There are few things that inspire me more than a long train ride. The time seems to slow down and another rhythm sets in, which favors imagination. In our day-to-day lives, we rarely find the time to simply sit, time for us and with ourselves, we rarely indulge in the luxury of getting bored, to give our mind a break from work and from the endless to-do list, to change the reference points around which the texture of our hurried days is woven: supermarket, dentist, mechanic, office, small talk, shops, shoe repair, pub, computer, tv.
But when we are on a train, we are constrained to sitting and finding something different to do, like immersing page after page into the universe of a book, observing the characters and conversations around, which could be good subjects for short movies or black comedies (it’s true that sometimes I wish I could turn the volume mute), listening in the headphones a whole album without interruptions, writing or simply watching outside the train window the images that run quickly before our eyes. The last one is by far, my favorite. It’s so relaxing, like a visual meditation, and in the same time an exercise in observation and imagination, as the images outside trigger other images inside.
Recently I discovered (as we would probably discover, if we had a device that would store all the past and present information in the world, that any of our thoughts, writing or creations is thought, written or created by somebody else too on this planet, now or in the past) that somebody else (only that she is famous and I am not 🙂 thinks that looking outside the train window is good for us, as an activity that stimulates creativity: “It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distractions we are actually filling the well. Without distractions, we are once again thrust into the sensory world. With no newspaper to shield us, a train becomes a viewing gallery. With no novel to sink into (and no television to numb us out) an evening becomes a vast savannah in which furniture – and other assumptions – get rearranged.” Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way. A course in recovering and discovering your creative self (more quotes from Julia Cameron’s book here).
Therefore, a 9 hour train ride that I took recently from Bucharest to Timisoara (Romania) offered me the opportunity to listen to a few life stories and some tedious monologues on the mobile phone, observe people that resembled the fake and snob intellectuals and artists from Woody Allen’s movies, read around 300 pages from a book by the Romanian writer Cartarescu and, as I was saying earlier, indulge in one of my favorite activities, looking outside the window, which inspired me to write this:
“I’m sitting with the book on my knees, but I’m not reading. “When I close the book, I open life” says Pablo Neruda. So I close the book and I look outside the train window at the endless fields covered in snow, like white canvas on which lie beautifully drawn ideograms from the great book of life: spiky weeds that poke their long twisted arms through the skin of the snow, out of use deserted factories, with blind windows and rusty skeletons of furnaces, creepers and frozen wagons, lying in the middle of nowhere like unburied skeletons of a forgotten species of dinosaurs, interlaced reddish beams of metal bridges, fences of barbed wire like herring bones, clusters of trees with parallel trunks and interwoven branches, creating optical illusions, far away misty cities with a dark apocalyptic cloud looming over, irrigation ditches twisting and turning in an incomprehensible drawing, probably like some local Nazca lines before somebody looked at them from above, a rabbit sprinting with his ears flat leaving his chaotic trail on the immaculate snow, almost like he’s about to pull out a pocket watch and say he’s terribly late to Wonderland, white hills like waves frozen just before breaking into sea foam, an eagle rushing to the ground for the pray, hay stacks with pointed snow caps, like rightful inhabitants of the country where everything had a point, where Oblio was banished from, noisy crows resting on rundown wooden fences with missing boards, bushes like ink blots, landfills animated by flying plastic bags, gliding birds and sniffing dogs, train stations with weird names, as if they were just letters put together randomly and white, white, white, the fog, the sky, the land.
And sliding over all these – like a frame through which I look at the world – the window with my reflection on it, whose look I am trying to avoid, because the same loss of self is coming over me, like when I look intently in a mirror and I don’t recognize myself, or when I am repeating the same word (or my name) over and over again, until it is loosing its meaning. And then, as always, I wish I could take out my camera and capture this world of abstract ideograms, to give it a meaning. When the night comes and the world outside disappears and only “her” face in the window remains, I close life and I open the book I am holding on my knees and I read: “Put your finger in the middle of this page and you will see circular ripples streaming from that point, you will see how the page becomes clear and you will see through it your twin from the manuscript, with dark hair and dark circles under her eyes, just like you, tired, like you, of reading backwards your common book and life” (Mircea Cartarescu – Blinding. The Right Wing)
PS: The photos were not taken on that day from the train window, but some days before, in Magura (a wonderful place that will surely come up again in my posts), where I found the same abstract “writing”, which I tried to capture in photos.
Thank you for being here. I hope this article inspired you to take a break, let your imagination run and find the quietness and silence to listen to your inner voice that has many important things to say. And if you feel like, share them in the comments box below.
The Romanian translation of this article here