Twenty-some hours on a train makes for plenty of opportunities to reflect, and as I travel on the next-to-last day of this decade, I’m reflecting on resolve--not necessarily resolutions. In music, the resolve helps lead into harmonic change in a song, and perhaps in life, I’m experiencing a desire for harmony. Looking out to the swiftly rolling countryside I meditate on the answers, on the way to achieve harmonic change in my life. Only God could have brought me to this point in my life!
As the rails hum and the wheels of our train glide over them, unbeknownst to us warmly sheltered in our cabin, various bodies of water and mountainous wide expanses grace our windows. Each vista touches my memory--of the times I had taken this train before, or of places like these. The darkness of the trees as the sun sets--their trunks against the pastel December sky--brought to mind my childhood in New England, of beach trip afternoons or countryside drives, of a time when my thoughts and hang-ups were simple. I think of the many times I daydreamed from the backseat of dad’s 1973 Mercury Montego, listening to whatever my mother had found on the radio, and watching the world slip by my window. I don’t think I could have imagined the life I have now.
The end of the first decade of the twenty-first century and I travel the old-fashioned way, and this seems appropriate somehow. The old meets the new--leads into this harmonic change--as the train moves back and forth from my childhood home back to my present home. During our visit, I see my life as youth appear again in the present through my nephews and niece, in their play and in the way their parents look at them. I see the old me, dreaming up my life in that old Mercury--where would I live, what would I wear, would I be a teacher or a writer or a mother or all the above, or something else? It’s in our nature to consider during the holidays where we have come from and where we’re going. On a train this tendency seems pronounced, as if the movement, the gentle rocking back and forth as the car moves along the rails, imitates a mother’s gentle rocking of her child, or that subtle comfort a rocking chair brings to our front-porch reverie.
Even the little things on board seem to instigate my creative mind--the dining car with its neatly arranged tables; the almond-scented hand wash in our little room, by the built-in sink that folds up to drain the water; the lit signs at the end of each car which tells you which way the dining car is; the rollicking passes between the cars and that feeling of moving fast I got walking through these.
Everyone is social--sitting with people at breakfast I have never met, I come to know of their travel plans and likes and dislikes in short form, and each time we find interesting connections between us--as if the conversation between strangers on a journey must ultimately lead to commonalities. These discussions have been as simple as how grits should be served and as complex as difficult family situations over the holiday celebrations--my favorite so far were the affable two men we sat with from Charleston, SC, with their lively banter about life in Florida and then in South Carolina, their easy Southern social sensibility. When I grieved my uncle and found myself on a train to go and console my family, a wonderful woman who has been a women’s counselor listened to my story and told me some of hers. Sometimes I sit across someone doing the same thing as I am--staring at the cities that float by, that rise and unfold in the horizon and lay of the land as if magically. I reflect on this, knowing that others sit on this train, look out the window. It's grace that leads us here.
This Crescent Line, which connects North and South for me, will continue to open up my memory, I know. Each time I ride, I will come to know myself anew. I can’t wait to book my next set of tickets to find out what else has been tucked away in my mind over the years.