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.
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.
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.
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.