Flying over I-40 W. With Orange Sticks and Ashes.

6:15 a.m. But for two rows of ambient lights lining the aisle, the cabin is dark and quiet.

A few minutes earlier, the flight attendant completes her routine: “You are seated in the emergency-exit row of this aircraft. Are you ready, willing and able to open the exit hatch if needed?” It’s the right of passage for extra legroom. 11 of us mumble “yes.”

She’s Asian. Japanese, actually. I see two of her colleagues down the aisle, Japanese too.  Kermit the frog on Sesame Street: Today, I’m going to tell you about the word ‘Same.’ 3 flight attendants. All female. All Asian. All Japanese. All ~ 5’5″. Blue skirts. Dark navy pumps. Silver wings on lapel. Hair down, long, dark. Red lipstick applied just so, no coloring outside the lines. Robert Palmer’s hits come flashing in Simply Irresistible and Addicted to Love. Ladies, cloned, playing guitars, dancing.

You can’t sleep, you can’t eat
There’s no doubt, you’re in deep
Your throat is tight, you can’t breathe

I dip my hand in my pocket to check my boarding pass. Dallas. Yes. Tokyo. No.

I steal a glance at my seat mate. There’s a soft cover book on his lap:  “Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program” by J. Dwight Pentecost. He’s attentive. She walks through the FAA regulatory requirements…”Life vests are located beneath, or between your seats. Remove the vest from the pouch by pulling on the tab. Place the vest over your head, and fasten the straps to the front of the vest. Adjust the straps loosely around your waist. As you leave the aircraft, inflate the vest by pulling down on the red tabs, or manually inflate by blowing into the tubes on either side…”

His finger runs down the multi-fold laminated instructional card on emergency evacuations, his lips twitching as he follows along. No, no, not twitching, He’s Praying. JesusHe closes his eyes, both hands grip the arm rests.

The wheels on the 92 ton Airbus A321S roll forward, the engines roar, the skin and body of this metal bird shudder, and we race down the runway.  Nepo’s beat-of-a-thousand wings. Flap bird. Flap.

I turn to my e-reader and log in to the inflight wireless.

“20 killed by gunman in Las Vegas.”

25 minutes later there is an update.

“50 killed by gunman in Las Vegas.”

My seat mate is now at rest, sleeping peacefully, his hands grip his book, the letters “Tracing God’s…Program” are visible.

I close my iPad, and as I do so, I see a bright orange square on the partition in front of me. The cabin is blanketed in darkness but for this 4″x 5″ square of vivid Orange. I look behind me and there’s one window open. The sunrise beams in. I stare at this square shape of orange in front of me, a square of light illuminating the darkness. The scene triggers the opening lines of Mary Oliver’s “Morning Poem.

“Every morning the world is created. Under the orange sticks of the sun the heaped ashes of the night turn into leaves again…”

I see the orange sticks.

I see the heaped ashes of the night.

But what’s the Program?

What Program could this possibly be?



  1. How often this question is being posed these days…magical sunrises, horrific days

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have an enormous silence within me. I don’t know what to do with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great writing Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. the light always finds a way to shine through

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I gaze up at the firmament every morning in the dark, pre-dawn hours and cling to the promise of the stars I see there. There is beauty in the world that persists, despite the horrors being visited upon us (almost) daily, it seems. Must keep the faith and continue to believe…in our ability to triumph over adversity and small mindedness, in our capacity to rebound, in our potential to do better moving forward. I can’t bear the alternative….

    Liked by 2 people

  6. P.S. Beautiful writing pal…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lori. You thought reminds me of this passage I came across:

      What made Wordsworth’s poems a medicine for my state of mind, was that they expressed, not mere outward beauty, but states of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling, under the excitement of beauty. They seemed to be the very culture of the feelings, which I was in quest of. In them I seemed to draw from a source of inward joy, of sympathetic and imaginative pleasure, which could be shared in by all human beings; which had no connexion with struggle or imperfection, but would be made richer by every improvement in the physical or social condition of mankind. From them I seemed to learn what would be the perennial sources of happiness, when all the greater evils of life shall have been removed… I needed to be made to feel that there was real, permanent happiness in tranquil contemplation. Wordsworth taught me this…

      ~ John Stuart Mill, Autobiography John Stuart Mill: Top Biography (谷月社, Nov 18, 2015)


  7. I have been wondering about the Program too during seven flights in the last couple of weeks. Still no answers. Brilliant writing, DK.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The program is called Life. Staring all those around you. Extras include people in other cities, other countries, other rooms. All in Cinematic Color. What’s the plot? There isn’t one. The director thinks life is so messed up and so fascinating that the actors create the dialogue as they go on. And the end of the story? It hasn’t been written yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes Claudia. Yes. Your thought so reminds me of:

      “When I woke up this morning, I didn’t have a face. Just a mask of pain. I wanted to be more than a mother, I wanted to be a friend. But the director calls us to order. You don’t get to pick the role.”

      ~ Anna Kamienska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook, trans. Clare Cavanagh from Poetry Magazine, May 1, 2012 (via Poetry Foundatio

      Liked by 1 person

  9. While Americans still believe that the Second Amendment is more important than human lives, then the program isn’t changing anytime soon. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You are wonderful, David Kanigan…. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’d prefer “Every morning the day is created.” It gives one a bit more hope….although I don’t think I would win a poetic argument with Mary Oliver… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh my

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So love your writing (yes, I am going through my bazillion emails and found this that I missed.)
    I wish I had half your discipline, half your observational skills and half your talent…
    It does make me look at what I allow to come into my life and steal time (and there is some wasting going on, I can tell you!!)

    Liked by 1 person

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