Thursday, February 09, 2017

To Dreams that Fade in the Night




Rolling westbound with the NP line to Butte, Willow Creek MT lies just over 1456 miles from Mile 0, the place where the great journey west with the Milwaukee began.  Under wires since crossing through Harlowton, the line winds ever westward through the rain shadow of the Rockies and now past the elevator that still stands along the NP.  The rails through Willow Creek are misleading but they let the imagination dream dreams of things long departed.  



Fueled by the instant feedback and fast returns of modern culture, we sit in a world that is defined by the fast pace of change.  We gaze at the small stage presented by our phones instead of the heavens, and respond to a tweet instead of bigger questions.  A question like how the wind moves the grasses on the grand prairies, or the eternal emptiness of the skies above where the sun runs its course like a Champion each day.  

The land of the Western Extension lies spread out along this much Grander Stage, where old transcons meet and dream dreams of yesterday.  Where C/30 flatbeds are parked next to inefficient grain silos that can not load unit trains, and the dry grasses of summer sway in a hot, gentle wind.  Here the smell of old grain wafts across the passersby and it seems inconceivable that SD45s will not soon break the silence with a time freight. Thoughts and dreams of a different time, that seem somehow out of place in this one.  

4 comments:

Evan Holland said...

I drifted into this blog a few months ago. It has held my attention, not because I was an avid rail fan, but because the Milwaukee Railroad unexpectedly intersected my own walk with the One who governs the wind through the prairie grasses. I found a familiar theme watermarked throughout your writings.

I too, crossed paths with the Milwaukee in my youth, threading through lands that still haunt my memories with crystal clarity. I crossed through them again in a different place on the prairies and high plains when I turned 50, in a trek the Lord fixed just as vividly in my mind. And again, more recently, my thoughts were turned - this time in a startling clear memory that led me on a different journey via Google Street Views on a highway near Livingston, MT, where I noticed an abandoned RoW that ultimately brought me to ponder the unusual sight of the Loweth, MT substation, abandoned and seemingly forgotten by all but the cattle grazing about its foundations. This sight and the odd find of an early 1950's-era photo of “The Stewart Family at Home, Loweth, MT” that I found in the Billings Gazette online sent me looking for more information about a place bereft of the railway and people that once made it hum with activity. For a while this had been a place where people lived and children played. I found your blog and its references to Loweth and its substation as I searched the Internet for references.

I think I needed to spend some time with the narrative of another man's journey and to know that others are pausing to listen and attentive to the still, small voice of One far greater and far more ancient. C.S. Lewis gave voice to some of what I am saying in “Surprised by Joy”. His life made passage through paths that were not accidental. He spoke of glimpses along the way, of something that caused his heart to burn with indefinable yearnings. The glimpses were fleeting and could never be recaptured - nostalgia cannot contain them - but they remained indelibly real, forever drawing his heart onward. Thanks for pausing, listening and following. And thank you for taking the time to write it down for others to see.

oamundsen@aol.com said...

Leland, and now Evan, I believe that some fortunate people are what might be described as "flaneurs" or "travelers" who live to commune with new but someway familiar surroundings in a deeply emotional manner. The feeling absorbs the past, and all of its content and conveys it to us in a way which others will never understand or appreciate. It is a treasure to be grateful for receiving and gives a person a glimpse thru the gate of time. Thanks.


LinesWest said...

To you both - while it has taken me a little while to respond let me say thank you. I agree with much of what you've written and I have even re-found C.S. Lewis recently as I've gone back through his Narnia series. A year ago I found myself sidelined from disastrous health problems that were quite difficult and completely unexpected.

As I sat outside during warm spring days, recovering, it was Narnia that I journeyed back into and found the Song of Creation that is described there in the winds, the trees, and the clouds that hustled across the skies all around me. The world continued on in its busyness but the Song was still there all around.

I think it is these things that called to me all of those years ago as I wandered the Milwaukee's West and was shown the keys to the Kingdom, those things that draw the heart onward. I must read Surprised by Joy, thank you for telling me about it.

I'm thankful to you both for sharing your thoughts with me.
-Leland

Evan Holland said...

I hope that you are fully recovered from your health ordeal and I am glad that the Narnia series could lend some light into your season of recovery. I reread the series myself a few years back.

Here in Alaska, we are still awaiting the breaking of winter. My own household was sidelined by some serious health hardships during the heart of winter. But we are thankfully on the other side of all of those hardships and I look forward to another season of listening intently for that "Song of Creation" and exploring the lands. There is even a ghost town or two associated with the Alaska Railroad I hope to see if I get the opportunity.

I hope you will keep writing when the inspiration is on you to do so. I have found your blog to be very encouraging and will continue reading.