Posted: June 2, 2010 in Living

Originally in my Wiltshire Blog

Hours sitting on a train is all part of the Whitsuntide rush to somewhere better. Here’s my thoughts on passing the time while stuck in your carriage, or even your car.

The Spring Bank Holiday has passed, marking the beginning of June and the summer to come.

Formerly known as Whitsun, the Spring Bank Holiday used to coincide with Pentecost – the day in the Bible when the Holy Spirit gave the first followers of Christ the power to understand each other, despite them speaking in different languages.

What a shame Pentecost didn’t coincide with my GCSE French exam. I might have actually passed!

Now that Whitsun is a regular bank holiday, everybody seizes the chance to go someplace. The trains heave along their tracks, carrying hundreds of people to the seaside and beyond, while cars crawl along the motorway to somewhere better.

In the midst of my rushing this last weekend, I did an interesting thing. I looked out train window and observed.

As the train sped down towards Devon, I observed a small row of terraces built in the middle of fields, a walker accompanied by a dog, and numerous rivers and streams which ran parallel to me for a while.

This little exercise interested me because everything I saw from that train has a story of some kind. I don’t know the stories, but I can imagine them.

The small row of terraces tells the story of governments and their policies as well as tales of life in a small community amidst fields.

The dog walker might be a professional dog walker having a quiet day and so only walking one dog. Dog walkers seem scarce in rural England though, so maybe not.

Perhaps the dog was a gift to somebody who previously hated animals, but gradually grew to admire his loyal companion. Or perhaps it wasn’t a dog at all, but a miniature horse that looks just like a dog when observed from a passing train.

The little rivers and streams, also journeying towards the coast, tell stories of fishermen catching their dinners as well as children jumping from trees and – perhaps at one time – people collecting water to drink.

The very train I was riding on has a unique story. How many people has this very seat carried before me, and what were they like?

An ordinary train journey becomes an interesting experience when creative observation comes into play.

It also helps bridge the gap between us and everything else – nature, places, and people. Even though most of us speak the same language, we’re still separated by a lot of things.

A little sympathetic observation can do much to overcome differences, regardless of what day it is in the liturgical calendar.


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