Images from a Train: Vacancy

Vacant were the eyes that stared back at me from rotting sills. A wave of isolation and loneliness pervaded my thinking and I pulled back a bit from the train window. I felt the desertion like oil seeping from toxic barrels sinking into my chest. Small town death, I mused and the end of the family farm.

Then the briefest flutter of something at the top window of a grain elevator caught my eye and the thought of a barn owl nesting in the eaves came to mind. How easily this lead to the sound of mice squeaking below the warped floor boards and the pondering of a raccoon sleeping atop an air vent. Bees work to winter in a broken tractor engine, as geese munched on the grasses growing from past year’s feed. My inner vision shifted, just a hair, and I looked more closely as the peeling paint rusting pipes. Something about the decay creating a curious beauty that was consuming all that passed before me.

I see now it was my own isolation and loneliness that I saw in the darkened windows. It was my own decay that pervaded my thoughts. As the pigeons left the rooftop of the silo and squirrels darted along the fence of the abandoned feed lot, I saw it was not life that was missing from these places, it was fear of death that was haunting me.

Images from a Train: Silos

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Silos of the Heartland: Photos by Noelle

Silos of the Heartland: Photos by Noelle

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Worlds great and small rise and decay along the tracks. Underbellies of mediocre villages and hard edges of factories share the same trail. Worn and haggard becomes beautiful, in a countryside of weathered barns, while never enticing anyone closer. Haunting are silos abandoned while compelling to even the dullest mind to look more closely.

Heather and golden rod litter the edges of hundreds of fields, rich in the green of cornstalks and soy. Yellow are the elder stalks from earlier harvests ready for the straw-men of autumn, while bales for the harvested fields already line the lanes. The clacking of the train cars shifts as the train makes its turn heading north past the width of the Great Mississippi. Muddy spillage pours from drains as the floods of summer still fill its low banks. Barges and small crafts pass beneath the train bridge on their way to the deltas of Louisiana.

Ancient seems this story of fields and metal, floods and drought. Harvests come in that stave off the bankers and pays for the baler before summer’s out. Corn packs the pickups and soy to the moored barges to the south. An endless cycle of life and movement from field to mouth.