A timeless afternoon at 35,000 feet altitude
Somewhere between Amsterdam and New England
Nine weeks later, home is on the way. It is light out, and I am sitting in the first row of this old 757 flying west across the Atlantic Ocean. I’m taking a break from a tear-jerking love and death movie, P.S. I Love You, and mulling over the sudden changes in landscape from the India-Afghanistan-India-Europe trek, a tour which will land me in springtime Leverett Massachusetts in another three or four hours. Life moves fast these days—unnaturally so, and some part of body and mind take their own time to catch up. There’s often a funny quality of surreal netherworldliness in the first days of our sudden presence in a realm previously hidden by extreme distance and inaccessibility. Here we go.
We landed at Amsterdam’s Schippol Airport around 7 a.m., and with the next flight at 1 p.m. decided to take the metro into town for a grey morning’s amble in my namesake town, A’dam (that abbreviation is everywhere around Amsterdam, making me feel oddly at home). Tonight and tomorrow the Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day—everywhere town was festive with orange balloons and streamers (the House of Orange, don’t you know), though mostly the town was slowly rising at 8 a.m. The friendly cobblestone streets, quirky beautiful architecture and sight of the houseboats hugging the walls of Amsterdam’s canals tugged at my heart like they always do there—there’s just something so livable and aesthetically pleasing and, well, civilized about the Netherlands. Even the airport, as much as I’ve heard people diss it, seems well-designed and speckled with high culture—there was a mini-Rijks Museum exhibit with a dozen or so original Vincent Van Gogh paintings on display about 100 yards from our boarding gate—when was the last time you saw original Master’s art hanging in an airport?
I had a nice surprise as I was finally checking into the flight queue back at the airport—my brain, after some initial resistance, finally allowed me to hear what for a moment had been sounding so unlikely: someone calling out my name in the terminal. Turns out my good friend Monique, a Dutch national who’s been a Leverett neighbor and friend for years, was calling out to me from the check-in line. Small world: Monique and her eldest son Remer—somehow 18 already and basically bigger than me—are on my flight back to New England, after spending 8 days on the old sod checking out various Universities for him to begin next fall. Remer has settled on the University at Maastricht, which Monique described as a wonderful little mini-Amsterdam and a terrific place to go to school. Lucky man, Remer—what a wonderful opportunity to be a curious student and citizen of the world.
And with that, the journey home begins its final leg.