Decaying telegraph poles pass by the window like a silent metronome, counting down my arrival to Sudbury, to the start of my program at Laurentian University. I wanted to start this new adventure with something I had never done before, so I had decided to take the train. I’ve taken short little hops on trains in Europe and Canada before, but I’ve never overnighted on a train.
Leaving Winnipeg was tough, more so than usual. These past three years at the Science Gallery were incredibly hard to walk away from. Handing in my keys and nametag felt like some ceremonial disrobing, leaving me feeling rather naked.
I know I will be back and because of that I desperately wanted to make a symbolic gesture. I thought that leaving my collection of buttons on my lanyard for my nametag would work just fine.
As soon as I put the lanyard down on my supervisor’s desk, I immediately picked it up again and stripped it of its buttons. I realized that I couldn’t part with them. I needed them, or mores so I needed some keepsake of there, of the people, of why I was leaving to begin with. Thankfully no one was there to see this selfish moment.
Over the next few days a final drink with friends, one last date with my girlfriend, a dinner with family. Eventually my bags are packed (though I am now running through the list of things I have forgotten). The next thing I knew I was waiting for the train. Everyone had gone by then, theirs mornings started shortly after the delayed arrival of my train.
Sitting there I was left alone with my thoughts for the first time in days and everything hits me. The folly of what I am doing, the distance I am putting between me and those I love, the unknowns. Somewhere in the mix is a reassurance that I’m doing this for the right reasons. That this crazy idea that seeded itself in my mind during a night of “Where am I going” will blossom into an adventure that tall tales are made from.
Tears finally make it to the surface. I’m glad they’ve finally made their appearance. I’ve never liked crying in font of others and I avoid it at all costs, but it is always nice to know I haven’t forgotten how. Wiping my eyes I board the train, ready to sleep.
As the city lights fade and give way to the darkness of the prairies at night, I lean my chair back and begin to realize the dumb move of not getting a sleeper car. Having forgotten my pillow, I grab my jacket to shove under my head and try and sleep.
At some point I get up to use the washroom. On my way I spy the contorted positions of some of the other passengers twisting across their seats. When I get back to my seat, I pop off my shoes and twist and fold onto my seat, doing my level best to imitate my sleeping travel companions. Soon, I nod off, strangely comfortable.
The next morning I’m greeted with an unfamiliar landscape. Flat prairie fields with dotted little patches of woods, have given way to thick forest of scraggly pines. Every so often they open up to breathtaking views of lakes or hidden meadows.
We stop at the odd mile marker to pick or drop off passengers, hunters or outback thrill seekers loading and unloading canoes and gear. At each, stop hints of dwellings are barely visible through the trees. It is so foreign, yet so very Canadian. Strangest of all though are the old telegraph poles; old, decaying telegraph poles counting down my arrival at Sudbury. I can’t wait!