Last time I left off with my train journey to points east. After visiting my cousin in Washington, D.C., I went on to see more friends.
In Philadelphia, my friend, Carolyn, picked me up at the station and ushered me to The Dandelion, an English-style pub, where we met our friend, Kim, for afternoon tea. We sat high above 18th Street in the tea room with mismatched antique tables and chairs. An ornate fireplace stood at the side. Our table next to the dormer window allowed us to see down into the 21st Century below if we ever wanted to.
The waitress brought us a pot of Earl Grey and a three-tiered plate piled with savories and sweets. We sat and caught up with everybody’s children and talked about old times over cucumber sandwiches and biscuits served with clotted cream, lemon curd.
After saying goodbye to Kim, I went with Carolyn to my home for the next three days, her charming row house with a sunny breakfast nook that looks into her backyard full of flowers and pots of tomatoes and chard.
Carolyn and Earl belong to a community garden in an empty lot a few doors down. There, they have raised beds with tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs.
We walked down and found a neighbor harvesting cilantro, pulling up whole plants because it was going to seed. We harvested some kale seeds, and she put some in a tiny jar for me to carry home.
On Sunday, I went to the Quaker meeting with Carolyn. It was calming and contemplative. I asked if I could knit during the meeting, and she said I could as long as I didn’t make any noise doing it. I tried to knit quietly, and afterward, Carolyn told me she didn’t hear me clicking the needles at all.
We were in a historic Friends’ Meeting House, but in a new part of the building to take advantage of the air conditioning. Later, she showed me the old meeting room, dark wooden pews on a floor canted to the center so everyone could see. Above on three sides were balconies. I took a moment to breathe in the history.
The train home took only about 18 hours, following a more northern route — straight northwest. The seats were even roomier and, best of all, it was a double decker. The view was spectacular, and I spent a good bit of the daylight hours in the lounge car, which had even more expansive picture windows, plus curved glass up at the top.
Capitol Limited all the way! This one took us through mountains in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, along a river that was as muddy as the Ohio was clear. This train went through Elkhart, Ind., and there were a lot of people traveling with me who wore the plain clothes of traditional Anabaptist sects.
At one point, the conversation (in Pennsylvania Dutch or maybe a Swiss dialect that is common in Indiana) grew quite raucous. I was straining to see if I could recognize any words close to my high school German, but I didn’t, until packed in the middle of a long story a young man was telling was the sudden English phrase, “I mean, seriously?”
People were having fun! An older man asked me if I would move over a couple seats so he and his wife could join in the banter. Of course! At one of the cafe tables, four young women played various games — one that looked a little like a three-dimensional Tetris, colored blocks in various configurations laid out on the table.
It was another overnight ride, and in the morning, we hit Elkhart, and then the scenery gradually began to get more urban.
We passed an oil refinery in Indiana, with a smokestack flame burning off the extra gas. We looked down into occasional churchyards and then, suddenly, Lake Michigan glittering out the window.
We were almost home. We pulled into Union Station right on time, and I gathered my bags and walked out into the Great Hall, tugging my little suitcase on wheels behind me. My grand adventure ended just where it started.
Traverse beauty; navigate peace; blessed be.