• Fern

A Transitory Tale

A trip downstate on the Amtrak this week to attend my granddaughter’s fifth grade graduation (where she wowed the attendees with her brave and powerful singing on stage, btw), was analogous to my being a 45rpm record shoved into a CD player. A country stick cast into a city of stone. It’s not like I didn’t grow up in the city and work in Manhattan, but that was ‘when’ and this is now.

A country morning routine of watching the pair of squirrels do their ‘hide the nut, find the nut’ routine, the lone turkey strutting across the yard, the grey fox slinking, the tree frog resting on the windowsill, the heron landing on the still pond, the crows chasing the hawk, even the infuriating chipmunks skittering across the pollen dusted deck on their way to hop into my plants and dig holes. All these sights and sounds and smells fell behind me like a vivid dream upon awakening, as I rode the Amtrak down the Hudson.

Bucolic scenes drift to the back of my mind as the motion of the train takes over in its chugging, bumpy, whistling way. The express train barrels through stations too fast to read their names. I lose sense of place. Looking up from my book at intervals, I notice the green leafed expanses beside the mighty waters of the river transition to less foliage, more houses (backs of them), boats and boat yards, parks, families in the parks.

Closer to the city, construction is everywhere, with mountains of sand and gravel, cranes, excavators, dumpsters, steel pilings, buildings with no names or signs. The quiet air pulses with serious intent. What are they building so close to the water? Drawing nearer to the city, the train slows, sounds its horn more frequently. One can see the new and the old Tappan Zee bridges, side by side; the newly named (Governor Mario M. Cuomo bridge) sparkling structure gleams in the morning sun as its predecessor, dim and past its usefulness, sits beside it. Age happens to all. Current highway bridges built after 1947 have a shorter lifetime than humans, 70 years.

The train tunnels. Graffiti, piles of rubbish, dirt, can be seen in the dim light. The AC slows and fellow passengers rustle about to gather their belongings; the very air seems faster. We prepare for the debarking process, when the heat and smells and rush and push will greet us, when ‘step lively’, as my mother used to say, is the order of the day.

to be continued…

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