In my transition from North America to Europe last week, my appetite for natural beauty was satisfied in unusual ways.
On a flight from Charlotte North Carolina to Philidelphia, Pennsylvania, I found a channel on my seat-back monitor called “foggy running water.” Sure enough, I was able to hear and be soothed by a river’s quiet warble — at 35K feet in the air.
Once I landed in Philadelphia, I found my way to the brand new international terminal, a magnificent place festooned with large windows, walls of glass, and fantastic art installations: including a flock of clay birds. Suspended from the ceiling above an array of steel acorns, the birds and the seeds echoed each other, with wings spread toward freedom. Black silhouettes of various species appeared on walls of glass between the hanging sculpture and an automatic walkway. Birds stand still; people move.
Built on a once expansive grassland, the airport still hosts wild hares and rabbits between runways. While their population is kept in check by a regular hunt, ours as travellers continues to rise. Seventy-two million people passed through this place last year, up 15% from 2011. For most, the transition was smooth and safe, an astonishing feat.
As I wheeled my suitcase toward the station where I would catch the train south to the village of Ballan-Miré (for a month-long writing sabbatical), I passed a strangely modern forest, lit by the rising winter sun.