Tuesday, 5 April 2016

riding the rails

i deliberately scheduled a railway journey into New Orleans at the conclusion of our wandering in the land of enchantment. somehow i knew that i was going to need a good bit of thinking time, undisturbed by too much making or doing and preferably without the need to concentrate on driving
on April 2 i found myself sitting in a railway station
with a ticket for my destination
humming a song about being

none of which is true for me but
it's one of those songs that has stood the test of time


i had secured a roomette to myself
and so could loll about in it in comfort
watching the whirled go by
and making soothing noises to myself
on the cedar flute newly acquired in Santa Fe

i made pictures with my batfone.
which was most entertaining, despite the fact that one of my favourite apps,
Autostitch, doesn't seem to work on the most recent version of the Fruit phone
 so i played with the Panorama setting instead 
which can be amusing on a moving train.

also i wrote.
the 31 hours on the train were enormously productive.

train travel allows the spirit to sit quietly on your shoulder
(it can sometimes fall off and get lost in flight)
at night i lay gazing at the stars until i was 
rocked to sleep in my little cradle shelf.
at some point in the night i awoke to see one streaking across the sky
in the hours before dawn the waning crescent moon rose 
i caught glimpses of my favourite constellation, the Pleiades.
train travel also allows poems to find you (sometimes when they stand by the roadside waiting with their thumbs out i'm simply travelling too fast to stop in time)

train travel can also put you into interesting social positions.

i discovered to my surprise that my ticket included meals.

on the first evening i shared dinner with a gentleman who had driven across America with his father because he didn't want his dear old dad driving a pickup across the country alone to his new abode in the Pacific North West. the trip back home was his first ever train ride. i think he said he had been on a train for four days already.
happily he was still enjoying it.

for breakfast i was directed to a table at which sat an older couple, on their way to share birthdays in New Orleans. they were quite clearly well off and seemed sweet but reduced me to the state of a stunned mullet when they left the table and he scooped up half the tip i had left for the server. (he had put down $5 for the two of them, i put down $4 for me and he then took $2 from mine. basically robbing the server).
i am rarely rendered speechless but by the time i had found my tongue they had gone.

my faith in humanity was restored by sharing lunch with a brother and sister (he slightly disabled, she taking him home from the west coast to live with her in Mississippi). i think, but i am not sure, that they were both adopted. the other person at our table was a grandmother of eighteen grandbabies who cheerfully announced that she was living day by day due to a brain tumour which, as she told us, had to be managed by "opening up my head every three years and scraping the surface back because the can't take it out" and that after that procedure she has to learn to walk and talk again but that the pain was worth it and she's just grateful to be here. 

the train crawled into New Orleans at sub-glacial speeds, which is probably just as well as the tracks are in a sorry state. and today, seeing the wobbly wooden trestles that the double-decker train had been balancing on, i was grateful for the slowness. 
(last night i was not so sure)


  1. Always good to read your stories especially when I need to be rocked to sleep about now. xo C

  2. I think i need to buy a trainticket....... Thank you for the story.

  3. What wonderful stories India, and just as I am about to book an Amtrak journey - but only a few hours - NYC to Boston! Remembering the many, many hours spent on Indian trains, and the wonderful Chai Wallers. Rickety rick, rickety rick..... Thanks for the journey down South. With a suitcase and a flute in hand . . .

  4. Oh, and I just remembered a train journey in Morocco - in our carriage was one older gentleman. I had a bag of grapes and leaned over to offer him one. He took the bag, and ate the lot!

  5. Such lovely tales you tell, I was almost there with you.

  6. ... i think abowt Mara: my douther... and the story of seven sisters, and my Pleiades Peruvian family... in some point you fly in my thinking, and i say: thank you Sister:-)... after no more of 3 min i open for the first time fb and::: your post was the first i see:-))) p.s. my nice and gentil neighbors make me sorprise this evening: The Bundle book, soft cover... Its miracle how we are all conected in some way, and only thing we have to do is listen the sound of the silent ....thank you looove❤️

    1. and in New Mexico i thought about you and how you could have danced in the desert in that dress you so kindly bought from me...there was a perfect dancing space around a firebowl under the starlit sky

    2. ❤️ Next time we Dance together....

  7. You certainly can spin a good yarn, m'am!

    You've brought back my earliest potent memories of train travel when as a young teen I'd hop the local in southern California with a group of like-minded beach addicts & we'd ride down to San Clemente where the station was practically on the shoreline. Many glorious summer hours were spent riding back & forth to our beach nirvana; comrades in suntan oil, boy-watchers, relishing our carefree *independence* from adults & school routines. Such an important part of my growing up that I'd quite forgotten till now.......

    As for that tip-stealer ... well, having put myself thru college waiting on tables that miserly person gets a giant thumbs down in my books [putting it politely]. Grrrr.

    Thanks for such an engaging - and thought provoking - tale.

  8. Ah, your post came at an interesting time. I just finished reading a Rebecca Solnit essay about Virginia Woolf and the need for wandering in neutral spaces to allow one to think and write. Your private room on the train fits the bill. Wishing you more happy travels and interesting characters!

    1. My small private room with constantly changing view was just perfect

  9. What an amazing story. I love trains that much, and have found journeying thusly to be that amazing, myself.

  10. Enjoy reading your meanderings and life happenings.
    New Orleans, my favorite city, recently almost upset, by Albuquerque, NM.

    the wild magnolia.