Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Back from vacation. And a splendid time it was. My low tech journal --handwritten in a smart, compact, spiral bound book with no lines-- means I can't just dump it into the blog or anywhere. But I did make good journal entries and some sketches. There's not a lot to sketch on a train, at least I didn't think so. I did two characatures: a man who continued to pick his nose during the geology leture in the dome car; and his wife who is nearly blind and therefore never noticed that I was staring at her. The man never noticed either. I had hoped he would see me staring at him and stop picking his nose.

Outside the train window there was no end to what could be sketched and drawn, but it was going by so fast and I'm such a slow artist, I never even tried. I bought a book of animal stencils to lend some nature to the pages. That worked well.

Who can even match with words the grandeur of the National Parks of America. They are just undescribably delicious. The mountains and the valleys, and the trees and the wildflowers. The super-natural features of geo-thermal effects and glaciers are the whipped cream and cherry on the sundae! What is particulary awesome --and everyone comments on it-- is the way nature takes such good care of itself (Mt 6:26). After the forest fires which are inevitable with drought and lightening, the little wildflowers come pushing up and paint a wonderful confetti blanket of bright colors in the midst of charred, dead wood. With no foliage to block the sun, the flowers soak it all in and spread themselves like wildfire. The Indian Paintbrush is my favorite. I never got to sketch one, but i did take its picture.

We did not get to see any moose or bears. I am not convinced I wanted to see them. I like zoos and animatrons, but in real life the bear would melt me in seconds. The lakes and the streams gave evidence of beavers and various kinds of fish. The urge to grab a rod and reel and start casting about was irresitable and we vowed to return ready to fly-fish in the mountain shadows.

The American Orient Express train was an experieince in and of itself. Maybe it was Mark Twain who said that you don't take a train to get to a final destination, but to experience the jounrey along the way. On board the train, your senses are bombarded conintually with sound, vibrations, sites, and smells. It's a sensory overload at times. The people on the train seem almost surreal, like movie versions of themselves, coming and going. They seemed to have more clothes than could be possible to pack for a week's trip, much less store in the shoebox size cabins on the train.

Entering the cabin the first day is quite a shock. In your wildiest imagination you can't believe they expect you get everything you need into the space and actually move about doing all the daily do's of dressing, etc. Maybe if you belong to the Cirque d'Soleil troupe you could figure out how to position two people dressing, using the wc, putting on contacts, shaving, etc. But two non-contortionists surely cannot manage in so small a space. those are your first thoughts, and your second and third. Then on the third day, you find you are correct, and set up a schedule that allows for one person to complete said tasks before the other comes back.

Night brings another distinct change to the cabin as one of the two dimesions vanishes. Normally, one is used to living in three dimensions, but the cabin only has two to begin with. When darkness comes, and it comes comletely by the middle of the night, there is a void as big as a black hole and yet no more room than there was with 3 dimensions. One night i awoke, and i awoke every night, and realized i couldn't see my hand in front of my face, or the edge of the bed, or the floor, or the bottom of the bunk 10" above my body.

I only hit my head on that bunk bottom once and that was on the last day! I din't spend any undue time in that cabin. Bare minimum! So much more room in the piano car or dome car or observation car. Why sit alone in the cabin?

Every minute of the trip invigorated the spirit and renewed my sense of wonder. And I haven't even begun to talk about the culinary experience! Suffice to say, I gained 6 pounds.

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