Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day from Night

The separation of light from dark is a daily event, marking the beginning and end of  daylight hours and the transition into the darkness of night.  The two never truly cross paths, but transition with the entry and exit of the sun into the skies overhead.  Days full of sunshine seem to instill some bit of hope, especially after long periods of rain or unbroken cloud.  By contrast, nights seem unshakably dark.  The moon occasionally rides high and illuminates the landscape in eerie blue shadows, but for the most part, nights are dark -- an uncomfortable thing compared to the light that chases it away.

So fundamental is this balance and our appreciation of light our vernacular includes expressions like, "dawning of a new day" or "age."  And despite the presence of darkness for half of a 24 hour period, we yet refer to these as a day. 

It is also true, however, that not all dawns bring with them hope no matter how brightly the sun shines.  These are days when a "John Wayne Moment" never happens.  These are stories where the night settles and refuses to leave, forever separating itself from the hopeful dawn of something new and better.  The trek west along the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension continually brings to mind one of these darker stories.  Near MP 1175 the right of way is still discernible as a gentle rise in the ground. Time has made it difficult to see, but it still rolls by in the distance behind the large tree.  The gentle curve of the right of way here belies the original design of the railroad and its  transcontinental purposes.  On this day, the grasses cover it well in warm Montana sun while they gently sway in the breezes that traverse these plains. 

Despite these warm summer tidings, night has settled here and does not relinquish her grip.  The promise of sunrise and a new day for the old railroad seems distant and forgotten.  The John Wayne Moment never happened and daylight has seemingly fled.  The quiet that has replaced the things that were is only one of many cues that we journey westward in an unending night.

3 comments:

oamundsen said...

Oh, Leland you hit your poetic stride on this one! Absolutely lovely and spot on target. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

i agree, very evocative of things passed/past

are you familiar with Loren Eiseley? he was an archeologist/naturalist who wrote in much the same mood as you do about the transience of things that once seemed permanent

jim, from iowa

LinesWest said...

Thanks guys - and Jim, I haven't run across Loren Eisely before but I'll see if I can. My background includes growing up around Iowa City, so I'm interested in writings about Iowa as well.

Also - I am now actively working on a book version of some of these blogs. I know that's been something that has been asked about before. I'll see if I can parse some of the better ones and a few nice pictures and we'll see where it goes.

Best,
-Leland