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November 8, 2004
It will take about three hours to get to Harrisburg by train, a distance I could cover in significantly less time if I were driving. But the Farm has only one vehicle, a 1998 Jetta named Jeannette, and she needs to stay home with Q to help him get to his classes and fetch Noodle from the vet this evening: today is her long awaited Coming-Out party. He needs the car. Besides, the train is my very favorite conveyance.

It's a great country. Every mile of it fascinates, deserves a long look, a study best conducted by someone who is not at the wheel of a car. This is one reason I know I'm growing older: Just look at the scenery, my mother used to say when we twitched and whined in the back seat and ask over and over if we were there yet. And a monumental scowl it was just as well she couldn't see would settle over my young features: I hated scenery. Why would anyone want to look at trees and telephone poles whip by? Why would anyone want to look at the houses we pass? Aren't we there yet?

And now? I love every house. Every curtain in every window. Every tree standing alone in a meadow, every grove of trees. I love the carpet of yellow leaves on the ground, the newly naked bony arms of trees reaching for blue sky. Every person on every train platform, stepping onto my car when we stop and becoming, once we begin to chug back into motion, a fellow pilgrim. I love to wonder about them, even invent them sometimes, embroidering upon them histories they almost certainly do not have.

And when I tire of the show, I can write. Or read. Or pray -- the train is a fine place to read the Daily Office, and I sometimes break with my routine when I am on the road and save most of it for when I am safely ensconced. Public life -- public transportation, public gatherings, crowds in public spaces -- is profoundly intercessory. In our public moments, we cannot avoid one another. On the train, I feel the same safe fellowship I always feel in New York: surrounded by strangers, private but among human beings with whom I share a common experience: we are here together, now, on our way together, you and I, we who do not know each other, who cannot finish each other's sentences, we who must remain mysterious to one another. Sister! Brother! Hello! Have a good trip. And go with God.


Listen to this eMo read by Buddy Stallings, Episcopal priest and transplanted Mississippian living in wonder in Staten Island at
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