Traveling mercies

Cogitation 15 Friday 10 April 2020 Guardian angels working overtime, thoughts and prayers of family and friends, the second-mile efforts of transport people on the ground and in the air, a paper clip, and Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 got us home to the USA from the United Kingdom on Sunday and Monday, 5 and 6 April.

Traveling mercies, a 19th century phrase asking prayers for God’s protection on someone about to take a long journey, aptly applies to today, where one can still be subject to such misfortunes as delays, illness and unexpected expenses. Guardian angels hovered over, around and beneath us as people, in the words of niece, Jan, “prayed us home.”

When the US State department, through the US Embassy in London, sent out an advisory to return home by making “commercial arrangements as soon as possible unless you are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” we prepared to leave. That took about two weeks of rearranging travel for the 300 miles to London, finding overnight accommodation when all 50-some hotels around London Heathrow appeared to be closed, booking a flight via Amsterdam to Detroit, then on to the airport 45 minutes from our home, and finally arranging for pick up, well that took some hours over several days to accomplish and then more than a week of waiting.

All travel, amazingly, worked out according to plan, taking into account that public transport schedules were reduced as people across the nation were ordered to stay at home, except for essential travel and services. My anxiety was that one or more of the transportation links would shut down, but, oh ye of little faith, they all remained intact and got us home.

We prepared our lunch and dinner for Sunday, and breakfast for Monday, since there was no food or beverage service on the train and no restaurants open at the airport. Surprisingly, we were able to reserve a room at the one hotel open at and in the airport’s terminal 3.

The St Ives Bay branch line has been running on a reduced schedule since Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday evening, 23 March, announced a nationwide lockdown: “Stay home, save lives.”

At 12:06 noon Sunday, we were the only passengers on the 10-minute branch line train to St Erth Station, where we soon boarded the Great Western Railway train for the six-hour journey to London Paddington. For most of the way we were the only people in our coach. When we changed trains in Plymouth, the train guard (conductor) told us to take a seat in the First Class coach, where we were the only passengers. Frequently, I thought of and prayed for people, in many parts of the world, who were still waiting to find their way home.

My backpack looks like a giant spider keeping an eye on our luggage on Heathrow Express.

At Paddington, Heathrow Express, operating on a reduced 30-minute instead of 15-minute schedule, was about to leave for the airport. Staff waved us to a coach and just as we were seated the train moved, whisking us to Terminal 3, where we checked into Areotel, located right in the terminal. Our 14-square metre, en suite room was tiny but oh so accommodating. We watched the Queen give her spirit-lifting address to the nation, our spirits raised, too.

Queen Elizabeth II addressed the nation on Sunday evening with a message of reassurance and inspiration. She thanked people for abiding by government rules to stay at home and she praised those “coming together to help others.” She drew on the national traits of “self-discipline,” “quiet, good humoured resolve,” and “fellow-feeling,” concluding with, “We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again.”

While waiting for our first flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam, Marty came up with a paper clip (featured image) needed to change sim cards in her mobile phone. That essential paper clip tool made it possible to have an operable phone to stay in touch with people as our travel progressed. A tiny tool, an enormous travel mercy.

In a message to family and friends since arriving home, I wrote, “We are nothing short of gobsmacked at it all. We know your thoughts and prayers propelled us on. At 11 AM Sunday morning we opened the door to our Juliet balcony and joined Christians across the nation in praying the Lord’s Prayer. People there and here have been so supportive and encouraging. Thank you!”

We cannot say thank you adequately for the attentive services of GWR staff, areotel staff, KLM Royal Dutch airline staff, Delta airline staff, government staff working behind the scenes, Immigration Department staff, and friend Gwen who picked us up at South Bend. The same holds true for the friends and church family we have come to love in Cornwall. Such courtesy, calm assistance, kindnesses, reassurances and good wishes we have too often taken for granted. They hit home now. Thank you!

On the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit I tried watching a movie. I tried to watch a special program on nature and the environment. I tried this, I tried that. I had no interest in reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle, or anything else. I napped. I watched the flight path and related statistics. Gratefully, I ate hot food and snacks and drank multiple bottles of water. There were few passengers, maybe 30?

What finally fed my soul was Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No 9, performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Dvorak composed it in 1893 while serving as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, 1892-1895. This classical work has become one of the most popular of all time, I’ve read, combining the influence of African American and Native American music.

As with all citizens and resident aliens entering the country from abroad, we are doing a 14-day self-isolation. Mercies abound. Cousin Phyllis bought groceries and delivered them on Monday before we got home. Friends on the Greencroft Goshen retirement community campus had a meal and goodies package delivered to us on Tuesday morning. We have ordered meals for the duration of our self-isolation prepared and delivered by Greencroft M-F. The Greencroft TV channel offers two daily 20-minute exercise routines which we are doing. Worship services and other programs can be accessed on the channel.

We are feeling fine. So grateful. Enveloped in love and care. Temporal and spiritual home mercies extended without end. Thanks be to God.

Leaving Cornwall

A bumblebee, on our last walk before leaving Cornwall, is oblivious to all but nature’s nourishment.
Sunday morning, 5 April, sunrise over the bay. We were sad to have to leave people and place we’ve come to love. Thankfully, we can stay in touch.
The St Ives Bay branch line runs from St Ives, with a stop at Carbis Bay, to St Erth. We were at the CB stop early to see the train go on to St Ives and return minutes later for the 10-minute journey to St Erth and connection to the mainline train.
On board the GWR two-coach train from Penzance to Plymouth.
Belted Galloway cattle are usually in this field near Camborne.
The bridge crossing the Tamar River, separating Cornwall and Devon.
The tidal basin at Dawlish, Devon, right next to the train tracks, has wreaked havoc on town and transport during storms.
A church near Bristol.
The clouds on our flight from London to Amsterdam had the shape of a celestial orchard.
A line of trees on the perimeter of Schiphol Airport will soon leaf out in bloom.
This green living wall in Schiphol Airport brings promise to life.
South Bend, Indiana, home to the University of Notre Dame, other colleges and universities, and much more, including Gwen, the angel waiting to welcome us and drive us home.

Welcome home

Willard and Alice provided food for a meal and related treats, including a week’s worth of newspapers and a church magazine.

Views from our patio

On Wednesday the weather was so balmy that we could sit on our patio. We had lots of time for three card games, Quiddler, Five Crowns, and Canasta. Tea, too.

By the way, while we must stay put to our home and patio for two weeks, this tally from Monday must be told: On Monday we walked, mostly in three airports, a total of 5.5 miles. More outside miles to come, in due course. And maybe a few in a circular route in our home.

The Gospel According to Matthew 6:9-13

From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, mercies everlasting.

-John

5 thoughts on “Traveling mercies

  1. Thanks be to God and to you and all your helpers for reconstructing this trip so we readers could share it afterward in words and photos. As much as I can project myself enjoying with you the sights and events you experience in Cornwall, I am glad to witness the trip home in this way after the fact.
    Happy Easter!

    Like

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