As part of a new project, I now ride the train – the Chicago Metra – from downtown, where I live, to Lake Forest, about an hour north. And, though many people feel differently about it, I was looking forward to riding the train as part of my upcoming workdays. I love the sensation of travel, from cars to bikes to trains to boats to planes, and was eager to spend an hour of my morning nestled in this moment with its unique sensations and stimuli.
I was not, however, necessarily looking forward to the new assignment. For reasons I won’t go into, I was apprehensive about it. So, to get in the right mindset, I was searching for some salvation… And as uncertain as I may be about my new assignment, I do know that I like the train.
We all need these places in our days. We all have a place – even a mindspace, as it does not need to be physical – to which we retreat, or in which we revel, physically, either intentionally or by way of our circumstances; places or spaces or things that soothe suffering; serve as a balm to all that becomes weathered and burned and chaffed and torn and stretched and frayed throughout our days or weeks or months. We all have places that, quite simply, make us happy. Places that refresh us.
For some, it may be a bath. Or it could be a glass of wine once home from work. It could be the gym – or it could decidedly be far, far away from the gym, if the gym in fact inspires all the same feelings we are trying to resolve. It could be church on Sundays or… maybe I am thinking too literally here. Some of these things are too cliché.
The point is: good lives are built to encompass – include – a certain kind of sanctuary. A place of refuge. A place of repair. A safe haven.
And for me, I can see, one of mine will be this new train ride every day. It is a moment of solitude early in the morning – the 6:33 from Ogilvie with an hour all the way to Lake Forest. It is a place to write, free of distractions or excuses. It is, once the writing is exhausted, a place perhaps to read. And it is a place with physiological benefits; the movement of the train beneath me is a soothing rhythm, very much like that of riding a car on the highway. Or, you know, a train.
A lot has been said about the unique effect of trains, by the way – the mindspace of riding one. Author Shane Mac recently wrote an entire book on a single train ride, buying a roundtrip ticket from San Francisco to Seattle and pounding the keyboard the entire way. So, there’s that. I’m not the only one.