Cross Canada Via ViaRail. My second time in three years.
What a trip....
I boarded the train Tuesday evening at 9pm in Vancouver and arrived in Toronto on Saturday at 2pm. We were a few hours late of our scheduled arrival time due to freight traffic, but I was in no rush, and it seemed that the majority of the passengers really didn't mind, either.
Four nights and three full days on the train, with a few short stops along the way to load passengers and "water the cars", if you know what I mean.
There was a lot of time to sit and think and stare out the window. It's a stunningly diverse and beautiful country I live in, and boy am I grateful to have the time and energy to cross it like that. Amazing. I can't recommend it enough. Comfortable, peaceful, and civilized.
There's not much to do, really. I got a bit of exercise walking up and down the train, but mostly I just read, sketched, ate, chatted, or sat and watched Canada roll on by, lost in thought and softly humming "Having a first world day" to myself.
While I was immersed in quiet reflection, I would often look out the window and just see my own damn belly-button staring back.
(That's a joke my father would get. Cheers, Bubba).
I guess I needed a little "Belly-Button Examination Time"... as I noticed a subtle change in my mood over the course of the trip. A slow climb from the funk I was feeling in Vancouver. It may have had something to do with the sporadic internet/phone connection on the train, it may have had something to do with the depth of sleep I seemed to be attaining (while being rocked to sleep by the motion of the train), or may have had something to do with the book I blew through in my waking hours. Cam MacDuffee recommended "The Soil Will Save Us" by Kristin Ohlson, and it is one of those magical books that comes along right when you need it. A blast of optimism right in the PoorUsHole. I'm really looking forward to getting to P.E.I. and working with Cam on his new show. Details (or not) to come...
Chatting with passengers on the train was also a cloud-shifting moment. I'd hate to make a blanket-statement (but those are the coziest, most comfortable blankets, aren't they?). There were a few "I've walked into the wrong party" moments, but so many of the passengers I talked with were of the wide-open, curious about the world, adventurous variety: experienced travellers, young people from all over the world. artists, musicians, intellectuals, and travel enthusiasts. It was a very different group than the last group I travelled with on the train (mostly Seniors scratching an item off the Bucket List, irritated by delays and obsessed with schedules). There were many times over the course of the trip where I started to feel a real sense of connection with a random series of strangers. I actually had a moment's thought, "these are my people".
When I would describe my last few years on the road, many of them seemed quite enthusiastic, intrigued, and supportive, which is a far cry from the "that must be really hard", and "that sounds terrifying" response I've learned from experience to expect.
There is much distance between us all. I found myself traversing it through conversation, dialogue, compassion, and the struggle for understanding.
A marvellous experience, to be sure, capped with the sensation that I'd found Home in the simple act of movement.
I'll be boarding the train again on Sunday to continue my cross-Canada trip out to P.E.I.