Pennsylvania Road Trip I

One, if not THE reason we picked up sticks and moved across the country was to travel, to feel in our bones, the deepest sense of our nation and this continent, to know the contours, of hill and dale and faces old and young. If our beginnings, with the trek to move here and our first trip (which started here) that already seems so long ago, are any indication, we shall make out like kings.

Nine days getting to know Pennsylvania, with a short stint on I-68 in Maryland, on our way to Gettysburg, fog and rain laden, air luscious with damp. This bit of sweetness is Vanderbilt, a mere curve on the road to somewhere, occupied by just over five hundred souls. There are countless jewel box towns like these, mostly older than imagination, my Western whippersnapper roots nearly constantly agog. This is America, where it all began.

And cemeteries! Since moving east, I have never seen so many, tucked in everywhere, both massive and diminutive as postage stamps, nearly all patriotic. This belongs to the Spring Field Church, with the building dating to 1849.

Bear Run and the sights in and around Fallingwater, probably the most famous of the Frank Lloyd Wright residences. We took a tour with a lovely fellow named Cletus. Though he’d been at it only a short time, his knowledge was vast and impressive. And the house? Wow, just wow. Go and be glad!

Such a lovely drive!

This is Gettysburg. Gettysburg. I kept repeating it aloud, just like that. Abraham Lincoln and fourscore and seven years ago and so many soldiers (and one Gettysburg woman) lost to war. The text of the speech is attached to the David Wills house, where Lincoln stayed the night before the address. I gazed about, dazzled, from which window did he peer, am I standing where he stood? Is this the path he took to the cemetery? Golly.

We stayed up yonder at the Brickhouse Inn and had a marvelous time. They have a beautiful breakfast, a kind and efficient staff, and charming and historical furnishings, very apropos, we thought. As is our usual modus operandi, we walked like the dickens, mouths agape at the history, the hallowed ground, the sheer number of buildings that dated from the Civil War, their bronze plaques in proud declaration.

Candlelight at Christ Church was the serendipitous highlight of our visit. On a walk after dinner (at Saint Amand – really good French food and kindly service!), I got an itch to go a particular direction, and on the steps of the church saw a crowd of people dressed in Civil War era garments, which is delightful and not at all unusual, but they were so numerous as to give us pause. We crossed the street and were invited to a service with music from the time, the history of the church, and stories and letters from the era. It was beautiful and quite moving.

The Gettysburg Cemetery – the dedication the occasion for Lincoln’s address. Most striking is the sheer number of unknown soldiers. This is before the advent of dog tags, so only those men with letters or photos of themselves or their beloved were identified. It saddened me.

Cemetery Ridge

Eternal Light Peace Memorial

It is a peculiar feeling to visit battlefields and imagine the reality of events that took place, cannon fire, mortal wounds, families pitted against one another. As we toured, this tender heart was often overwhelmed by imagination and wonder. How is it that we can do this to each other?

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