Travelling by train has always been a serene pleasure for me, as the wheels trundle gracefully along the gilded track and my body slowly rocks to gentle sway of the ride, I feel somehow at ease with both myself and the world.
A few days ago I took the carriage heading south, to the city wreathed in historic remains. It is a city where I have spent many hours volunteering and meeting up with friends, playing the guitar in the minster grounds and doing the rounds of the pubs and bars.
I wonder if I can put it into a poem, the quick scene that we passed by quickly as the train headed south:
Speeding through, the land grew still,
ambulance responder, crew running to the terraced house,
next minute or two, the rubbish is collected and compacted,
like the refuse of life, recycled and born anew.
I’m not sure that works, but we’ll keep it in for now.
It was a beautiful scene eclipsing the beauty and frailty of life and of our material culmination as a species. It made me think of our bodies as empty vessels once we have died, and how we are buried like so much of our rubbish, out of the way and out of sight. The division of death by the division of material waste itself is an odd one. Of course we sometimes used to be buried with material goods in the deep and ancient past, sometimes inside or near the house or dwelling, but not so much anymore. There is a distinct modern liminality zone between the living and the dead, of how some would argue that we have forgotten how to look death in the face, to accept it as we accept life.
We want our world pristine, simultaneously emulating and reviling nature and her course.