Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Riding Eastward to Peer through Death's Door

This is the event that I feared since little girlhood, and this is the train that's taking me there to help, I guess, to see it through. My mother aged ninety years has given up eating; all of us old and younger girls are trading shifts in her apartment where she clings to her intention of 'letting nature take its course.'

A drama of hearts has been roiling, quieting and welling up again all these past two weeks or longer. The train is retracing the courses of so many historical passages, certainly my own, and inevitably more and more whose evidence keeps receding into the ground with ever more accruing human occupation. Everywhere are ruins or defunct things drawing my eyes to them, such as the ornately chiseled end of a stone bridge like something from centuries ago in Italy, tipped on the rim of a ravine. The territory reaching ever eastward could be the surface of a brain bringing back to mind where we have been on one occasion or another. The wheels on the track make a pulse beat; the conductor's horn far ahead is now and again muted unto likeness with a cello, or split into a medley of horns, symphonic, a rudimentary musical theme for the day's travel. We are trailing that undertone, like a far-carrying orchestral tuning-up, across the spreading breadth of the upper Mississippi River Valley.


A family member my own age has been calling, crushed with depression, so I take time with her over the phone as my trip proceeds. Her life's loves predominantly appear  to have been individual people over her adulthood,  but when your people keep letting you down, as seems to be some of our lot when it comes to lovers or partners, you need a separate passion or several of them, things larger than yourself, to minimize the disappointment, yet it's seemed to me for a long time that she has been short in this department. She has an empty heart, along with doubts as to what would ever take up dwelling there but never leave or grow tiresome.

She is another person who has offered me her home to share if ever I wanted, though I too have turned her down, not caring to move out to the urban Northeast. But I will not disappoint my mom; I'm coming. I'm so grateful to my late dad and my mom, who live in my heart, for the huge capacity they gave me to enjoy what my senses pick out from the world, from the margin of back yards petering out along the track from the hamlets we cross in Ohio running eastward, sheds, contrivances, names of businesses, names, the persistent trees that vary a bit more from the familiar as we leave Pennsylvania for New York, all just samplings made on a train ride. A whole life consists of enjoyments in strata. If I could impart my parents' gift on a soul as desolate as these Lower Great Lakes-region warehouses here in the Rust Belt...  Her depression is still beyond my understanding, but I know that depression kills and that her recovery will have to be demonstrable to her and then taken on piecemeal. Maybe along in her process the most meaningful items we'll be able to share will no longer have to be sad ones.

Country music reminds us that this land is full of voices crying: come home, come ho-o-ome! even if the person being summoned was never fully clear as to where home was. But this symphonic rail route serves to remind me that home in some sense is everywhere we've ever been, space that we relish crossing and re-crossing. If I had time, I would walk out from this railway and be on my hands and knees learning every plant and creature that is found here by name and image, by which means the lore of them with their descendants might be saved for all eternity...
Some more of what I'm urged to expose from all my North American places is here:

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