Laura took one last look around the apartment, gathered her bags and walked out. As she locked the door, she was chanting “No more pencils, no more books, no more students’ dirty looks!” She giggled as she walked to the elevator. It was early May, her classes were over and she had a whole year to herself. She really needed it; this last two years had been a strain with the stupid new curriculum the board had foisted off one her.
In the garage she tossed her bags in the backseat, settled in, and drove out, carefully waiting to merge with the traffic. She was going to drive to the nearest city and take the train for a cross country tour. The car would be left with Rod, her special auto mechanic, and he would have plenty of time to fix all the little things that had been neglected. She sighed, happy to be on her way at last.
As she drove along, she noticed a patch of blue at the edge of the forest. Curious, she found a place to pull off the road, parked and got out. It was a field of blue flowers! They were beautiful, and she just had to walk among them, so she climbed the fence and, moving carefully, moved across the field to the forest edge. There she turned and gazed – it looked like a patch of heaven had fallen there.
She settled on a tree root and leaned forward to stroke one of the plants. Tiny little blue bells growing along a slender stock; they were so beautiful, they almost took her breath away. Carefully, she picked six of them, then got up and made her way back to the car. There she soaked a piece of Kleenex, wrapped the stems, and put them in a small test tube. She took another, long look, sighed and started the car. What a lovely way to start her sabbatical.
As she drove she drank in the signs of spring all around her. The trees with little leaves showing, forsythia glowing yellow on farmhouse lawns, and in the fields, lambs, calves and foals frolicking. The old poem ran through her mind ‘what is so rare as a day in June…’, only this was May.
After leaving the car with Rod, she signalled for a cab and was soon at the railroad station. She had reserved a sleeping compartment and when she boarded, she went right to it and left her bags. Then she went to the lounge car, found a seat by the window, and settled in to enjoy the ride. From now on, she didn’t have to do anything except rest, relax and enjoy the scenery. And perhaps make some friends and join in on some interesting conversations. She smiled contentedly.
The train started moving slowly, and all she saw for a while was more of the city. But it gained speed, and soon they were running through the countryside. They were heading south, and in a couple of hours, the scene changed, and she was looking out at summer. Trees in full bloom, wild flowers growing by the tracks, and in fields; then they were entering forest country, and were surrounded by trees. There were all shades of green, evergreens, poplar, birch, maple and oak, all glowing in the sunshine. As they rounded a bend, she glimpsed what seemed to be a bridge.
Turning to the elderly man beside her, she asked him about it. “That is what they call ‘The Bridge to Heaven’.” He told her. “It crosses a deep gorge, and the landscape once we leave the forest is the most beautiful in the country.”
“Laura thanked him, and waited, hardly breathing, as they rushed across the bridge. She leaned to the window and looked down, way down, and saw a thin ribbon of silver running off around the bend in the gorge. She drew in an awed breath, and the old gentleman chuckled. “Yes, it takes most people that way. That is actually quite a large river, but we are so high it seems more like a stream.”
“Oh, it is wonderful!” Laura exclaimed. “I have never seen anything like it. I have never been on a train before, unless you count subways. I am so glad I decided to do my traveling this way, instead of driving.”
“It’s the best way to go, if you really want to see the land. We should be out of the forest in half an hour then you are in for a real treat!”
She sat watching things go by. She saw a squirrel in a tree, sitting up watching the train go by, and laughed. “Saucy little beggar!” she giggled. He companion chuckled. “Yes they are always saucy, and curious.”
The trees thinned, and at last they rounded another bend and there it was. Heaven, field after field of flowers, a riot of colour. There were daffodils, irises, gladioli, more varieties than she could name. She gazed, to awestruck to say anything, drinking in the stunning beauty as they raced by. Finally, they were gone, and she sat back with a sigh. “Oh! I have never seen anything so beautiful! No wonder they call it heaven!”
The old gentleman smiled, and nodded. “Yes, no matter how often I ride this train. It always leaves me breathless, and feeling blessed to have seen it.”