I’ve been in this space more than once. I created this place. The desert. The mountains. Wherever, whoever, however it takes to learn what I need to learn. I have learned so far that some things can orient me more than others—the smell of sagebrush after rain, the feel of cold wind on my cheeks, my own hands rubbing up and down the lengths of my quadriceps enveloped by the sound of my breath keeping me grounded.
I remember when I was younger trains gave me that grounding, that rhythmic breath that I craved, safe, so safe—depending on speed I could count by seconds the sounds of each car to the next crosswalk, long sighs and short whistles like sheep dipping one by one over the horizon and out of the ears of a small child wrapped tight in cotton blankets. Sometimes, the cars of trains so pronounced that the ever-present paranoia of anxiety becomes overwhelming with the thought of derailment and destruction.
And the breath goes in and out and the train comes and goes and the chest heaves and caves. I wonder if the body teaches lessons like work teaches lessons or if I can learn to tell the two to take it slow, let me integrate, or if that’s my own defense. And the breath goes in and out and the lesson comes as it should it the smell of French pastries and the feel of dried tears on my cheeks orients me once again to the present moment.
With a wooden whistle, would it be known what it’s like to have an ear to the track and call up the train breathing heavy like a powerful dragon? Does a penny feel the heat of the belly of a train before its flattened? Does a train wreck happen slow from behind or are Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner really able to cling to the elastic sagebrush for that long before falling …just little questions with simple answers and the long low wail of the train lulls babies to sleep.
“I would like to visit the factory that makes train horns, and ask them how they are able to arrive at that chord of eternal mournfulness. Is it deliberately sad? Are the horns saying, Be careful, stay away from this train or it will run you over and then people will grieve, and their grief will be as the inconsolable wail of this horn through the night? The out-of-tuneness of the triad is part of its beauty.”
― Nicholson Baker