Photos Trains

Seeing Far

January 9, 2017

Lately I’ve been gifted with the dawning sense of my own small-mindedness. Closed-up views kept in place by fear. Worries that ratchet down the perception of what’s possible for myself and for the world.

I can nearly reach out and touch the greater natural intelligence that opens, infinitely available, when I drop my demands and my tight-fisted plans. Something begins to move then, carrying me beyond the sphere of misperceived limitations.

I’ve been encouraging this growing awareness with daily meditation, both sitting practice and qigong. Certain qigong exercises help soften one’s vision and expand the sense of sight so that seeing becomes more about receiving than gripping with the eyes.

But riding on trains helps, too.

Home, for me, is a place nestled in a furrowed green and gold valley. It’s beautiful, but it lacks a long or changing view. Traveling by train, the view constantly reshapes itself. Life, landscape, every kind of person and thing arises and passes in front of my eyes. I grip and let go, again and again. Then a simple softening, the world easily unfolding; suddenly, through my eyes, that which is nameless is awake and seeing far.


Little Things

January 7, 2017


I’ve been on the train for less than three hours and I see that my first task will be cultivating a sense of humor. We departed late from Chicago because the train had brake trouble. That was no big deal; the Empire Builder has a reputation for running late and unusually rough.

Once on board, the car attendant stuck his head through the curtained door of my compartment to let me know that the train might get stuck at Whitefish, Montana — which would mean putting us on a bus to Spokane or installing us in a hotel overnight. Or there may be no problem at all. Whitefish is more than a day away, so I’m taking this as an opportunity to practice not fretting over the unknown. One way or another, I’ll connect with the Coast Starlight in Portland and wend my way home eventually.


There are other things. Little ones: rickety track bouncing a drink into my lap, a very excited toddler person somewhere in this sleeping car, and a ridiculous tussle over the faulty AC adapter in my roomette. Because “my” outlet wasn’t working, I plugged my laptop into the adapter of the empty compartment across from mine, prompting the car attendant to tell me that by doing so I was committing “theft of revenue.” I had to look at him hard to be sure he wasn’t joking. (He wasn’t.) I said I didn’t see it as stealing, given that the room was unoccupied and the AC adapter I’m paying for is broken.

Seeing either my logic or the confused look on my face that was almost like crying, the attendant got on the train loudspeaker and requested that a “conductor come to the IC.” (I later learned that’s short for “intercom.”) After three more announcements like that, he got on the speaker again and requested “immediate assistance.” Then the train stopped.

Oh shit, I thought, are they stopping the train because my AC adapter isn’t working? Are they going to have me arrested and removed from the train for theft of revenue? It turns out we were just coming into the station at Portage, Wisconsin. While we were stopped, there was fuss, bother, and finally the fixing of the outlet, after which we happily headed off toward Minneapolis, missing all the scenic highlights because it was dark.

I forgot to mention that I love trains. This car, 2370, is the very last of the cars and it bounces all over the place, but we’re the only ones who get to look out the rear window to see where we’ve been.

Photos Trains Wander

The Brown Line

January 7, 2017

Riding the Brown Line of the Chicago “L” system from Western to the Loop and back, in 10-degree winter weather.