Thursday, February 13, 2014

Riding the Southwest Chief II

Albuquerque to Los Angeles

The train pulls out of the station at 4:45 p.m.   Right on time.  I immediately go to the lounge and buy a half bottle of chardonnay to take back to my sleeper car.  My dinner reservation is at six, so I have an hour to sit back and watch the sky.  This leg of the journey is all about the sky.  I think of all the paintings I saw in the Albuquerque museum and how so many artists were lured to this part of the country by the very landscape that is sailing by me.  My camera captures the magic.  It is why I take so many photographs when I travel.
To preserve the moment.  And to relive it.

This is Georgia O'Keeffe country.  On describing one of her paintings, Pedernal and Red Hills, she wrote:  "The unexplainable thing in nature that makes me feel the world is big far beyond my understanding--to understand maybe by trying to put it into form.  To find the feeling of infinity on the horizon line or just over the next hill."

The sky fades to black.  That feeling of infinity is now gone, at least for today.  I head for the dining car, deciding to be more sociable this time around.  I am seated with a young mother and her four-year-old son from Santa Fe.  The little boy is thrilled I speak his language.  We talk about dinosaurs and pizza.  The mother's shoulders relax.  We are served roasted chicken, green beans and garlic mashed potatoes--comfort food--satisfying, but not great.  After they leave, I linger over a second glass of wine.  For the first time this trip, I feel a little lonely.

The attendant makes my bed up around 10 p.m.  I have a good book to read:  Paula McLain's The Paris Wife.  I settle into the darkness, once again content.

The seats and coaches were plush and inviting, and Fonnie's puritanical voice, telling me I shouldn't enjoy it, was suddenly very far off.  This was the Midnight Special, and I tucked myself into my Pullman berth, behind deep green curtains.

The clackety, clackety, clackety of the train once again puts me to sleep.  I don't wake up until hours later.  Pulling back my curtain, I see this haunted view outside my window.  I haven't a clue where we are, but I'm glad this isn't my final destination.  Los Angeles is still several hours away.

McLain's book remains my companion as we roll into the dawn.   When I arrived at Union Station the next morning, I was well rested and only slightly nervous . . .  My journey has come to an end.

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