May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4 days on the Trans Siberian Railway Moscow to Ulan Ude

July 2-3,: I’m on the Trans Siberian Rail and it’s bright light out at 4AM.  I think the sunrise started just after 1AM and set around 9:30 or 10PM.

We’re in a 4-bed berth.  2 guys already left, and a grandmother moved in.  She just woke up, after a nice long sleep.  I drew a picture of a woman and man, with arrows underneath to find out that she has 3 kids and 2 grandchildren.  An old man joined us in the morning who smells a little odd.  When I offered him a tomato, he displayed the one tooth in his mouth and shook his head. 
 I went to the dining car and had my first delicious borscht. 
A drunken guy kept trying to connect with me, and thankfully the dining car manager shoo ‘d him off. 

The toilets flush onto the tracks.  The first time I found the flusher, the train stopped!  I thought I had pushed some emergency stop button by accident.  I spend a good deal of time sounding out words from the Cyrillic alphabet; sometimes I’m delighted that I’m sounding out an English word like, “Café” or “Magazine.”  CDB language.  I find it much easier to find solace in women who I feel I can link eyes with for questions or connections.  
I have been sleeping well, just not at the right times.  Les and I played rummy, read guidebooks, eat what we can.  I bought little wild strawberries and tomatoes on the platform for snacking.  He made friends going over a very special Shakespeare book with the neighbors.
This Train Scene is for Brother Jim

 Shiny gold domes surrounded by grey and black shanty type housing. 
Forests of aspen, a pine with flakey dark brown bark, and lovely swampy land with mist rising.  Folks with bright vests and plastic sticks standing as others pull weeds next to the track.

July 4-5
Once again I’ve been up all night, watching the sun go down around 9 tonight and up just after 
midnight.  It’s 1:30 and feels like 7AM with the sun shining on the pines and aspens.  The roommates are leaving in a ½ hour and have been so nice in sharing food, laughs, language, a card trick and niceties.  They’ve changed into nice clothing and the meadows have turned into small mountains.  The 80 year old man doesn’t speak Russian but a tongue from his home near the Volga.  The grandson is trying out his few English words.   The blond mother is happy and dotes over her father.  

I spent the few dark hours listening to “This American Life” on my ipod and rolling the small ball over the knots in my muscles, and stretching while the others slept.  There’s something strange about a constant passing of landscape by the window, jostling around; and feeling like I’m not going anywhere really, just staying in my bunk while the world travels instead, like the sun moving around the Earth.   Wow, the luxury of this much time.