Letter from a Vagabond 15 November 2018 Home again…



There is a little round table in a corner of the guest house at Larry and Alicia’s, where I sit with my laptop and stare out, with sweeping, unobstructed views to the Catskills, shrouded all day by grey clouds, scudding busily across the sky, portending a winter storm which has been predicted.  Here, I gather my thoughts and think.

There was a young man on the crossing, Ed, thirty, an admissions officer at a business school in England, near Luton, now wandering New York as a solo visitor.  He is a very nice young man and I hope he is having the best of times.  Before we parted, we exchanged emails and I will write him next week to see how he liked his time in New York City.

On the flight back to the UK, he will be with two other people from our dining table, a couple who spend much of the year on their boat in Holland and when the weather gets rougher, such as now, they travel other places.  Four others at our dinner table of eight were crossing on the Queen Mary 2 and immediately returning to Southampton on the next crossing.

At the last night, we all discussed how quickly the week had gone.  Was it possible for a week of doing nothing to go so quickly? It did.

The seas were rough for the first three days, confining many to their cabins and cancelling some performances as performers were seasick. It did not affect me too much.  One gentleman told of almost being tossed from bed one evening but I seemed to have slept through that night, as I did all nights on the ship, the best rest I have had in years, sweet and dreamless.

Now I am in America again, embracing the vagabond life.  From now until after Thanksgiving, I will be here at Larry and Alicia’s house on the Keene Farm, a mile or two down the road from their house, then to Baltimore, back here for a doctor’s appointment and then off to help out at Edgartown Books for a bit, a few meetings in New York, then to Boston for Christmas itself and then we’ll see where next.

Every time I entered a church or abbey in Europe I lit a candle to reach out to God and the universe to help me see what the next phase of my life might be.

The journey I took was not a vacation in the sense of going off and seeing things for the sake of seeing things.  It was a journey to touch my soul and history, which I certainly did.

My time in Verdun will live with me until I die; it was as affecting as my friend David suggested it might be.

300,000 dead; 700,000 wounded in a battle that changed nothing.  That sobered me for the rest of my trip as did the trip to Pont du Hoc and Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery.  At Pont du Hoc, I had trouble not breaking down in sobs at the thought of the bravery of the Rangers who took the first sliver of Europe back from the Nazi war machine.

There was solace in walking the windswept streets of the walled city of St. Malo, destroyed in WWII because, erroneously, the Allies had been told it was armed to the teeth and a munitions depot.  There were only a hundred Germans there and no ammunition.  The rebuilding officially ended in the 1970’s when the spire was replaced on the Cathedral.

It was made special by the attentiveness of the staff at my hotel and their generosity in caring for me from the moment I entered until the second I left, and I would return to the Hotel de France et Chateaubriand in a heartbeat.

In Wiesbaden, I ate my way through town with my friends Lionel and Pierre, not missing a spot.  The scrambled eggs at Maldinger’s are sublime; not to be missed and a reason to visit.

Plus, I had time with Erik, met in Bayeux, who spends parts of every year in Wiesbaden at their family home.  He’s the one who frets about America.  And I could empathize.

When young Ed and I were talking at dinner one night, I quoted something I had written in my journal.  “A tourist seeks, a traveler finds.”

This last trip, I was a traveler, not a tourist.  And I found many things, inside and out.  Surrounded by a continent full of testaments to the wars men have created, I have found a deeper support for feminism.

My love for home was strengthened even as I grew comfortable with being away, touched often by the kindness of strangers as I moved through across the European countryside and doing my best to be kind in return.

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