Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Plan

Last week I opened the front door, and there on the porch was one large maple leaf, one of those platter-sized babies, the first of thousands to come. This morning I opened the door, and a half dozen brown tinged maple leaves were there. I walked out to water the plants in the yard, and everywhere I went I ran into spider webs.

So that’s it. Autumn is here. Oh, we’ll have some more good weather – I trust we will, based on past experience – but summer has definitely kicked its flip flops into the back of the closet and headed for the Southern Hemisphere.

School has started, and we’re all geared up for the bustle of fall, the stresses of winter, and the relief of spring. This is my 60th circuit around the seasons.

Yup, I will turn 60 next May. A couple of my dearest pals, who, all evidence suggests, are complete maniacs, have decided that I should go to England and Europe for my 60th birthday. The hardest part of a trip like that would be getting me on the airplane. To say that I have a fear of flying is an understatement.

The idea of this adventure has left me gobsmacked, as the British say. In my lifetime I have traveled up and down the West Coast of the United States many times. The only foreign country I’ve been to is Canada. One time the boys and I took the Empire Builder across the Country to visit relatives in Ohio, and took the Super Chief back to visit relatives in New Mexico, and I got to see some of the country east of here on that trip. But that’s about it for my travels.

I think about Jane Austen a lot: she lived a rather small life. She didn’t travel far or have exciting adventures, but she studied the people around her and in her spare time sat down and wrote a few of the great classic novels of English literature. Read a Jane Austen novel and you will meet and laugh at people you know and have put up with, although these fictional characters are set 200 years ago in England. Jane did all right for someone who didn’t see the big wide world.

I do not expect to produce any great literature, but I figure I can write a column every couple of weeks without having to go far from home. I am content.

So I did not dream of traveling around the world. A few weeks ago I decided, with a sigh, that I was never going to make it to Paris in my lifetime. I didn’t regret it; I am happy looking at pictures and hearing about it from people who have been there.

But now, these two friends – did I mention they are maniacs? – are telling me, make your plans and pack your bags. You’re going.

Going to see the Magna Carta, and Hadrian’s Wall, and Stonehenge. Going to Kent, where the Litchfields came from. Going to London, Canterbury, and Bury St. Edmond, and Wales and Scotland. And Paris.

Is this really going to happen next spring? Right now the leaves are falling, and this winter when the wind storms come I’ll be studying Trip to Europe 101, what to pack, how to get a Eurail Pass, how to say, “please,” and “thank you,” in several languages, wondering what it will be like, how it will change the way I see the world, and if my friends and I will make it through the trip still friends. You never know.

You never know what will happen in the world between now and next May. A lot can happen in nine months. Ask any mother.

I think I’ll have an early 60th birthday party before we go. You’re all invited. I’ll get back to you with details. Meanwhile, it’s autumn. The war goes on. Winter will come, and then spring, and then, apparently, I’m going to have get on a damn airplane. That’s the plan, anyway.

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