Amtrak Texas Eagle, Train No. 21
A landscape can flush out memories the same way an old familiar song does. It happened to me while traveling on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle train through central Illinois. I was a college student heading to school. I was a young editor reporting on railroad prairies – native plants growing along the ICG Railroad right of way. This land was not only familiar to me but to my ancestors who made a living tilling the soil, acre after flat acre. Like a river returning to its source, Illinois created a current inside of me.
I sat with this feeling for a while.
A few years ago, through a mindfulness class I attended, I learned to stop myself from ruminating. The reason I learned to stop was because ruminating gave me no advantage for appreciating what’s happening in the moment. For that reason, I let the memories go and gazed out at the landscape that presented itself to me on that day, on that train.
During mid spring before the crops have started their growth cycle, the view was equivalent to that of a teenager’s blank stare, as exciting as a pair of dormant brown corduroy pants. If there is not a color called dormant brown, I thought there should be.
My seatmate knew nothing about Illinois. He kept his attention on his laptop. He traveled by airplane from Minneapolis to Chicago to attend a business meeting. He was taking the train from Chicago to Bloomington where he would attend another meeting.
“I could have drove,” he said. “But taking the train I avoid a speeding ticket and I can work. Time is everything, you know.”
An efficient fellow he was. Sitting next to him felt awkward, like the pauses during a bad first date. My limbs tightened. He was wearing clear frame glasses, blue jeans, a sport jacket and a black & white checked shirt. His dark hair was properly cut and combed.
I saw some tall white wind turbines in the distance turning their trinity of wings slowly in unison. They grew closer and more numerous as the train moved along its track. Illinois ranks fourth among U.S. states for installed wind turbine capacity. But what I was searching for was a field of blooming Prairie Trout Lily. Continue reading