Sunday, May 23, 2010

Traveling By Train

I made it to the train on time, in no small part due to the ministrations of Mr. Perfect-For-Me, who had been urging me, since last week sometime, to start packing. I didn’t, and even when he called me on Saturday morning and said, “Have you started packing?” I must admit, I fibbed just a bit.
“Of course I have,” I said, while crossing my fingers behind my back, not that he would have seen me cross my fingers anywhere at all.
“Then where did you find your bag?” By which he means my favorite traveling bag, the brown leather one I got in Mexico many years ago. It was lost for quite a while, and then found again, probably, I believe, in another suitcase.
“In the linen closet,” I improvised, hoping that was the correct answer.
There couldn’t be a wrong answer if he didn’t remember either, could there?
He fell for it. This brings me no great satisfaction. I was just trying to uphold my reputation as a person who can get themselves ready for the occasional trip all by myself.
it’s the first step to adulthood I hear, something I’ve been working on for years.
But when I looked in the linen closet the bag was indeed there, scrunched in between two hard side suitcases. It’s an easily squishable bag, being nothing more than leather sewn together in a few key places (at the seams).
So when charming husband arrived home I was indeed mostly packed, except for a few incidentals like toothpaste, which I had run out of, and I didn’t want to take all the toothpaste because then what would he do in my absence? And my power cords. I always travel with a good supply of cords. Computer cords, Nano cords, charging units for the laptop with their own cords, things like that. And my Bluetooth, which I went ahead and forgot anyway, but since I won’t be doing on this trip, it’s not a big deal,  not really. Also, I have no cell phone reception in Montana, so what would I need my Bluetooth for? So I can walk around and look like a person who has an Important Life?
And so we had plenty of time to spare, so much so that charming husband took me out to lunch first, so we could go over the recent developments in our lives that may be making our summer more interesting.
There’s lots of new developments, but let’s put those off for a few days. One adventure at a time is about all I can handle.
Put me in an international airport with signs pointing every which way and masses of people heading this way and that and I’m fine. I’ll find where I’m supposed to be, and everything is as it should be. Take me to a train station where there’s a few people and only two options and suddenly I’m flustered.
“What train am I supposed to be on?” I ask charming husband, “And how will I know it?”
They’re big, trains, not the sort of thing one can miss. But two trains were arriving at the same time, one going this way, the other going that way, and I was in a panic wondering if I’d get on the wrong one, as if no one was going to direct me to the right train. I’m unaccustomed to train travel. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.
I was pointed in the right direction, and I boarded said train and then stood there wondering where to go next. Up the stairs, apparently, then I passed by my assigned seat (which had been assigned as I boarded the train, when a train person handed me a piece of white paper on which someone had written, in pencil, 48, which is not the most advanced ticketing system I’ve seen, but it seems to work, for seat 48 was empty an in it I sat. It was an aisle seat, and the nice gentleman at the window seat asked if I’d like to sit there. “I’ve been this way so many times I’ve seen it all,” he said. And so I said, “If it’s not a problem, that’d be great,” because I really did want to see out the window, and leaning over nice gentlemen so I can look out the window can be considered annoying.
And now I’m on the train, and we’re heading east, and in the morning I’ll be at my destination. Apparently we have no dining car at the moment, though later on they’re going to add that on, and it’ll be four cars ahead. You don’t see that kind of thing going on with planes, do you?
My most extensive train experience is with the train at Disneyland, and so far this seems eerily similar, especially the tunnels. No dining cars on those trains either.
I sit in the observation car, observing. It’s starting towards dusk, a few clouds in the sky, and I look out over the broad river. On the other side is Oregon, and on this side Washington, nothing more substantial than a body of water separating the two. The water is blue and flowing, we’ve passed the dam, and the landscape is in places barren, and in places filled with trees. Up above me I can see the moon through the window, it’s not full, but more than half, swollen with the enormity of its position. Without the moon, where would the tides be?
It’s so peaceful out there. This is eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, not the heavily populated area of Portland and Vancouver, though we come across small towns, mostly behind me because I’m facing the river, but occasionally, like just now, we go inland a bit, and pass some houses, some trailers, a few industrial buildings.
The clouds are grey in the sky, and in the distance they’re dark. We had heavy rain earlier today, at least where we had started from, our weather changing from day to day and hour to hour lately.
We go through a crossing, and one automobile waits with its lights on. A junkyard, older houses, trees that have been here forever, or what seems like forever.
And on we continue. The moon has disappeared from my view, there’s nothing above me now but blue sky, dark blue, the color the sky turns when it’s getting ready to turn in for the night and call it a day. The whistle of the train warns people we’re coming through, and I wonder how many of them even notice it anymore, unless they’re waiting for it to go by.
I think of how much my Mom would have liked this, to just pass by the scenery and watch it without having to think about getting somewhere, just enjoying the ride for what it is, a trip through the end of the day.
There’s a water reservoir in front of me, with outlets pouring water into it. It’s not the water of the river but it’s still magical. So ephemeral but so substantial. A smaller reservoir, with brownish water pumping into it, and I don’t know why it’s brown.
We go over a river and head into Pasco. Pasco, Washington, and jI’ll keep going on this train through Pasco and on to Montana.
The train on the bridge feels different than it does on the ground, but it’s over fast, and we’re slowing for the stop in Pasco. It’s almost 9 pm, and it’s not quite dark yet. From here it still looks fairly light, but the night lights are coming on and soon, before I realize it, full dark will be here.
In full dark I’m happiest inside, whether in a train or in my house, but not outside in it. It’s too primal for me. There’s so much that can be in the dark, and because I can’t see it I fear it. I like the dark, but from a safe distance, from a place of light, should I choose to turn on a light, not from in the midst of the dark with no way out.
My battery power is low, and so I return to my seat, so I can recharge my laptop, so I won’t be left in full dark without the comfort of my laptop screen to light the way.
People get off the train to smoke, they huddle outside, close to the train, not venturing far, for they don’t want to go far, they just want to have a smoke. The streetlights have come on, it’s still getting dark, and the cabin is dark now, except for the lights overhead and the occasional laptop screen. My screen seems blinding and obtrusive in the dim light of the end of day, a glaring modern convenience I’m loath to part with. 

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