To the End of the Way of the Wandering Star

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
G.K. Chesterton

I was perched in a low-slung camp chair made of wood and cloth, not unlike the sort my ancient friends are accustomed to using, somewhat cold for the basement is chilly (particularly this time of year) content to be quiet and to read. I had finished my scribbles and had moved on to some rather complicated notions by an old author about Kruger beards, and while I was trying to get a handle on this I was deftly ignoring my own notion that I ought to go work on the bike and get some exercise in. There is nothing like reading to displace physical labour. But in the middle of this, quite suddenly and without the least flicker of warning, out of the damp grey woody quiet of the winter's visage through the window came the long, loud, throaty roar of a train's horn. Like a hound which hears the mote I raised my head at once and stared out the window (you could see nothing through it, save bare tree branches and sorry wet sky); on the horn went, thrilling, roaring, blazing like some kind of golden fire through the colourless atmosphere around me. I did not move and I did not speak, but a lot moved in my soul and my soul said a great deal in that long timeless moment that the train went on, calling out its obligatory warning.

I have always considered trains to be a timeless sort of thing. Maybe it is the result of romantic notions passed on subliminally into my mind. Whatever it is, I have always considered them timeless, more than half sentient, running on their iron veins, hidden, through the fabric of society. Society, like tops, whirling in circles and getting nowhere much, goes on, while the trains rush through it all with a kind of terrible, iron purpose, touching nothing, nothing touching them. And as I have been thinking for some months past about the nature of the Kingdom, with that one train that I heard this afternoon (I do not know its name, where it came from or where it is going, I only heard the sound of it), it was a very simple thing for me to see, not the black-sided figure of a Norfolk Southern engine shrilling out through intersections of rail and road, but a blazing, white-hot-iron creature screaming intently through time and space, hurtling toward its goal, itself timeless and its passengers too, hurtling faster and building light as it went - and wherever the slog of time-bound traffic and the cruel blank blackness of asphalt fell across its path it sounded its horn (rally or mort I do not dare to say, perhaps both at once) as a kind of exultant warning to the whirling people around it.

I saw that half-sentient, immortal thing and its comet-streak of light with my mind's eye for a moment (a moment which left, I am sure, a tell-tale burn-mark somewhere on my soul, probably where my spirit and my heart touch) but I got to see that kind of light with my mortal eyes later when I was driving home. The sun had come out and a high, strong wind was up, roaring like the world's last ocean in the world's last autumn leaves. Clouds were tearing at break-neck speed across the sky and I stopped to look up for the note (of rally or mort I do not know) was still in the air, if only the echo of it, and I felt it rather than heard it. So I had to look up. At first I saw that the clouds were across the sun, and then I thought I was wrong and that the sun, become far more huge for closeness, had come down out of its plane and hung in middle earth's atmosphere, enormous, horribly bright, making arms of light for itself out of the racing, shredding clouds so that I could barely look for long. But I did look. I remember that the stars once spoke of high deeds around the years of Jesus's birth and the magi, intent upon such celestial languages, caught the writing in the heavens. Now it seemed, to me, that our own star was saying something about high deeds as well and a high kind of man to do them. Like Simeon I lifted up my eyes and saw the Consolation of Israel and the Light to the Gentiles coming through the clouds, burning like the sun in splendour, and all the windy blue of heaven the high laughter of all the angels.

it's a window in the world, a little glimpse of all the goodness getting through

I have come inside now out of the cold. The late light is lying coppery and gold on the grass and appears quite warm seen from the comfortable environment of my heated room. But I can see by the whirl of the branches that the wind is still roaring strongly, and where it comes from and where it is going I don't know. But somehow I imagine that great, solid, diffusing sun knows, and it knows where that blazing train hails from, too, and where its station lies. I look at the setting sun and I know I am looking west, but from the windows of the train I am not certain what I see, save that I know the light is growing both in the train and from whatever horizon it hurtles toward. What are east and west? what are north and south in a place beyond all compass points, in a place that is the centre of the compass itself? That is where the station is, that is where the light comes from.

I hear the hunting cry of the train again, ethereal, coming from a place where there is no time and space, to me in time and space, and something in me breaks under the realness of its weight.

2 ripostes:

  1. "Good Morning, America, How are ya?
    Don't you know me? I'm your native son;
    I'm the train they call 'The City of New Orleans,'
    I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done."

  2. This is so lovely. I used to hate trains. Their song sounded melancholy and and unbearably lonely. We live hear a train, and hear it almost every day; but now I enjoy listening to it, because it makes me think of people and places far away.
    I ordered your book, "The Shadow Things," from Amazon. I went through a lot of transaction trouble, and am SO excited that they've finally shipped it! I absolutely cannot wait!