A Brief Interlude in a Whirlwind Tour

***taken from my journal, in the middle of a three week trip to Boston, Niagara, Toronto, Montréal and New York with my father. As I normally travel alone, this was an adjustment for me both in pace and in focus.

Finally some space to breathe. To sit and watch the country roll by from the window of a train. I’m heading south, so I’ve chosen a seat on the right hand side of the train so I can feel the sun on my face as it sets over the Hudson Valley. At the moment, though, it’s still bright. The leaves haven’t started to turn here, so the image is of a late summer evening, although the sun sits lower to the horizon, light flooding beneath the canopy of the trees lining the rail tracks, an unearthly moirĂ© pattern from the silhouetted trunks. It’s an unexpected and surprisingly effective path to a clearer mind. The rocking motion and the impossibility of picking out detail in the bright light combine to produce a slightly hypnotic effect.

I’m interrupted by a stop in Schenectady, where there’s nothing to see but a signal tower and a graffiti-covered cabinet on the ground. I can see the traffic on the road if I squint through the trees, but it’s mundane and I abandon the effort. I stare into the middle distance and sink into thought.

I’ve been musing on friendship and connection over the last few days, I suppose initially triggered by a request for friendship that I’m not sure I am in a position to process yet. The concept of a request for friendship in itself throws me. I’m not an expert by any means; I have had few and retain fewer, but they’ve never been so explicitly defined. For me, a friendship can’t be measured as a return on investment, can’t be reasoned or explained. I think it would be confusing for me if someone were able to produce a list of reasons why we were friends. I try to think of a specific example, in the hope of gaining some insight into woollier cases through analysis of a more straightforward base case, as though the principles of mathematical induction could possibly be of some assistance in such nebulous matters. I come up empty. Of course there are behaviours we can point to, similarities of thought and approach, but these seem to be to be exemplars rather than causes. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. I find myself needing language I don’t have in order to describe a feeling that I know so surely; I love you because I am me and you are you. But the claim that it cannot be adequately explained does not mean that it cannot be examined, and a slow train ride along the river gives ample space for it.

I smile as my phone pings a timely distraction; a message from the person I’d turned to as an exemplar of friendship. I indulge myself in another couple of moments in the soft light of golden hour to revel in the confidence I have in my love for certain people. This helps, I think. This reminder.

As the sun sets, I’m drawn out of reverie and into a world of light and colour. The river provides a reflection of the remains of the day, the bridges a reminder of the different paths available.

As the night falls, we trundle slowly into New York City. This is a city I love, and I smile at the prospect of revisiting. Unlike the rest of the trip, which has been a whirlwind of new places and new experiences, this feels a little like coming home.

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