A writer's journey


I wanted to see mountains again, and find somewhere quiet where I could finish my book. So I got on a train.



I had never ridden on a passenger train before. Walking the narrow corridors, trying to keep my balance as the train shook and rocked, all I could think of were old movies about spies and femmes fatale.





I discovered that other travellers had ridden this train and left their words behind.



"Destroy all former timetables."
This seemed like pertinent advice.




 And I saw mountains.


There were mountains.



 And then, more mountains.




There were so few people on board I sometimes had the feeling I was alone on this train.



Where was everybody? Could there be anything more eerie than a deserted bar car?



At night, in the empty dome car, I almost convinced myself that I was dreaming this entire journey.



At sunset on the second day we came to a wide river. On our right hand, waterfalls plunged from the rock, mere inches from the train windows. We went around a headland, then another, and another. The river kept widening.


 The river went on widening until it became the sea, and it seemed we had come to the very end of the world.



We stopped at a town on an island, the terminus of the railway. The next morning, ships anchored in the harbour seemed to float in the fog. I sat by the docks and made notes for the last pages of my book, struggling to tied up a few loose strands of plot. The fog slowly lifted. This was supposed to be one of the rainiest places in North America, but the whole time I was there it was sunny, except for the occasional morning fog.




Unlikely reminders of writing were to be found here. I wondered if the people who built and named this inn had ever actually read the book and knew how it ended?



 There were many reminders of the power of the sea...





... and the power of the spirit.

 



The isle was full of noises, sounds and sweet airs...




Actually, in the forest there was a pervading scent very reminiscent of cannabis. I knew that the good folk of this far western land were quite indulgent about such things, but had they indulged enough to perfume an entire forest? Eventually I traced the aroma to this plant, skunk cabbage.




 In the mornings I would write, and then go out and explore the town. It had seen some hard times in the past...



But in places there were new coats of paint and the local people I spoke with were sure that better times were on the way.





The last strands of the novel began to weave together, and I felt that a little of the sea, forest and mountains were woven in with them.





It was time to go home. The train set off through the morning mist.





It really was a dream train. At one point we somehow ended up far south of the border.





Another half-deserted train! When the service manager (no longer called the conductor, alas) wasn't looking, I opened the back door and got some fresh air.




We passed the wreck of a freight that had gone off the rails a few days before. Reminded me of the state my novel had been in more than once.




We stopped briefly at a place called Penny (pop. 2), the last post office in Canada to be serviced only by train. Soon, like the Canadian penny itself, this place may be a thing of the past.




The train came to a tourist town in the mountains where I'd lived as a teenager. I disembarked to spend a couple of days here and found some accommodation.




Memories of the past were everywhere.





I was sad to discover that my old school friend had sold his family's gift shop/bookstore. Now it was being refurbished to be ready for peak tourist season. I'd worked here for a while when I was in high school, selling books (probably reading more than I sold). Years later the store kept my books in stock.




On a trail I met a young woman who was worried about bears, so we agreed to walk together (I didn't mention that I was a little concerned about bears, too). The young woman was traveling across the country by herself. At the end of our walk together I told her that if she wanted to know more about the region she should check out a novel called Icefields by this guy named Thomas Wharton.




At the local watering hole I had a beer to toast the memory of friends who'd passed on.





Then it was time for the last leg. The dream train left the mountains and picked up speed as it came to the prairies. We rolled on through the night. I met a young man making his way home from Alberta to Ontario. The job he'd come west for hadn't worked out and he was going home in the hope of finding a job there.  He was going to be on this train for two more days and nights, and he was looking forward to having a shower when he finally got home. "Even if Megan Fox wanted to get with me," he chuckled, "I'd tell her sorry Megan, you gotta give me ten minutes to shower."

The young guy went to have a look at the dining car (where he couldn't afford to eat) and came back clutching something under his arm: one of those travel-sized boxes of cereal. He'd snatched it from the dining car when no one was looking. 
"Got my breakfast for tomorrow," he told me with a gleeful grin.

I put him in my notebook, of course.














2 comments:

Michael Burrows said...

Lovely trip. Full of easy light.

Jason said...

My wife and I took a trip up to this seaside town just this July and really enjoyed ourselves. Unfortunately we didn't get to take the train and drove instead, but the ride to get there was beautiful.