Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Travels: Disorientation

My train journey started about 40 minutes behind schedule. How?!

The train started in San Antonio, and only made one stop before arriving in Austin. I, and many other passengers were impatient to begin our journey. We discussed our reservations about the train - the fact that it took five hours to get to Dallas where we could drive in just over three hours concerned us. And now we were starting behind schedule. . .

The train arrived and it felt like it took forever to board the 75 passengers waiting at the station. One by one we found our cars, stowed our luggage, and found our seats. Then we were off, and before we had gotten very far along the way, time somehow ceased to matter much at all. I didn't have a time-table, and found it relaxing not to check the time.

On to Fort Worth, then to Dallas, then on to Mineola, Longview, Marshall, and Texarkana. It was dark by the time we reached the Arkansas border. Once the sun was down, time on the train became even less important - it was impossible to tell if it was 8pm or midnight. We were far from city lights and any activity that might give a clue to the time. At some point everyone seemed to settle down to read or sleep and it grew quieter and darker as the miles passed.

By the time we reached Little Rock we were only 15 minutes behind schedule. Sleep was disrupted by a large number of passengers boarding, but only for a little while. I dozed off again just as we left the city limits. The next time I woke it was completely dark; every reading light had been extinguished and there were tall trees practically touching the windows of the train. We could have been in a tunnel. I groped for my phone and found the time, but no location. It was unsettling but I was awake enough to reason that we were someplace in Arkansas without cell phone service so I just went back to sleep. This pattern repeated throughout the night and I became as disengaged from my location as I had from time - I could have been in outer space, or on a camel, following a moving star across a desert. I was in God's hands, on God's time.

The only time I have been similarly disoriented was in the early days of each of my daughters' lives. Nursing in the middle of the night, sleeping in the middle of the day, I remember more than once looking at a clock that said 6:00 and not knowing if it was morning or evening. That phase is fairly short for most parents and children. Only a few years after nursing and before children reach driving age, the airline mode of travel becomes the rule; everything has an extremely specific schedule and location.Whether you are traveling by train, plane, or automobile with your children right now, enjoy the journey. You'll arrive at your destination before you know it!

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