Riding the Southwest Chief is like watching a Western.
In both I am a passive observer. In both, the same landscape
of mesas and rocky sandstone outcroppings.
In one the camera moves across the landscape. In the other,
the engine of the train moves me across the landscape.
In one there are riders on horseback, both bareback and saddleback.
In the other, horses graze in backyards, some cluttered
with aluminum cans, schoolbuses and old automobiles.
In one, life is fast paced but the same repetitive plot is played out;
this one is edited, color saturated and processed, or black and white.
The other seemingly offers no plot; it is perhaps more akin
to time lapse photography, and not unlike life.
A pinon emerges from slate on grey sandstone.
A pickup parallels the path of the train.
Brown tenacious leaves of gambel oak still
ornament the oak. Other trees, uprooted by drought or flood,
grasp the air like tentacles, one branch of their root system
still clinging to the soil.
One offers only answers. The other offers
time for reflection and encourages me to explore
unanswered questions, both practical and philosophical.
How do you whisper “I love you” across a thousand miles of tracks?
In one it seems to always be summer. In the other, a landscape
of gray skies and snow flurries, winter is reluctant to let go.