinking, burning experience that few have been allowed to see. Take this piece of the world and treasure it. You are an adventurer. You have found a new world that is yours for just a moment, and it is glittering and blue and pink and wide and high and good.

Enjoy the pink skies. Enjoy the long flights.

Enjoy the wonder that is flying in the clouds.

-Rachel

P.S. I made a little playlist of what I like to listen to while in a plane. Take a listen the next time you’re on a long flight, are feeling a strong urge of wanderlust, or just want a little piece of the magic that flying brings…

Now Offering: Skype Sessions With Rachel

DON’T YOU WISH WE COULD HANG OUT? Like, actually hang out, with chai lattes and bare toes and pieces of pie over a kitchen table. You could talk about your stories and the ideas you have and the characters that live inside your head. And I could tell you about my books and my experiences and tips I’ve picked up along the way. We’d laugh and probably make Taylor Swift references and get blueberries in our teeth. It’s all good.

Unfortunately, I’ve only had the chance to actually meet one or two blog readers, as this is a fairly big country/world and we don’t have all the time or money in the world. My Dream Factory Workshops have offered incredible opportunities for me to connect with blog readers on a personal level, giving me days to pour into them and immerse them with encouragement and storytelling advice. And while I do have two spots left for the Spring 2015 Workshop, I realize that not everyone can fly out to Virginia and spend a weekend with me. (Sad day)

THAT’S WHY I’VE DECIDED TO OFFER MINI SKYPE SESSIONS, for readers who would still like to have an opportunity to talk to me about writing/storytelling/life, but aren’t able to physically come see me in person.

What I’m offering is simple:

I WANT TO BE ABLE TO TALK, JUST YOU AND ME, WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS, FOR AN HOUR.

I want to hear about your stories and ideas and plans. I want you to ask me your questions, one after another, rambling and messy and spilling out too fast. I want to be able to relate my life to yours and share with you the things I’ve learned and give you just a little taste of what it’s like to be in a workshop. It’s like putting a piece of really great cake on a plate. Obviously, you want to eat the whole thing (who wouldn’t?), but sometimes just a few bites is still good enough.

I’M BASICALLY OFFERING A FEW BITES OF MYSELF TO YOU. Bad metaphor, I know, but that’s the best way I can think of to describe it. I don’t have all day, but I do have one hour, and I want to spend it with you.

Logistically, I’ve been thinking about how to make this happen. Skype seems like the logical portal for this magical soon-to-be-besties conversation to take place. It’s intimate, it’s face-to-face, and it can happen just about anywhere. So by signing up, you would be agreeing to Skype with me for one hour and talk about whatever you want to talk about. I’ll guide the conversation and ask questions/share thoughts, but this is your time to get out everything you’ve been wanting to spill for ages and share it with someone who really cares.

ANOTHER THING THAT IS IMPORTANT IS THAT THESE SKYPE SESSIONS BE AFFORDABLE. Part of the reason why we choose the slice over the cake is so that we can save some money. We know that we won’t get nearly as much goodness, but we’re still excited for the bits we’ll get to chew on and enjoy. So I want these sessions to be something that anyone could afford, whether you’re a middle-schooler saving her allowance dollars or a high school student shelling out a summer paycheck or just a really great kid with really great parents who want to support your writing ventures. Either way, I know that these dollars are important to you, and I want you to get as much as possible for as little as possible. That’s why I decided to settle on $75 for an hour-long conversation. It’s an investment, so you’ll be sure to plan ahead to soak up as much as you can from the conversation, but it’s also an easy thing to save up or splurge on.

I ONLY HAVE LIMITED AVAILABILITY and won’t be able to schedule very many sessions, so please email me at rachelcokerwrites(at)hotmail(dot)com as soon as possible if you’re interested! Put “Skype Sessions” in the subject line and just tell me a little bit about yourself + your availability. I’ll get back to you and we can set something else! Then we can count the days until we get to gush and spill and share. So much can happen in an hour. I’m excited about what things I’ll learn and what people I’ll meet in that time.

Please email me if you’re interested or have any questions! And even if you can’t have a virtual date with me, thanks for reading my blog and always being my supporter. I wish I could give each and every one of you a piece of pie. Seriously.

-Rachel