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.
5 thoughts on “Girl On A Train”
An exquisite piece. Thank you. But my favorite thing about Swiss trains? That one of them will bring me to you!!
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I feel like I am on that train with you. You describe the clear view so clearly. Your writing also has me calling to mind the pleasurable times I have had on trains. Being on a train in another country has a way of causing us to wonder why in the would our nation is so resistant to building a vibrant railway system.
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> Happy birthday Corey! I hope you enjoy your dinner with Alex and Deb. I would love to jo
It really does feel like I’m with you, along for the ride, like a mouse in your pocket. The feeling of riding on a train is so unique, really. It always seems to carry the body forward while summoning the heart back in time. I find it nearly impossible to resist the melancholy reminiscence brought about by the reflection of my face in the glass while the train’s clacking and swaying invoke a dreamlike state. Your description feels just like that.
Thanks for the ride, love.
This brings to the surface memories of riding in my parents’ car to our place in NH and staring out the window and wondering about life and the places we were passing. We always left to make the trip at about 4 in the morning so the initial phase of the trip was actually spent staring at our immense universe and wondering about distant worlds. We would hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike around dawn and there were always miles of rhythmic thumping as the tires would go over the weather worn seams in the cement highway. We’d stop along the side of the road and sit at a picknick table and eat boxes of cereal that Dad would cut open with his pen-knife. What beautiful, happy memories stirred by yet another beautiful piece of writing by you Beth! You take the routine moments of life and turn them into something so lovely and relateable.
Feeling the rhythm of your piece while I am rocked on the rails to work and thinking of you starting your coffee in our cozy apartment wearing your warm robe. Thanks for this journey and those to come. Love.