Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Train Ride

I am traveling north from NYC on the noon train and if we keep to schedule in just a little over 2 hours I will arrive in my hometown. Looking out the window there are times when it seems that just the tiniest sliver of land separates the train car from the ice laden river alongside me. It thrills me. I have prepared for this, dashing onto the train to ensure a seat on the left hand side, the window seat with the Hudson River view.

A Canadian goose, frightened into flight, flies parallel to my window slowly losing ground falling back, back and away but not before I watch it's wings gracefully beat against the winter wind.

I contemplate the river. The January ice is multicolored, patches of wavy aqua marine stretch into navy and mushy gray. I imagine walking across the ice to reach the opposite riverbank but notice places where channels have been cut by river barges. The water is choppy and a steely black.

I watch from the window as we chug past a cookie-cutter park with a jogging trail snaking along the river side. A parka-clad woman throws a frisbee into the air. Her border collie leaps capturing the spinning disk with sheer joy oblivious to wind or temperature. Their breath makes little clouds of moist air. A walker walks, heaving himself into the wind with great strides on the charcoal path of concrete slicing through the still-white snow.

I pass gingerbread houses from Victorian times with puffing chimneys and streets bathed in winter sunshine. Giant maples reach their bare branched fingertips up to touch the sky in what seems to me like praise. Or are they pleading for something? I wonder.

West Point sits on the edge of a cliff like a fortress impenetrable in sand-blasted stone holding the secrets of lost decades.

We follow the river as ancient mountain ranges rise up in their wintry majesty. The Catskills home of lore and legend and in the distance the Adirondacks soar misty blue and mysterious.

Croton on the Hudson, Garrison, towns fly by with names plucked out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We blink past Wappingers and Poughkeepsie, towns christened after the native Indian tribes who for so long held a peaceful pact with the land they roamed.

Even though I now live among palm trees and gulf breezes the Hudson River landscape resides within me. It stirs my heart with something much deeper than nostalgia. I still believe that something magic lies hidden in the foggy mist that rises from the river in early morning, that the steepled, old graying towns, the winding roads and the arching railroad trestles hold secrets yet undiscovered. It seems to me that something mysterious and altering resides there waiting for me to discover it. These visions and vistas whisper that I am not alone; that I belong, that I am a part of something ancient and holy and that it is a part of me.

As the train slides into the depot I watch a hawk soar into the slanting afternoon light. I breathe a sigh from deep within. I am home.

Nora Hooper