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Above It All: Aerial photography of the Ozarks

Above It All: Aerial photography of the Ozarks

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Late afternoon sun casts shadows and outlines a mountain in the Ozarks north of Mulberry, Ark.



To see our homes and cities, our mountains and rivers from above as the birds of the air is a privilege we should never take for granted.


Whether your magic carpet is a Cessna 172, a vintage Ford Tri-Motor, a delta wing ultralight, or an American Airlines jet to DFW, look below when you are airborne and give thanks for the gift of flight. It has been just over one hundred years that people could reliably rise into the sky and return to earth safely. As one flight instructor I know used to say upon landing, “We’ve cheated death and gravity one more time.”

Flight is illuminating. Whether scouting favorite mountains for fall deer hunting or looking for a a new spot to launch your canoe on a whitewater river, aerial surveillance opens up new possibilities.

Flight can also be illuminating in other more sobering ways. We have paid a price for our motorized excursions into the skies. On what seems like a clear day from the ground, a layer of brown smudge, smog, can often be seen at 3,000 feet above our Ozark homes when you take to the air. Remembering flights from the 1960s with my dad as pilot, I know that layer of haze did not exist until the early 1970s, about the time our country began building great numbers of coal-powered electrical generating plants across the land. And our numbers of airplanes and automobiles mushroomed globally further contributing to the problem. One of the most significant changes astronauts noticed when they returned to space after the 1985 Challenger disaster was how dirty the earth’s atmosphere had become in just a few short years. Those who fly bear a burden of insight and should spread the word about how polluted our earth’s atmosphere is today. 

When flying over the Ozark Mountains it is hard not to see how similar the flat top mountains and canyon grottos of our home state are to the canyon country of Arizona and New Mexico. Both landforms were formed by the effects of erosion from wind and water upon layers of sedimentary rock deposited as ancient seabeds. Take away our deciduous forests in the Ozarks and the country would look much like that of the desert Southwest. Perhaps with global warming, northern Arkansas will come to resemble Arizona.

Albert Brumley was a gospel songwriter born in Spiro, Oklahoma in 1905. He studied as a young man at  E.M. Bartlett’s Hartford Music School in Hartford, Ark. Eventually he bought the School and later settled in Powell, Missouri writing and publishing hundreds of  popular gospel songs like Turn Your Radio On. One of his most recorded songs  is I'll Fly Away.  On some early morning flights I am reminded of that song, “ Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I'll fly away, To a home on God’s celestial shore, I'll fly away.” 

How appropriate it is that one of the promises of Scripture is reflected in song as one last flight to that home in heaven.


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