I grew up in a railroad town. We used to play baseball at a place called the soccer field, which to this day I believe is a better use of the field. The soccer field was in the shadow of a huge Bucyrus Erie plant that had long trains going in and out all day. Our house was about a mile and half away and we could hear those never ending trains move their products. To my memory these trains were miles long and if my father timed it wrong he would curse and turn off the car so he would not waste gas sitting there.
As kids we raced the trains on our banana seat bikes, and later in our bmx style dirt bikes. We left pennies on the rails to be flattened, and told each other tall tales about pennies causing derailments in some far off place.
Family generations before me worked the railroads and I often romanticized their life working the rails. Those feelings were compounded by our vacations via Amtrak. We would board the train in Pocatello at three a.m. and a couple hours later we arrived in Salt Lake. We also took the train to Seattle along the Columbia River Gorge, and I did a solo trip through the Rockies to Chicago.
I loved each trip; the scenery, the rhythmic rocking and clacking, the whistle, and the restrained power as we pulled out of the depot. But mostly I enjoyed the pleasure of the journey, to the point that the journey rivaled the destination. I got lost in the journey.
How easy that was. How easy that is. We get lost and forget the why, the where, the who we are journeying to see. We get distracted and discouraged. The cost of our destination seems oppressively high, beyond our reach. So why not just enjoy the ride, savor the scenery and hope that the momentum of beginning the journey will deliver us in the end?
But like the restrained power of the train engine leaving the depot, there is not enough speed to make it up the mountains and through the valleys of the journey. The train requires tending and attention. The restrained power must be converted to actual power to complete the journey.
And that is the soul purpose of the journey, to reach the intended destination.
James Martin is a former attorney and graduate of Gonzaga University and Marquette Law School. He lives in Spring Prairie near Burlington. He has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He is married with 6 kids. James is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the Gazette staff or management.