Headed North


Blurry yellow buttercups, blue-green grass of early fall against white painted fence rails — all a blur as #96 picks up speed on its path north. Out of the South. A short pit-stop in Ashland, Hanover County, then our screech metal hubs begin their halting glide again. Antebellum white columns dot the county landscape; grand porches, slightly lowing swings, the occasional mare and rusty oil tanks. I know the stops by-heart on this run: Ashland, Fredericksburg, Quantico, Alexandria, DC for an engine change, New Carollton, BWI, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia — and then the City. The rail line out of the South is where past meets present — this week, no exception — the rumble of the diesel engine sways this line; the change-over to an electric engine in DC, symbolic. Sculptured lawns of Richmond give-way as a train saunters north through the Kudzu versus Virginia Creeper vine battles — a vain attempt on both parts to overtake or stake claim — which will win? Rail unites while it divides, bringing life and death together — human, nature, community, beauty. Our hopes rest on the rails — and maybe it delivers what we yearn for it to do — connect the disparity that is everyday life. Today #96 is ahead of schedule — but we must wait for our spot on the DC dock; what we gained on our trek thus far, we now lose to other forces. Tomorrow, without doubt, #85 headed south will surely be an hour late. For now, dirty windows offer a blurred moment — to study, to gaze, to float.

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