23 Apr 2010

How One Angry, Erupting Volcano Upset The World

That volcano in Iceland, with the unpronounceable name, might have been spectacular and may have been responsible for some remarkable sunsets but she sure has a lot to answer for. The nasty damage and the air space closures, not to mention the wasted TV viewing hours that accompanied this natural catastrophe. Looking at round the clock reportage of this volcano was mesmerising, like staring at a log fire that crackles and burns, except that as we watched, the volcanic ash spewed into the atmosphere and crippled the airways across Europe. She belched her ashen plume and the travellers of the world were stranded. The European skies slept while the airline passengers and those in the industry suffered sleepless nights.

As I sat glued to the BBC trying to work out the impossible — when flights would resume and how quickly the aviation world could return to normal – I realised something. I take travel for granted. I take the airplanes, the air traffic controllers, the ground staff, the flight crews, the meteorological experts and all those people who shuffle us around in the skies and care for our safety totally for granted. I assume that I will be able to travel when and where I want on any given day and that the person who will make those decisions will be me. How presumptuous I was and how Mother Nature has made fools of us all. I am dependent on the airlines to live the life that I have chosen. My family and friends are scattered around the world in both hemispheres and without the ‘friendly skies’ my life as I live it would have to change – choices that I don’t want to ever consider would have to be made.

As the volcano tires, the airways clear and the flights resume, the inevitable criticisms crank up. Stranded passengers are complaining of their long and expensive journeys. Experts and analysts are querying whether the airspace restrictions were too over zealous. Yes, these delays were tiresome, costly and extremely inconvenient.  Sadly, important and memorable occasions were missed that can never to be re-captured. Perhaps the aviation authorities were overly cautious and the financial implications will be graver than necessary. But during this hiatus, has anyone thought how lucky we are to have such mobility in the first place? Do we ever reflect on the miracle of these air movements? Thousands and thousands of aircraft in European skies transport passengers to their loved ones, their holiday destinations, their business meetings or their farms in Provence on a daily basis – most of the time safely, on schedule and without incident. From now on I am going to appreciate the privilege of travel.

I am going to reflect on my good fortune when I travel from one side of the world to the other. From now on I will feel forever indebted to those forefathers of aviation… because I never knew what I had until it was gone. xv

 

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58 Comments

Fashion, Art and other fancies

The volcano is telling the world to slow down before everything falls apart. Nature sends a sign of warning always but we as humans overlook it. Of course it is not nice to have cancelled flights; but we are not greater than nature. xx

Reply
mya

Never would I wish the danger nor the inconvenience on anyone. That said, I also think that it can do us good to endure times when we are not in control of a situation and the people in charge only have very limited powers. There are things that are bigger and greater than we, and yes, as you said, we should spend more tine being grateful when things go as planned.
Enjoyed the recounting of your experiences with the Paris authorities. It read like a movie;
as a matter of fact the movie "Charade" came to mind.

Reply
mondo cherry

We only got little snippets of footage and a couple of minutes of news time here in Brisbane about the volcano and the consequent disruptions. Typical 'other-side-of-the-world' reporting. I bet there were many difficult meetings involving airline bigwigs, airport staff etc about what to do about the whole situation. Erring on the side of caution was probably the best thing to do, but I bet the couple who had to marry over Skype weren't thrilled with the situation. I too took air travel for granted.
Clare x

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The Pink Poodle

Hi dear VIcki…WELL said…(Young girl!)….

You have as usual eloquently explained the obvious..
Well to me anyway..!!

We…especially living in AUST..soo far away…KIND OF EXPECT to be able to jump on a plane & be "THERE" almost immediately..

But NATURE can intervene…& I admire the stance taken re halting flights for safety..

I think LOTS of volcanoes can erupt over ASIA…sooner rather than later…so HEY that would HALT aussie travellers even more re touring to ASIAN destinations??

luckily I am just travelling within AUS at the minute…NO eruptions this end … I hope??.

xx andrea

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Susie

Well said Vicki – I concur entirely – how we take things for granted until the day Mother Nature intervenes to remind us how small in the scheme of things we really are….best wishes x

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Sarah

I have been thinking exactly the same, as I've sat here in New Zealand far away from friends and family in Europe. I've read my friends face book updates with a mixture of sympathy and amusement; many of them stranded and undertaking very convoluted journies to get home.

Mother Nature sure has reminded us of who is boss! And how we have got so used to air travel that we totally take it for granted. I don't think I would have chosen to live in NZ if it wasn't for air travel being available so I can see my family in the UK from time to time.

Reply
Julie

So well put! We too are thankful for air travel and could not live the life we live without it! My husband is a helicopter pilot and he did not think the airlines were being too cautious. :-)

Reply
Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design

It has been amazing to watch. Not personally affected I could be very philosophical about it all. But I was gob smacked when they showed a radar- like image of a normal day and all the little yellow dots (that joined together over Europe in a big blob) were aircraft. Truly amazing. And yes, we are lucky to be able to jump on a plane at any given time and in 3, 5, 12 or 24 hours later wake up in some foreign land.

Reply
B

Really well said – I couldn't agree with you more.

I have a flight scheduled for tomorrow and I was panicking earlier this week and frustrated by the realisation that there was absolutely nothing I could do.

We do take our mobility for granted and it was fascinating TV viewing for awhile!

Reply
Jojo

My son is an air traffic controller in Germany and he just kept wishing for work to resume. It was painful to report to the tower, day after day, with little to nothing to do but stare at the haze. The first 2-3 days of no fly they made repairs to the tarmac but once those were complete, there was nothing.

So glad that things are back to 100%!

Reply
Debra

Well stated and I couldn't agree more. Sort of a wake-up call, don't you think? We do take so much for granted, that I think we actually need these tests to bring us back to earth. Wonderful and timely post on this Earth Day.

Reply
Jacqueline

Dear Vicki,
You are so right. We do take everything for granted and, when something like this happens, everyone starts moaning ! I, for one, wouldn't like them to fly if there is ANY danger that it could cause an accident. Our daughter is in Bali at the moment and, I don't want her flying home, unless all's well. Mind you, Bali isn't a bad place to be sranded !
It has been awful and, disrupted so many things, not only the travellers but, bringing in fruit and vegetables and the consequences to the companies that supply them, the consequences to the airlines and other companies etc. etc….. but, I'm afraid that these things happen and we have to deal with it.
A great post, Vicki and I am in total agreement. XXXX

Reply
Sab

I agree Vicki – and how easy it is to take things for granted like today's air travel system, which didn't exist 150 years ago, or the ability for you to post your thoughts and for me to instantaneously reply so easily, which didn't exist 15 years ago..!

Reply
Nik from Brisbane

Vicki, my thoughts are also with the people whose livelihoods are disrupted for a time no-one can predict, the farmers around this volcano, the livestock who have breathed in this putrid air. I do feel for those who have plans disrupted and hope that they can patch their plans back together but how long will this affect the local folk?

Just a thought….

Reply
Beadboard UpCountry

You got it right Vicki, this was an amazing force of nature. Thank God the European authorities were cautionary and listened to the experts and no planes were lost…Maryanne xo

Reply
mary

Hi Vicki, Yes, definitely all of the things we take for granted need to be examined so that our small (and sometimes ungrateful) hearts can open and expand in gratitude. Thanks for this great post. Have a wonderful day!

Reply
Jan

For once my refusal to venture no further than this city seemed like the best idea !
I felt really bad for all those stranded by the situation though.
Hopefully normality has returned.

Reply
MrsLittleJeans

we take everything for granted…but this is part of our life now…glad it is dissipating and I was amazed that this was considered to be quite a minor eruption

I hope you are all out of the clouds…

xo

Reply
Velvet and Linen

When Steve and I went to Venice last week, we didn't even think that we might be unable to get back home. We were fortunate to get a flight out of Paris before the airport shut down. I too am counting my blessings!

xo
Brooke

Reply
backpack45

It's good to read some lucid comments about all this. I'm flabbergasted that some of the airline executives are being critical of cautionary closures.
Understandably people who have been inconvenienced, or even more poignantly have missed weddings, funerals, births, and reunions are upset, but the potential for disaster was too high to continue business as usual.
Congratulations to you for focusing on the things we could learn from this.

Reply
Susana Stevens

I was telling my family this very thing the day before yesterday – how has everyone lost sight of how lucky we are that we even live in such a time as this?! Thank you for putting it into print. We all need to be reminded of how fortunate we really are.

Reply
studioJudith

As I watched the local coverage of this angry volcano and those who were stranded, I often wondered if your Mr. FF
was trapped somewhere.

Jjjj

Reply
Marie

Amen Vicki! Well said…I agree with your thoughts and also, here in the US, they keep repeating how much money the airline industry lost. Well, it's not always about the money, is it?
-marie

Reply
Roses, Lace and Brocante

Oh Vicky! You're so right. Our expectations are all about me, me me – it's a 'me' world today and me/we are in control. But out of the blue, mother nature gives us such a wake up call amd reminder – and tells us we aren't in control all the time. Now, it's time to stop and reflect, smell the roses. Like you, my life involves two hemispheres. I live in New Zealand in the southern hemisphere and my daughter and my granddaughters live in the northern hemisphere in France. So there is a constant pull. I'm here, but I long to be there! I thank God everytime I arrive home safely after travelling through mother natures controlled airspace. However, since reading your article today, I feel much like you and have a new respect for MN and all who help us travel thru her zone. especially as I'm about to do it again soon.
Vicky, I have your first book and adore it. When I'm missing my family I often pick it up and I'm immediately transported to 'their' zone, which makes me feel better! Thank you. I'm off to buy French Essence today – I hope it's available in NZ already.
Love life, Shane

Reply
Down and Out Chic

sometimes it takes us being stranded (literally) for us to realize how lucky we all really are. it still blows my mind (pardon the pun) that this volcano is still going at it, but mother nature has had her say and until she says it's over, we wait.

Reply
anita

a good thought to ponder on earth day 2010..the earth in all its wild and beautiful glory can and still does reign supreme over man..one little volcanoe in iceland indeed. we have lots of family in iceland and we get the early morning "quake" calls and the eye witness accounts…please, please..dont wake your big brother!

Reply
The Red Velvet Shoe

It's a downside of human nature that we take things for granted…how thought provoking this post is. We should look at, not only air travel, but marriage, family, & friends and have the same realization…

~M.

Reply
Callie Grayson

traveling high in the sky from one place to another far away amazes me! Every time I fly to the UK over all that water, I truly am in awe!.

xx
callie

Reply
Brooke

I am totally hearing you Vicki – living in Hong Kong so far away from family and friends – we take for granted that if we need to be home in an instant, we can pretty much achieve that these days.

I was also reflecting on the amount of time and money we (Govts etc) put into fighting terrorism, when the environment is capable of causing just as much (if not more) destruction, and we have NO control. Makes you realise just how small we are in the big scheme of things, and how often we loose sight of this!

Reply
Karena

Vicki, we live such hectic crazy lives! It is time to slow down to connect to appreciate more and want less.

Happy Earth Day.

Karena
Art by Karena

Reply
Alexandra Rae

Very well said. Thank you for reminded us all that there are greater forces out there, like fate and Mother Nature. We should all reflect on how lucky we are to have all that we have: travel, medicine, media. These things are so easy to take for granted but give us life and connection.

Love your blog. I live vicariously through you as a huge francophile who wistfully searches apartments for rent in Paris. It's a fantasy for now, as I have three little kids, a husband and a business. But maybe some day for a month or two…

Visit my blog sometime. And thanks for the great post.

Reply
Millie

We all need to pay homage to those wonderful Wright Brothers! I was hoping you'd post your thoughts on this Vicki & your words were spot on. MOTH loved your comment on my Magic Mushies post today. He said it reminded him of that story about the woman who's first husband died of mushroom poisoning, her second husband died of mushroom poisoning & her third husband died of his injuries when he wouldn't eat the mushrooms!!
Millie ^_^

Reply
Josephine Tale Peddler

I am such a big scardey-cat with flying these days. If there was even the slightest chance the plane could come down with the volcano – I'm happy to miss the flight. I agree with some of the other posters about Mother Nature. In the long run – we all have to bow to her. Enjoy your weekend, Vicki. xx

Reply
Renee Finberg

it is true.
we take so much for granted.

this huge inconvenience,
it slows us down.
i know i need to slow down.
maybe we all need to slow down a bit and smell the roses along the way.
(sounds great in theory)

long ago that's exactly what a trip was….
'a journey'
that took a great deal of time.

where did all the 'time' go that there used to be plenty of?

xx

Reply
toni

We live in Dayton, home of the Wright Brothers. There is a full size model of the first airplane in the Wright Brothers historic park here. It is amazing to see you small it is. And you can actually see the bicycle chains that are part of its construction.

I think of that plane and thank the Wright Brothers every time I fly.

Reply
Julienne

Better safe than sorry! Whilst inconvenient to many and events were missed I think the airlines played it the right way. We should never take anything for granted though!!

Reply
vignette design

Every once in a while we get a reminder from Mother Nature or God that we are not in control! The volcano made me think "what if flights were cancelled indefinitely?" We would all have to adjust to a new or old way of travel.

Reply
Madame DeFarge

I did start to wonder where on earth I'd ever go on holiday if the volcano kept popping fumes. Yorkshire didn't seem so appealing for the rest of my life.

Reply
myfrenchawakening

Hi Vicki,
The 'cancelled'image says it all doesn't it. (Nice job by the way.)So much confusion and frustration and sorrow from natural disasters. Just goes to show we never know what's around the corner to upset the works! Pray for an easier time and keep our hopes high! Have a good day, Therese

Reply
Greet

Vicky,
You are so right! This Vulcano has made us think of what we have! Everything we are taking for granted isn't it!
Have a wonderful Sunday!
xx
Greet

Reply
SPLENDEROSA

Excellent post with excellent points, Vicki. Because we live on the Gulf Coast & Hurricane Katrina had happened the year before, our family vacation was impeded with the arrival of Hurricane Rita swooping down on Houston. My husband & I, + poodle had already decampted to Paris, awaiting the rest of my family. They couldn't leave Houston for days as the airport was shut down, then no flights. We sat in our hotel room watching CNN showing pictures of the freeways jammed, stalled traffic & cars as people tried to evacuate Houston, worrying abut our home & our family. Mother Nature brought everything to full stop again. Houston was spared for the most part that year. My kids et al,finally got to Napoli in time to join us at a rented villa. So it all turned out well.
Patience, acknowledgement of the unchangeable circumstances, and finding out what is important are all that matter. xx's

Reply
Sara Louise

You are so right, we definitely take to travel for granted. Instead of marveling at a volcanic eruption, western europe was panicking about flight cancellations. I have a flight from Marseille to Dublin in one week and even I've been sitting around with my fingers crossed! :-)

Reply
oiasantorini

As someone that lives literally on top of two active volcanos (one that everyone knows and one – the more dangerous one – that under the sea just off Oia) I am very aware of what these things can do. I live in the remnants of past eruptions… swim in between lava rocks the size of buildings… that were tossed like confetti by the volcano during it's last cabaret performance. The power is awe inspiring. All week I have heard stories from visitors that were stuck in countries across Europe… their holidays ruined. To top it all off there were stories of people trying to drive out of Germany…down to Italy to catch boats to Greece…. the car rental companies were trying to charge 2000 euro a day for their cars. Yes… that's Two Thousand Euro a Day. The volcano may be awesome when it decides it's fiesta time… but there is nothing like human greed to bring you back to reality.

Reply
Suze

The skies here were quiet for awhile. Not only commercial flights stopped but those of a more military bent stopped too…with the RAF and USAAF flying over and around on various practice runs…it seemed so surreal not to have those occasional bouts of speed overhead.
But now, to take the train to Paris it seems I must…

Reply
Anonymous

Eyjafjallajökull is the name off the volcano!

And believe me its was both scary and spectacular to watch like 30 kilometers away from my kitchen window. But we survived.

Reply

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