Sunday, April 27, 2008

On a Slow Train to Chicago

The whistle makes a soothing mournful sound in the coach section of Amtrak. The rain snakes across the windows blurring the trees with their tease of green. Water pools in every dip of land from the April rain that has been falling for the past two days. Miniature lakes are surrounded by grassy meadows. The Missouri River is grey and turbulent from the flooding streams. A barge pushes a load beneath the grey metal structure of a bridge.

The leisurely train ride affords a chance for people, like me, who take advantage of every quiet moment, to write. My laptop fits nicely on the tray and an electrical outlet lets me work long after a battery would shut down. I spend most of the twelve hour ride from Sedalia to Chicago working on a new book, Writing as Therapy: Rocks and Pebbles.

As the train passes through small towns and past St. Louis, I think about how this leisurely mode of travel would have suited Jim. He inherited wanderlust from his parents’ vagabond lifestyle and was happiest on the road. Jim always said the best part of any journey was traveling down the highway. He was just as happy throwing a sleeping bag on the ground as he was staying in a motel. Jim preferred travel by car much more than flying, and I know he would have enjoyed the train ride.

Although the train outpaces the trucks on the interstate, train travel is not for those a tight deadline or people with no patience. Sometimes the train pulls to a side track and waits for a freight train to pass. Or, may even back up and hook onto a train having engine trouble and pull them along to their next stop. Sometimes cranky children cry or someone shouts into his cell phone and disturbs the quiet. Most of the time, it is peaceful and the seats are comfortable.

Something about the train makes me long for the days when Jim taught me to think about the journey and not just the destination. When the whistle blows, the sound makes me lonesome for those youthful days. The rain weeps, but I smile in remembrance of our journeys.
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