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Alaskan Flight This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The definition of beautiful is “very pleasant to look at.” If I were to call Alaska beautiful, it would be the biggest understatement I have ever made. Spectacular, stunning, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, amazing, or gorgeous would not do it justice either. Mountains with thick, dirty snow bleeding down the sides etched their way into my mind altering the perspective of every memory that lay in their path. The right word is life-changing.

Talkeetna, Alaska, is the smallest, most unassuming town I've ever been in. There is nothing really special about it – there are shacks for houses, and the grocery store, post office, and doctor are all in the same building – but people traverse the gravel streets with smiles stretching from ear to ear, despite their economic struggles. A kind of magic hangs over the town; everyone seems to share an amazing secret that no one dares tell. You can see it in the twinkle of their eyes and the way their chins point toward the sky. They seem content with how little they have. Something about them made me feel like everything was going to be all right.

I watched their carefree faces as our car rumbled by on the way to the airport. We were about to take a flight to a glacier right next to the tallest mountain in North America and, of course, we were late. The car pulled into the parking lot and we sprinted inside. Five other people and the pilot greeted us. The pilot was a middle-aged man, slightly balding, with beady eyes that had the look of a man rich with experience. He gave a small presentation, and before I knew it, I was crammed into a small plane, headphones protecting my ears, waiting to take off. A quiet voice buzzed in my ear and the plane came to life with a deafening rumble that wiped my head of all thoughts. I was thrown against my seat as we gathered speed and lost contact with the ground. We soared blindly into an unknown world.

It wasn't exactly the ideal day for a flight. Heavy gray clouds loomed over the mountains and threatened a downpour at any second. But the plane soared up and up, undeterred by the threatening clouds ahead, and soon they swallowed us whole. A swirl of gray painted my window and left the inside of the plane dark and depressing. But as the clouds spit us out the other side, my eyes widened. The sky was a brilliant blue with streaks of white across it.

The dark clouds were below us now, creating the illusion of a blanket of snow covering the world. Small tips of mountains peeked through, looking tiny and insignificant. I tried to wrap my head around the fact that they were mountains, mountains, but I was perceiving them as insignificant. The vast sky stretched before me, a never-ending expanse of baby blue.

The mountains were gorgeous. Patches of dirty brown broke through the white sheet of snow and ice. Glaciers trickled down the sides, like roads going down a hill. The sun danced on the snow and feathery clouds floated around every tip, painting a picture that would forever sit in my head. The pilot swerved in and out of the jagged giants effortlessly as I tried to comprehend the vastness.

Then, out of nowhere, we turned a corner and were face to face with Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America. It stretched toward the heavens, towering over everything around it and capturing the attention of every eye. It was hard to get a sense of perspective when my finger could block the entire mountain from sight. So I looked for some sense of scale and found a tree. Then as we got closer, I realized that it was a forest.

We slowly twirled down toward a lake of whiteness that was our landing strip. I didn't see anything that indicated a runway, just uninterrupted snow. But nevertheless, we skidded to a halt on the solid glacier. The pilot cut the engine and then all was silent. It was a silence that I had never experienced before, wet and sticky, seeping through my mind and calming my senses. I would never have guessed that there were booming, loud cities not far away. The world was nothing but mountains and open sky, the ground nowhere to be seen.

I stepped out of the plane and panned the area. Crystallized snow spread in front of me and stretched toward the mountains, miles and miles away. I felt tiny, like a forgotten particle of dust in a mansion. Less than a week before, I had felt sorry for myself because of all the obstacles in my unfair life. Why had my problems felt so big then? Every insignificant detail of my life was nothing laid at the feet of this behemoth. I suddenly realized that the world was much bigger than my problems. There were more important problems out there than my pathetic drama. I should be happy with what I had while I had it.

My time was up. I put one foot on the plane steps, took one last sweeping look, and smiled.

The flight back was enjoyable. I had gotten over the shock and had time to let it all soak in. I wanted to catch every detail and lock it up forever in my memory, blocked from the destructive winds of time. But all too soon, I felt the plane descending, the ugly clouds closing in on us. I took one last glimpse and was thrown into the ugly world I knew so well.

The small plane hit the pavement and jolted, rattling me from my dream. We stepped onto solid ground and I immediately missed my fairy-tale land and its silence. I slowly trudged to the car, feeling nostalgic already, and looked up at the sky. I knew my pocket of happiness would always be there, even if I couldn't see it. My silly human problems could never compare to the huge world out there. Someone passed me in the street and smiled that twinkly-eyed smile. My eyes twinkled back and I returned the grin, feeling utterly content.

My trip to Alaska opened my eyes for the very first time and inspired my dream to become a photographer. I finally saw how beautiful the world is and I want to share it with everyone. Alaska has left a handprint on my heart.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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