Listening to Broken Social Scene with my laptop in my lap, my fingers hit the keys as I see the passing spruce reflected on my screen. The tree line creates shadows across my seat as we pass through an overcast northern Ontario. This is by far the most inspired I’ve been to write and the best goddamned setting to do it in.
Every now and then my eye catches a stand of birches poking through the conifers, or a lake, or a raging river, and I can’t help but think to myself “I need to write about this.”
The scenery is not only inspiring me to write about what I’m seeing, but to write in general. I actually just started doing homework for some online travel and novel writing courses I enrolled in back in February and haven’t done anything for yet. I needed to pause from it though because I was distracted by the music in my ears and the idyllic landscape outside my train window. However, I am in a dead zone for reception and have been since at least 4am, so I have plenty of time to go back and forth between being a student and doing my homework, being a writer and writing for pleasure and being a business woman and doing some work.
We just passed a birch stand so thick that it looked like a blurred, snow-covered hill. I’ve also been seeing these weird yellow pine trees that stick out like giant mustard-coloured crayons amongst the green and white whizzing by.
Our train is running ahead of schedule (for the first time ever, according to the conductor), so we just made an unplanned stop in a very tiny town called Foleyet. This town seems to only exist in order to act as a parking lot for CN trucks (I apologize if I’m insulting any Foleyetians out there – the mere 200 that I’m assuming are in residence). I stepped out to take a few pictures and stretch my legs because I’m already getting cabin fever. All the smokers onboard took advantage of our quickie stop and piled out of the train like ants out of an anthill. After about ten minutes we were off again, leaving Foleyet behind.
I’m now back in my seat, using my coat as a blanket, eating a homemade granola bar wrapped in foil, listening to my buddy Carlo Meriano’s Sticka Ikebana in my headphones. My new friend Louis has been sleeping since at least midnight. It’s now 11am. There are a few students sitting beside us from Winnipeg who we’ve been chatting with since we sat down last night. This morning one of them (Molly? Holly? I’m horrible with names…) and I were snickering about how many different positions we’ve seen Louis in throughout his “hibernation” (when I woke up this morning he was practically upside down with his head hanging off the footrest of the chair). She’s amazed by how little of a ball he can curl himself up into and joked it’s probably because he’s French Canadian. I had to stifle a laugh. I’m still trying to stifle a laugh as I sit here and write about it. I can see him over the top of my laptop screen and although he’s in a relatively normal position I’m still in awe by how many hours of sleep this little man needs. Actually, looking around I can see that the students have resorted to sleeping again as well. I predate some of these kids by ten years. You’d think I’d be the one needing the shut eye.
My first thirteen hours on this train has, if anything, honed my observation skills. I’m thankful for this. As a writer you need to be very observant of who and what is around you — even if it’s a little French Canadian hanging upside down in his seat (there I go snickering again. I must look crazy laughing to myself while everyone around me is snoozing).
Before I end this post I must tell you about the witty conductor of this train, or whoever the man is who has control of the PA system. He begins every announcement by making a “boop, boop, boop” sound like you’d hear in an actual train station. It’s sort of funny now that it’s 11am and he’s announcing lunch service in the dining car. Not so much at 8am when he announced that breakfast was being served.
Oh, one more thing. I just saw a beaver lodge only metres away from the train tracks. So awesome. Now, I’m going to join the others and go back to sleep. Our next stop in a few hours will be Hornepayne, Ontario, wherever that is. As the silver train follows a bend around a lake I can see the end of this locomotive and realize just how beautiful this all is and how lucky I am to be having this experience.
And now, I’m no longer scared to be doing this alone.