Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Writer on the rails...

A few weeks ago I went on a trip that I've been dreaming about for a long time:

I rode The Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. Yes, I was a writer on the rails!

Did I get much writing done? Not really. At least, not on paper.

Writer on the rails...
But what I did do was think. A lot. About what I was reading. About my writing life. About what I might write next, and whether I was up to the effort of rebuilding my fiction-writing life on top of a very busy paying-gig writing life. Writers need to do this sometimes. We need to stop, and think, and fill up that jug that we so quickly empty when we're working. Riding the rails for four days was a gift.

Hour after hour of gazing out a window at a changing landscape of trees, rocks and water. That was Northern Ontario which goes on forever...until you hit Winnipeg.  More hours of watching the rolling landscape gradually flatten into the prairies of Saskatchewan. Flat? Yes. Boring? Never! (I'm reminded of the story I heard from a friend: Family moves from Saskatchewan to BC, from the prairie to the mountains. Kids complain: "But we can't SEE anything! These mountains are in the way!")

Wine country in BC
Then the foothills, and the Rockies gradually rising up and surrounding the railway tracks. The Canadian doesn't do the loopy, side-of-mountain route that the Rocky Mountaineer does (tunnels, spectacular switchbacks). No, we followed rivers, and sometimes the Trans-Canada highway. We sat on sidings - frequently! - as freight trains, sometimes kilometres long and stacked with double container cars, took precedence over our tourist train. (No matter. No rush.) We saw May's "Super Moon" rise over Kamloops during a late-night stop. We watched the lush farmland around Chilliwack soak up the sun as we rocked by. And then into Vancouver, where urban and green hold hands in a unique landscape of cityscape, sea, mountain and rain forest.

So, did all those hours of watching and thinking clarify my writing life?

Not sure. But it didn't hurt. Riding the rails - taking time out to just sit. And think. And watch. And read. And luxuriate in it all.

It didn't hurt my writing life. Not a bit.


Okay, I did do a little writing. And I mean a little...

The Canadian: Day One

View from the window:
Trees, water, and low grey clouds.
Nothing? Everything.

Watching for wildlife.
Beaver? Moose? Bear? Eagle? Nope.
Fellow travellers.

Train life: one long line,
See only the car in front -
'Til the curve. Then - all.

Looking back...

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