Once again I find myself on a train, rolling down the tracks. And because there is currently no access to WiFi on this thing, I’ve been staring out the window and musing to myself. (Have you noticed how hard it is to NOT distract yourself these days? I might have checked my phone twice as I started this post. And then I forced myself to put it down and NOT play more Evil Apples. Because I’m musing here people!)
There is something wonderful about riding on a train. For me, one reason is because you get to see elements of the countryside that you don’t usually get to see. Instead, you see the dirty parts, the industrial parts, the backsides of places that don’t care what graffiti has sprung up on its flanks. Where everything is a bit more run down, and a bit rawer that you would usually see in your other types of travel. You can see the piles of rusted cars and their tires. You can see the gravel pits and lumber yards. And you can see all of the small town charm that these places help to fuel and employ. From a train you can see the panoramic view of the nice townhouses and the rundown abandoned shack, divided only by an overgrown line of shrubs and trees and a lack of awareness.
From the train you get a constantly changing sliver of American life; outside the window, and right next to you.
On the train, there is usually a varied selection. For example, today we have a young man in his 20’s who presents as MR. He is holding a conversation with a grandmotherly type in the seat behind him. Across the way is another young man who I imagine could be headed back to a late college class after a particularly “fun” weekend. On the next row sits a young girl around 12 or 13 years old, who does not look daunted by her solo trip at all. Somewhere behind me I can hear the snoring of someone who has been lulled to sleep by the swaying rhythm of the train.
Back outside, I watch as we pass a homeless camp tucked away in a wooded valley; blue tarps strung up with various piles of random objects collected around the site. A few miles down, there are two box cars situated in a wooded clearing with obvious signs of habitation. Across the street rise the walls of suburbia.
As I sit here, being rocked back and forth, it helps me reflect on how, to me, trains have always been a symbol of movement. Throughout my life, the sound of a train whistle has been the sound of a promise; no matter what going on around me, there is at least one thing out there that is moving forward with a purpose. At points in my life, trains would even be a symbol of escape. When I was in undergrad, I would watch the trains going past campus and see them as something that would take me away from places, people, and whatever it was that was adding to my anxieties. (Perhaps I thumbed through too much Kerouac.) Watching them now, I am able to see trains more as something that can take me to places, instead of just away from them. But whether I am coming or going, taking the trip is something I hope I will continue to enjoy.