I used to live in the skies.
I spent my days flying through the air, rocketing through the great blue. The thrill of flying is something I miss - the feeling of accelerating into the heavens, pure G force crushing my lungs, pinning me against my seat. I had godlike control and freedom while in that aircraft, and I thought it would take me everywhere through life. I had never imagined life without it.
Then one day, while soaring above the earth, I felt the engine sputter. “Impossible,” I thought. My heart stopped as the frame shuddered again but this time fell silent as the aircraft lost power and then altitude, its nose dipping toward the earth. My view of endless blue became blurred green and brown as I plummeted toward the ground like a stone.
That fall felt like hours. It wasn’t until metal met soft, dark earth that I knew it was real. I kicked open the cockpit and stumbled out of the now smoking vessel, its frame an unrecognizable crumpled mess of steel. I pried my helmet off of my sweaty head, panting and staring incredulously at the wreckage that was my life. “How could this happen to me?” I thought.
Those first nights on the ground were terrifying. I woke up to a foreign inky sky, panic gripping my chest, not remembering where I was or what had happened. The sounds and the smells of the forest were unrecognizable to me. The air felt different, the skin on my own body felt different. I was on earth, but it was all so unfamiliar that it could have been another planet.
I stumbled about the jungle blankly, moving just to move, breathing only because it was automatic. I didn’t know myself or life out of the skies. I was a pilot, born to fly, destined to fly forever. But the feeling of sand and soil between my toes told me otherwise.
The hair on my head and face grew in muddy tangles as I aged in that forest. I roamed the jungle during the days finding food and water, but when the sun grew low in the sky I always came back to the crash site, the only familiar thing in this new world.
I tried to be strong, but the sight of my grounded, beloved vessel brought such sorrow in my heart that tears of grief streamed down my cheeks, carving lines through my dirt-stained face. This is the one who had carried me through life, the most loyal companion I’d ever had. I would have given anything for another ride - just one more ride.
The days turned to months, and months to years, until something unexpected happened, something I thought would have been impossible: I stopped thinking about flying. I stopped surviving The Crash and started living my life right here on the surface of the blue planet.
The once-indestructible frame of my aircraft was home again, but in a different way. It had become part of the jungle, its shiny metal now porous and soft with the gentle wear of the showers and humid mists. Leafy vines crept up and around the metallic fuselage as if it were another friendly tree trunk. Delicate white and purple blossoms dripped off the wings and onto the forest floor. The vessel that had once carried me through the skies now sheltered me on the ground.
I built a home in that jungle. Life on the ground was slower and quieter, but for the first time in my life, I could hear the beating of my own heart. I became one with nature and one with my nature, and I would soon come to bless the day I fell out of the sky. It was in the quiet slowness of my new earth life, in the muck with the grubs and in the canopies with the birds that I found everything I didn’t know I was searching for: myself.
I’ve lived 9 years in this jungle now, and I am home.