Friday, February 27, 2009


February 27, 2009 railway

When we first moved to Farmington UT the rails lining the Western edge of Interstate 15 were pretty rusty. If there were trains on them, they were old and silent, looking like graffiti wrapped storage units waiting for the parade to start. Then something happened. I'm not sure what spurred it, or why, but the rectangular dinosaurs started to move. The rails cleared and yellow capped workers bent in little clusters along the eternal equal sign at the top of the mound on the side of the freeway. Then those old, beautiful, solid engines fired up and started to roll. Now, nearly every time I drive this ribbon of highway between the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, I'll see a train working its way toward Canada or Mexico or somewhere in between. The yellow headed workers in canvas overalls even built a second set of rails next to the old faithfuls. Our shiny new red, white, and blue commuter rail, Front Runner, uses that line. I can tell when we drive along and see the lights of Front Runner illuminating the western desert that David feels an emotion akin to proud parenthood because he was one who helped shepherd in the creation of that commuter train when he was mayor and a leader in the Wasatch Front Regional Council.
The sound of a train is beautiful to me. I think if a person spent a relatively happy childhood near a railway, the sound of a train would be beautiful. Comforting, sort of like the clock in our Family Room which chimes every 15 minutes; or the one in our entry hall whose swinging pendulum is the heartbeat of our house. When we first moved into this house I could not sleep well at night. Mom Connors had just died unexpectedly, and I recognized my kids were growing up, and my husband was mourning painfully, and though this new house was lovely I missed the familiarity of our old place. I could function in the day, but at night I tiptoed out of our room and wandered through the house, ending up sitting on the couch before the fireplace, weeping. One night, as if it were told to me in a holy whisper, I realized the grandfather clock in the entry hall was not running. We had neglected to raise the weight which created the tension which kept the pendulum swinging. I opened the glass door and pulled on the chain, feeling the therapeutic resistance of that weight. I tapped the pendulum and set it swinging. The steady clicking of the clock, echoing against the wooden floors of the entry hall, soothed my mind and calmed my heart. The moan of a train as it passes across my space in the desert does the same.
When I was small, seven years old to be exact, our family lived for one year on Jean Drive in Whitehall Township, PA. That was the year I fell on the ice and slammed my brain against my skull, giving me a doozy of a concussion, a face that turned completely black and blue, and welcoming the disjointed lifestyle of an ADD person to my private party. That was also the year I discovered the tadpoles along the railway behind our house. Down the hill and up again, behind a bank of trees. We watched them daily go from teeny little fishies, to fishies with feet, then fishies who lost their tails. Soon enough they jumped out of the rusty pool of water beside the railway. I also learned that, indeed, pennies could be smashed flat on the rail. We left 5 of them one afternoon, setting them at random spots on the wide thread of steel, walking across the wooden strips that smelled of tar in the summer sun, to the thread that ran steadily along on the other side. Then the voice of our mother pierced through the trees and we ran up the hill for dinner. When we came back the next day three pennies were missing, one was intact in the dirt along side the rail, and one lay oval shaped and wafer thin, bent across the rail like a pancake. I learned as a child to sleep comfortably through the train whistle right behind my bedroom window. To this day the sound of a train whistle is lovely to me.
When Grandpa Connors was still with us; when he was steady in his walk and speech, before Parkinsons altered him, we drove up to Corinne UT to visit the place where the Golden Spike was driven. That was a good day; our kids all with us, their grandpa holding their hands as they jumped across the rails. We sat on a wagon and had our picture taken. We pretended to be pioneers, so excited that we could get to California on a train rather than a horse and wagon. We stopped along the road on the way back to Farmington and picked some sage from the sandy swail at the side of the asphalt. It had rained, and the desert had that sweet earthy aroma of wet wild sage. It made the car smell like we were on the fishing streams of my youth. I did not want to exhale.
My mom tells me she figured out how to correctly spell my name from the exit sign at Corinne. So I suppose I was named after a town. The town where two railways met and connected a vast and powerful nation. A town with a golden spike driven into her heart. No wonder I like the sound of a train.


  1. I think I might be getting smarter when I read what you write. You have a heightened awareness about you and your memory is so full of vivid descriptions. Beautiful writing. I hope you stay on task with you WOD.

  2. Well done. Lovely prose, but more importantly, that connecting thing you do - that soul to soul thing that jerks tears out of my man. Mournfulness mixed with affection for life. Compounded by wonderful timing. A song, even without the meter.