The best thing about Switzerland, by far, is the trains.
They are extremely clean, always punctual, and they can connect you to any place you want to go in the little country of Switzerland.
Some weekends we go to the train station and just pick a spot on the map and jump on board, destination unknown – any small town will do.
Because the little Swiss towns pretty much all look the same. Each nestles predictably beside a lake, with a Medieval city center, a wall, a castle, a view of the Alps.
We walk for awhile to see the sights and then find a cafe for lunch and afterwards, when late afternoon comes, we climb back onto the train to head home.
It is the sameness, the gentle rolling view of the neatly tilled fields dotted with livestock that sits well with me.
I like surrendering to the locomotion. These old trains have carved familiar courses in these rocks for over a century and now here I am, being carried along for the ride.
And the large window becomes like a slideshow for my thoughts of the past and of the future, but most especially, the moment that is here and now.
As the landscape flashes by I think about the people I miss at home, what they are doing.
But mostly I watch as the view expands when we emerge from a tunnel, or as we round a rocky bend and we draw up against a glacial lake, cold and blue, as it nestles at the foot of the mountains.
And I crane my neck each time, thinking that I’ll spot some new extravagant sight, yet most often it comes up the same: the bucolic pastures, the docile sheep, the rows of new seedlings beginning to come up.
And none of it sticks for too long, the sights not all that important, nothing to put on a postcard or anything to text my sister about.
It is just a rural, mundane life refreshed over and over before my eyes, one frame at a time.
But when I see the world through the soft reflection of the glass, it reminds me that there is a cohesiveness to things, an order, a simple logic that is easy to overlook in the modern world.
The patterns are laid out so neatly before me:
A small farmhouse where a mother hangs her wash on a line.
A grey cat sitting watchfully in the tall grass.
A thin thread of smoke curling gently from a stone chimney.
A pair of lovers huddled together on a bench.
Old men taking walks while smoking their pipes.
Being on a train reminds me that by nature we humans are curious observers. We want to know what lies on the other side of our own clotheslines.
And even though what we may find is nearly identical to what is in our own yard, it inspires us to tell our own story.
By looking, just looking out the window.
And it is of course the same story, told over and over again, broken in and tilled into regimented rows – nothing exotic – but still a life, my singular little life, my own intimate journey in time.
And there is something to the smooth clack of rails that snaps the pieces of my mind into place. Something solid that settles within my core that lets me know that I am here, in the place I am meant to be.
And that while everything in the world turns chaotically around me there is this simple line of track, like a verse or a paragraph – an extension of my words on the page.
And for today – tethered to this daily round, this common routine, it is never static, it’s constantly pulled toward something waiting for me in the distance.
And my eyes are open to the mystery that what I am able to observe is merely a fraction of what exists.
It is time pushing me forward and always the nudging query of what will come next.
And I know the answers can’t really be found, nor can the questions be retracted, and yet still I hurtle forward under the power of the train’s great engine – fresh green meadows flashing by, the sun at a tilt – blurring everything softly into the unknown as I close my eyes and breathe, just breathe.