Awaiting the Thaw
February 8, 2014, In transit: I wake up ready to write. My old habits have fallen by the wayside, replaced by new ones like decorating the house, sitting still long enough to read good fiction, and making plans. But this morning Washington’s Union Station is serene in the early morning and smells like bacon as I board a train bound for New York City, and as the train begins moving across a soon-to-thaw landscape, I am faced with three-plus hours alone to sip warm coffee, gaze at the blurred, passing scenery, and luxuriate in uninterrupted time to record my surroundings. Outside the world remains dusted with a crusty coating of salt that thickens as we head north. The trees are bare and houses in suburban developments along the tracks look worse for the wear beneath a neutral brown February morning. We pass a dirty Ford Bronco, a parking lot full of Fed Ex trucks and an empty airstrip on a road parallel to the train tracks before buzzing beneath another overpass and alongside a marsh reflecting nascent sunlight approaching BWI. Here travelers come and go, disembarking one mode of transport and boarding the next, one leg of the journey complete and still not home. As we depart Baltimore, I’m saddened as usual to see row upon row of uninhabitable, half-destroyed housing, realizing it’s now been many years since I started hoping for this neighborhood to turn. Near Wilmington, patchy snow begins spotting the landscape. Winter is longer here. It's been long enough.
For weeks, we’ve been waiting for the end of this season and the beginning of another, one full of color and warmth and the frenzy we’ll welcome with it. Yes, here and there this cold winter has been beautiful, on the afternoons we've watched ice skaters at Georgetown's rink or seen the sun rise on the day, but mostly we've hibernated, reading the newspaper, building a fire, waiting for the thaw.
I'm heading in the wrong direction now to find it. Ballfields are empty, not a soul in sight, and snow deepens en route to Philly. For a fleeting moment, I concede the snow makes graffiti look downright gorgeous along the tracks, but I take it all back as we traverse the Delaware River in Trenton caked in ice.
And so we wait, in some places longer than others, burrowed away and counting the days til spring.
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