Love trains

 DC sceneDSCN4055quickie pic from back of train when detachedDSCN4249

Train Ride Back East, Autumn 2012

My Way to DC 

DSCN4251As I look out my Amtrak window sitting cosily in my guest blue colour roomette there is an embankment; I see, majestic all-knowing beauties beginning to appear in a dance of sequential wonderment before a tired self.DSCN4067

I realize it’s trees—these trees which are swaying past my vision in their all glory who are going to be my companions on this unusual journey.

Trees, trees, more trees—as if going on forever—“Shall Comfort Me”—they say to me. DSCN4068

I perk up doubting I’d been spoken to; and DSCN4224suddenly a mill; spilling its ground-up sandy wood pulp into the train’s side—sawdust in the air. Dishearteningly it breaks my thoughts,DSCN4101but the train continues. Comanding to first station it goes. Everett, Washington is in sight.  We’re well on our way now.DSCN4091

Time moves. Unsure how long has passed. At Shelby Montana we stop. It’s snowing. Cold, cold. DSCN4182Some Albertans disembark, to yell and smoke.

A lovely man named Gul appears and says he is assigned to me. He is a most wonderful maître-d’. Looking at him it strikes me that he might have been a child of parents of partition India, with a delicate manner and subtle recognition in his eyes of the immense spiritual history of train travel. Interested in people, so very astute, to the point of knowing to have a glass of champagne poured for me canal overflowing...almostat the beginning of the journey across America.

Pure poetry he achieves; as he places the glass on a linen white napkin under my rectangular window DSCN4066beneath the expanse of the sky which is to be, yet another of my journey’s friends in its moving and exquisite colour.

DSCN4218Misty dusk approaches, getting on now for five in the evening.

A soft sound of the train horn breaks the emotion contained silence as we pull east.

“Supper”, Gul commands me.

“Oh yes”, I say. Food for the core was to be had in the dining car. And to be eaten ever so happily it was by me.

Then; returning to my roomette and cleverly nipping into the shower when others were still chomping and drinking.

Under the soothing blue light that doesn’t turn off above my head I peer to the outside again. My peripheral catches the romance of another train passing by in the opposite direction. nice8

Then white light maybe stations; maybe just features along the rail line, lending a helping hand…the strong steel ‘animal’ smoothly making time east.
America is beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.

As my train crackles along its deep worn tracks, steadily and courageously into the night, tears well down my face; Wild Horses play in the background and I think about whatever residue faith I may have left in me.

I sense a kind of Spirit engulf me but then think “Ah just being silly again. Trees don’t talk right, trees don’t hug you”.

Alas they did, me—that day.

We stop again. Folks get out to smoke again, others to stretch their legs.

Grain silos stand politely in the distance. DSCN4207

Chilly passengers recollect themselves after a short while. Satisfied now. DSCN4084

And we press on.

It’s the old side of towns we get to see from trains. Indescribably raw. DSCN4209

USA, poor in appearance, in parts, especially through North Dakota—sights that one might have the occasion to read about in a novel.  But here, from my rectangular window, more vivid, ever so more vivid; I gaze into the soul of the night to see what it has to teach me.

Damp from the corridor I return to my window. Safe again.

Pitch dark outside—barely able to see even the silhouette of branches, now.


Blood red sky.North Dakota sky - Copy

North Dakota. Home of American Indians.North Dakota sky

Images pass through my mind of them fighting to protect themselves, their land—a land so plentiful with oil.DSCN4202

Oil that is voraciously wanted and desired with an angry vengeance by all those who surround it. But with ‘The Indian’ in the way.

God bless the Indian, I murmur, between Stanley and Williston.DSCN4232

DSCN4213On the east side of Williston. I manage to fumble for my camera to take photographs of North Dakota’s oil rigs and their flame fires, only visible with a squint.

Oil, oil and more oil in North Dakota.DSCN4204

I witness tens and tens of freight trains. ‘Liquefied-Petroleum-Gas’ plastered on jet black and rust-coloured cars clambering by, in the opposite direction. DSCN4227

How many times we waited for the freight trains!—they get first dibs on the old tracks. Business before people is the way on the Amtrak these days. Not owning the tracks, [themselves], csxwe must beckon to higher authority.

It’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe—BNSF—that runs things in these parts, with their cargoes and their boxes of chemicals.

freight - oil - NDCleaning products, fertilizers, black cylinders containing this and that. I noticed black cylinder cars as early as of Spokane WA. They became more numerous through Montana and onwards.


Suddenly and eerily a shocking sight appears…thousands of horses crammed in a pen.

For what?—I imagine. It hits me like a freight train. They’re, for food! Horses destined to be—food!

A dreadful thought. One in my mind from which, like the horses, I could not escape.

But I knew I was right. Why else would so-many-horses be in a pen, squashed to that degree.

It was their place before execution. Feedlots.

Then I remembered that I’d seen an article that the ban on killing horses for food had been lifted in certain States.

Poor struggling States, no doubt.

St Cloud, Minnesota, it was.

Bleak. A kind of Hell, I thought.  Factories run down—no longer functioning. Crushed cars on top of one another, everywhere.DSCN4223

d ipod pics 332DSCN4217CP freight cars, yes, indeed. Canadian-Pacific, with government of Canada printed across them, parked, abandoned, and surreptitiously, alongside the railway.

I choose to nap.

I awake. The train is dormant. We’re 10 minutes out of St. Paul, Minnesota, I hear on the channel box.DSCN4114

Did you know that the Mississippi River can be seen for an hour and a bit out of St. Paul? d ipod pics 334

Up again, to the dining cart, I go.

I meet Elsie Dodge—a children’s book author, from Denver Colorado. She’s a special needs teacher. She carries a teddy bear. Permanently. That’s how she does it. Gets through this life. She’s the one with the smile.

Getting closer to the East now. Nature’s features are beginning to change and modify. The qualities I recognize, from childhood, in Montreal.

Starting to see the maple trees and rust coloured leaves I love through my rectangular window.

Tributaries of the Mississippi seemingly going on forever. Then, more maples in Portage, Wisconsin—breathtaking.Mississippi River

Before the destination, we move through what I know to be the old stomping grounds of American Civil War soldiers, back in 1850.

I look to see for any Colonial fixtures that were still standing. There are some.

We move out of the country as sneakily and clandestinely as we moved into it.DSCN4233

Now, scenes of urban life begin to appear, outside my rectangular window. I know my stop is near. I pack up and plan my exit unto the pavement that I’d left so many days ago.

We arrive. I float to solid ground. My Soul incubated with the images I’d seen.

They grace my memory, now and forever.

I love that train, now behind me.

Hear me now. Take a long, long train ride. Never be the same.

Thank you, Maple.

Thank you, Sky.

Thank you, Pine.

Thank you, Indians of North Dakota.

Thank you, Gul.

Until Next Time.   #IdleNoMore

DSCN4147cap hill 2


By Diane Walsh

© mediageode 2012

Diane Walsh in Washington DC Friendship Lodge


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