There are few things I like better than taking the train. I went all the way to China once, with a friend, but shorter trips are nice too. I’m currently on the train to Berlin, waiting to leave Basel, Switzerland, for flat Germany and industry. Many people are surprised I want to take this trip by train. Since the flight costs just as much, most people want to go by sky. But I love the rail. I love watching the villages go by, with spires and surrounding mountains, the pink sky rising out of the mist. I saw a dewy field with early morning brown sheep running, a fox jumping after a black bird, rare moments of new day life, often unseen. Once I wrote a poem about some of those things:
A hare by the side of a train,
standing ear-tall in the golden grass.
An ancient wooden door,
rounded, brown and weatherworn
The smells of centuries,
lakes and walls,
cracked books and waterfalls.
gathered in a garden,
under leaves, secret and red.
Water drops, spiders and insects,
colonies below ground
that come out again.
You never know what you are going to see on a train, or from a train. People waving, embracing, carrying too many bags, with picnics, like me. There is something very human, and touching, about train travel. Conversations arise. Right now I’m alone in my little compartment though, and I can shut out the noise. I can sit and drink tea and work. I found a plug for my computer. I’ll post this later.
I think it is easier to write on trains because you are constantly moving, so your train of thought, and your words, follow the same movement. Funny, I just realized we say "train of thought": I lost my train of thought… I found my train. That is why it is easy to write on trains, you can’t get lost, or lose your thoughts.
I wrote a lot when I took the Trans Siberian. I wrote "list poems", trains of words? It was August then too, and we kept going east under the clear sky, the horizon was always new. The air was different, clearer, and it felt as if it were pushing us forward. We read and embroidered and talked and slept and drank tea and ate what the babushkas sold us by the side of the tracks. The white and black birches, or poplars with pale green, heart shaped leaves, stretched on for days. We stretched our legs. We kept going east until we were in the East, and then we went south. And after a dip in the clear, cold, deep, Lake Baikal, the desert.