Stained Glass Window, Capitol Building, Harrisburg

This is the story of the final day of my three-day whirlwind summer vacation with my sister. What a lot of fun we packed into the time we spent together! In fact, as I look back on it, we had a total of 49 and a half hours together, as I arrived around 1 p.m. on Tuesday and left around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

From the time I can remember, my oldest sister has worked in the Harrisburg area, and she would sometimes take one or more of us kids along. I remember spending happy times visiting the William Penn Museum with her, and with my little sister, wandering the exhibit halls.

And the auditorium there is where the state spelling bee was held, where I came in 13th in the state when I was in 6th grade. I was so nervous that day! For the record, the word that took me down was vinaigrette - I didn't know about that sneaky second "i," but now I do. I would have to add, in my defense, that vinaigrette was not a word tossed around much in rural central Pennsylvania when I was a kid.

So the museum is where we began our final day's adventure. We took the escalators to the third floor and worked our way down. We saw dinosaurs and old vehicles and even a wonderful (and totally unexpected) art exhibit, Art of the State, 50 years, an annual juried exhibition. The only picture I have to show you from the museum is in the extras - Paul Domville's painting Mutual Trust, which documents William Penn's treaty with the native Americans, or Indians, as they were called in those days. There were three tribes: the Delaware, the Susquehannocks, and the Monongahela.

From there we walked over to the capitol building and took a free guided tour. And I am here to tell you, friends, that this was the most beautiful interior I have ever seen on any building, so I took TONS of photos. (Note that you must go through metal detectors to get in, so there may be things you'd leave behind if you decide to visit.)

The green shot above is one of the stained glass windows. I was tempted to lie on the floor to get an even better view, but I thought they might frown upon that sort of thing. The window is covered outside by a dome for its protection.

We went into several rooms, including the House of Representatives, which was not in session at the time, so photos were permitted. When the group is actively meeting, no photos are allowed. The lights were on and everything was shining and orderly. It was an impressive room; I thought it almost looked like a church; maybe even a cathedral. You may see the House of Representatives' room in the extras.

The ceiling above the rotunda was covered in paintings, and it was both ornate and gorgeous. It made me think of the Sistine Chapel. You may see that in the extras as well. Somehow the sight of these beautiful things in all their glory impressed me, and gave me reason for hope. It was awe-inspiring, really. I can't wait to go back and get a second chance at it with my camera.

My sister and I had just enough time for lunch at Momo's (a barbecue joint), just before walking back to the Transportation Center where I would catch my train, which was on time. I said my farewells, and grabbed my suitcase and got aboard, feeling like an old pro at it all by now. Of course, I was reminded of that Springsteen song I adore:

Grab your ticket and your suitcase
Thunder's rolling down the tracks
You don't know where you're goin' now
But you know you won't be back
Darlin' if you're weary
Lay your head upon my chest
We'll take what we can carry
And we'll leave the rest

The train carried me through green fields, past verdant forests, along rivers. I leaned my head against the window, looking out, and I listened to the noises of the train. I could hear the thunder of the big wheels on the track, the whistle up ahead.

All of these sounds seemed like music to me. I looked out the window to see a photographer who had been waiting for the train to come by; he didn't know it but I was on that train. I had become part of the picture myself. I was humbled at the thought. Look: this is me, living my dream!

I had had so many wonderful adventures - the paddle-wheel boat ride on the Susquehanna, the ducks, the beach, the museum, the capitol. And I had loved spending time with my dear sister, but the train was carrying me back to what is possibly the sweetest place of all: home.

The song to accompany this posting has to be the Springsteen tune I referenced above: Land of Hope and Dreams. The best version, of course, is from Madison Square Garden in the year 2000, when Clarence was still with the band. But here's a pretty good version too, from the Hurricane Sandy Relief concert in 2012

P.S. I mentioned my sister is a Crazy Cat Lady like myself, and I have to give a shout-out to my little buddy Grayhound (yes, I think she spells it with an A), who was my constant companion during the time I stayed with her. His middle name is Destructo, I think, and he is simply unstoppable. (My sister: What time did you get up this morning? Me: Oh, roughly about the time the first rattly ball hit the bedroom door, around 5:30.) Though he is only about seven months old, he already has a Ph.D. in Knocking Things Off of Other Things. You may see a photo of my buddy Grayhound in the extras.

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