Siren songs

London by bus
London at night, from the top of a double-decker bus

I was woken at 6:37 a.m. by a nearby police siren. This wouldn’t seem so remarkable if I were still staying in London, or Aberystwyth, or Brooklyn, but I was home in my own bed in Plummer’s Hollow. Why had my unconscious mind decided to awaken me in this manner? I pondered it briefly, turned over and went back to sleep.

English harbour
English harbour (from the collection of Clive Hicks-Jenkins)

When the plane lifted off from the Birmingham airport Monday morning and flew west over the English and Welsh countryside, I got a brief view of fields and villages dwindling below before the clouds closed in. Picturesque, bucolic? You bet. I felt a pang of sorrow to be leaving my friends — old ones and newly made alike — and wondered when or if I’d ever visit the UK again. But many hours later, as I stared through the bus window at the lush and seemingly uninhabited forests of northeastern Pennsylvania, groggy as I was from almost two days without sleep and a recently contracted head cold, my spirits soared. This was exactly the way I used to feel years ago in Japan, whenever I’d escape the city and take a train into the mountains: giddiness, as if meeting an old flame, combined with a sense of deep satisfaction. Yes, Wales was green, too, but much of that green was pasture; the mostly bare, sheep-haunted hills struck me as stark and sad.

marionettes from the collection of Clive Hicks-Jenkins

I like cities, I really do. While killing time in Manhattan yesterday afternoon, I paid to enter the subway and just sit on the platform for a while, enjoying the ambient soundscape, eavesdropping and people-watching. Few people anywhere are as flamboyant and interesting as New Yorkers. The thunder of the trains approaching and receding in their dim burrows evoked the romance of travel as well as anything, I thought. It seemed an appropriate coda for the trip, which had begun with a visit to an old friend in Brooklyn on May 1.

Cemetery piano
Piano-shaped tombstone at Highgate Cemetery, London

When I finally dragged out of bed this morning and sat out on the porch with my coffee, though, I was gobsmacked. I’d gotten home late the previous night, so this was my first good look at the mountain, and man, did it ever change in the last two weeks! The oak leaves were just beginning to burst their buds when I left. Now the edge of the woods is once again a solid wall of green, the grass is high, and birds I haven’t heard in more than half a year were calling in the rain: yellow-billed cuckoo, red-eyed vireo, Baltimore oriole. I heard a scarlet tanager’s chit-bang call, followed a few seconds later by a cameo of the singer himself on a black walnut branch, an ache of red against the greenery. A hen turkey clucked nearby, presumably with chicks somewhere in tow. Huge success as the trip may have been, I’m glad it didn’t last any longer than it did. It’s good to be home.

For a different recollection of my trip, from one of my hosts, see “Boots” at twisted rib blog.

24 Replies to “Siren songs”

  1. What a beautiful reflection on home-coming, Dave.

    Welcome home. It was delightful to catch glimpses of your travels through the prism of the various bloggers who enjoyed your company along the way, and now I’m glad to see you safely home and online again.

  2. Yes indeed, a satisfyingly Dave-ish recollection and collection of impressions.
    I can well understand the glad-to-be-home feeling. The homing instinct is such a powerful thing in us human animals.

    1. It sure is. So good to have met you, Natalie, and seen your art! BTW, you have blanket permission to do what you want with any images you shot of me there.

  3. Good to see you safely back at Plummer’s Hollow Dave, though Jack thinks you should be back here throwing frisbee for him! Good too to get a little flavour of your time in London. It sounds as though you crammed in plenty of experiences. Now begins the long work of telling everyone about it all!

    1. Yes, I’ve just edited down the footage of the coracle outing and hope to post that tonight (tomorrow morning your time). Many more good things await. I’ve had to clear space on my hard drive to make room for all the video and audio I recorded.


    The balance of the universe has finally been restored.
    No longer does my net voyage end in being rather bored
    The posts from others in the group, the e-mails; all that stuff
    Were fine but next to Mountain Man, were clearly not enough
    To fill the void engendered when the man forsook the mount
    To travel in old England and send back his voyage recount.
    I ‘preciate the other posts which took up major slack.
    But now I’ll cheer and have a beer. All’s well, cause Bonta’s back.
    Hark! He did not emerge unscathed from hanging with Brit pack.
    Here, maybe only PBS employs the word ‘gobsmack”. :)


    Welcome home, Dave! Spring has officially sprung. I looked up your fun word, and here’s the link, for the academically challenged, of which I may be a party of one. Now I will officially shut my gob and sign off.

    1. Thanks, Joan! Great to be welcomed back with occasional verse.

      “Gobsmacked” is actually something I picked up in the blogosphere a while back — I’d forgotten that it was a Britishism. We kind of tend to forget our differences online, which makes meeting in the flesh such a delightful surprise: “Hey, everybody talks like Monty Python here!”

  5. Good to have a corporeal sense of the Dave sitting out there on the porch. Too brief a time over our pints of Coronation Street, but I’m happy we both made the trip to the rendezvous!

  6. Welcome back, Dave! Home is still the best place, so wonderful to come back to after being away. I’ve enjoyed reading here and there about your interesting travels and meetings with friends, and look forward to your own personal upcoming reports.

  7. Hey! Glad to see the Yellow Bedroom aka My Bedroom!

    Hope you have splendid reunion revels with the trees of Plummer’s Hollow… It was a grand thing to meet you Elsewhere and to see a little more about how Dave’s mind ticks.

  8. What a wonderful – and Dave-ish – homecoming post. The onset of spring is a great time to be away for a short while, if one wishes to be surprised by the scale and speed of transformation.

    It’s been interesting to read about the impressions you’ve had on others. Like you, I’d like to meet this Dave guy someday – he seems alright.

    Welcome home.

    1. Thanks, Parmanu. I certainly couldn’t have picked a better two weeks in the whole year from this kind of transformation. (Wouldn’t have been the case last year, when spring arrived so much earlier. It’s stayed cool here — the lilacs are still in full bloom!)

  9. I love the idea of paying for the subway just to sit on its platform. Seems like something out of Teju Cole’s Open City, which you’ve mentioned here.

    Welcome home.

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