Summer Transitions: Novels, Seasons, Countries
This summer, I was between novels, my children were between school years, and my brother and mother invited my son and me to travel between countries: transition on several fronts. And transitions are fertile ground for first impressions. So I packed my journal, my camera, and set off on an adventure, cruising the Rhine River. Some of my favorite moments were those spent in a beautiful place, writing in my journal. Here are a few short excerpts from this summer's entries:
Page 2: Ready for Take-off.
"Getting here was not half the fun. It was dreadful. So much to do before departure and so many distractions. Of course, now I can't remember any of them...Oh, here comes a flight attendant bearing champagne. Followed by newspapers, menus, and a hot cloth for washing hands. And wine with dinner. Who, me stress? By 'bedtime' I was so obviously happy to be there, the flight attendant chose me to complete a survey."
Page 16: Landing in Amsterdam. "While I hesitate to engage in weather porn, let me just say it is chilly here. (I'm from Texas where it is currently blazing hot summer). Think: Michigan in May--an early spring day when snow is still a possibility. I'm considering slipping into my comfy fleece jacket and zipping it all the way up to my chin. The cold air tricks me into thinking I've traveled to a foreign season as well as a foreign country."
Page 33: Cruise Life. "The challenge of life on a cruise boat is maintaining consciousness. The faint hum of the engine and the gentle forward motion lull the passenger into a state of utter calm, lowering blood pressure the moment the dock falls away. Abundant food and wine conspire with overstuffed seating and the rhythmic sound of lapping water to overwhelm the caffeine we consumed in defense of dozing. If I do not get up and go for a walk, my cruise will be spent napping."
Page 43: Rainy Day on the Rhine. "I've opened the window on a cold, rain-soaked river and feel the terror of the sublime. I would not survive if I fell overboard. The freezing water rushes past all obstacles. It is possible to feel quite small in this place, juxtaposed against the mighty river and imposing mountains, isolated from the world beyond. The castles, the feature of this cruise, are horridly Romantic, frightening with their elongated spires and crenelated towers, they assume lofty height, appearing to grow out of mountain rock or seeded from older ruins. With their tiny windows and signs of fortification they suggest danger and conflict, very good at keeping things out--or in. Who could possibly live there and what would it be like?"
Page 46: Observing fellow passengers. "Some people stick out of the crowd for one reason or other and it is interesting to keep track of favorites as the cruise progresses. The otherwise all-around average woman who wore a black pencil skirt and stiletto heels to breakfast, for instance, appears to be adopting a certain glamorous persona, escaping into someone more exciting and desirable for this vacation. And then there is "Mrs. Howell" cruising through this trip in utter wardrobe and appearance perfection. Her platinum hair helmet suggests her hairdresser stowed away and she keeps her elderly husband on a short leash, tidy in coat and tie at all times. I'm not sure he knows where he is."
Page 55: Observing The Crew. "I've just noticed the waitstaff dresses in long white aprons with white shirts during the day, changing to long black aprons over black shirts at 5:00, marking a distinct change between active pursuits of the day and the magic relaxation of evening. The crew seem like a close-knit group, the natural result of living in tight quarters for weeks at a time. We passengers are all strangers to each other and to the crew--as well as the culture and the places we are visiting. I imagine crew members have developed categories for us, and while we giddily move into our stateroom on The Rhine, they quickly distinguish between us, and slot new groups of passengers quickly, accurately, and effectively. They are the experts and we are the sheep."
Page 76: Thoughts After Leaving The Rhine. "All river water is not created equal. Some places are narrow, some wide, always the current is swift and choppy, but some streams of the water flow faster than others. Because of the texture of different currents it is possible to see faster water moving past slower water, developing little whirlpools. The foam on the surface identifies patterns that result in colliding white caps. This summer, big rains and mountain snow-melt have caused the river to rise so that boats can no longer fit beneath bridges. That happened to us and we disembarked one stop short of our destination. Our land legs were not restored for several days."
Cindy Jones is the author of My Jane Austen Summer. Follow her: