Before me in this cabin: people I can't see, cushioned upright. Only an occasional word from the flight attendant, a watch alarm sounding its tiny chime reminds me they are here, clutching sections from their lives in carry-on cases. As we do what is expected of us - adhere to the pattern of careers, parenthood; deal with the schools, the waiting rooms, the transit systems - bells, indeed, toll for us all. In rare moments we break, we meet the self, stranded in a crevice near our lives. Up here, the desert hills are a fissured beach the tide has left. Distance smooths the swells of land, low places wind into the shallow crevices. Our lives traverse them like water finding sea level: in the arid course, we continue the route.