Across Five States: Into Pennsylvania

A new morning dawned, bright and crisp – though the only reason it was crisp was the air conditioning which we’d left on all night. The moment we left the Day’s Inn, however, we realized just what kind of weather we’d stumbled into. It was hot, unbearable so, and humid to boot – and this at only seven in the morning! We loaded our essentials back into the U-Haul, blasted the air conditioning once more, and were on our way.

We were looking for a decent place to have breakfast, but we didn’t find any place that wasn’t fast food until after we’d entered Pennsylvania. When we crossed the state border, though, our hunger took a backseat in our minds as we gazed in wonder at the vistas around us. Almost immediately after crossing the border from Ohio, the mundane and endless flat-lands disappeared, giving way to rolling green hills. It was countryside at its most beautiful, alternating between vast expanses of grassy knolls and forests, dark and dense.

It was stunning, to say the least. There was so much wild vegetation that many of the trees were being choked by ivy climbing their very trunks, beautiful but deadly to the trees themselves. Here and there we could spot gorgeous houses perched between trees or amongst the hills, old-fashioned and grand. In the valleys between the hills we saw some large farms as well, which resulted in our delighted cries of “Sheep! Horses! Look, brown cows! More horses!” We were like children, seeing this foreign life that we’d all read about in picture books more often than seeing it around us.

We began musing about how someone would come to live here, and whether or not we would ever want to live in such an isolated place. We all agreed that we would love to live in a secluded and cozy house and write there for a season. I imagined what the winters would be like in such a place – wind and rain whipping the trees mercilessly, snow piling up and muffling the sounds of animals and the rustle of leaves. It would be like living in a fairy-tale, and yet, characters in fairy-tales always seem so lonely in the end.

We continued onwards, trying to solve crossword puzzles and keep out of the way of large trucks, and eventually we gave into our hunger and drove off the highway and entered a town. The name of the town eludes me, but we found a Denny’s there. I’d never been in one of those either, and it was another experience of discovering America. Our waitress was a darling, grey haired, plump and gruffly kind. She brought us all steaming mugs of coffee, which we were all desperate for. We ate a pleasant meal, finishing it off with a delicious Hershey’s chocolate cake, and made our way back to our seats in the truck that was already so familiar to us.

Panoramic View

Standing at the edge of the yard, beyond the pool, beyond the odd bust of the Indian chief, right in the flower garden, trying hard not to step on the precious buds, is a girl. She’s wearing a short t-shirt and hugging herself against the cool morning breeze that ruffled her sleeves and her long hair. She closes her eyes and smiles into the morning sunlight, feeling glad despite having slept only a handful of hours.

When she opens her eyes again, she really looks, really stares hard at the view in front of her. So strange to have a yard end and have the wilderness begin right after the fence. The valley stretches out below her, and she gazes at it intently, trying to see wildlife – a few deer perhaps, a coyote. As usual, she sees nothing but the shrubs and trees and the vast greenness of the hills.

At last, she raises her eyes beyond the valley, beyond the hills, to stare at the tiny patch of blue, slightly darker than the sky, that is right there in that little break between the hills. The ocean. Sometimes she can even smell the salt-air from here, despite being miles away.

Eventually, she’ll walk in her bare feet back into the house and have breakfast with her family, who will all be waking up early due to jet-lag, just like her. That first morning of every visit to Los Angeles’s beautiful hills is always like this – magical.