Pre-sunrise contrail turns back time

As a child, an airplane’s contrails mesmerized me. Laying in the grass, I’d stare up at the sky and track their formation — and eventually watch them dissipate. Indications that travel was taking place (at super high speeds), I’d pass hours guessing where everyone was going.

Fast forward a few years, I earned my commercial pilot’s license in my late twenties and flew right seat for a commuter airline. I helped transport passengers all over Florida, the Bahamas, San Juan, and the British Virgin Islands. I dogged thunderstorms, dealt with all types of passengers, and enjoyed many spectacular sunrises and sunsets. I learned how contrails were created — and created quite a few myself.

I no longer fly professionally. I have great memories (and stories) from those days. And I don’t have any regrets about hanging up my wings (well, not too many).

The other morning, just before sunrise, right as darkness was lifting from the night sky, the contrail featured in this post caught my eye. Initially, I kept walking. Then suddenly, I was compelled me to turn around — it was like an overwhelming feeling that I was about to miss out on something. When I stopped and took the contrail, its distancing creator, the dawn sky, and desert landscape into focus, I became Little Ray again. Yes, the same me, laying in the back yard — granted, with a bit more life experience under my belt — still wondering to myself, “where are y’all going so early?”

Published by

Ray J. Kelly

Writer, children's book author, and em-dash enthusiast, Ray lives in Palm Springs, CA.