There’s this small park beside the train tracks that run through Kensett, and when I feel like life is too crazy for me to deal with, I disappear to that park and wait for a train to come through.
My uncle has always loved trains. When we would go out of town, no matter where we were, he always found his way to a train station. He would make us all wait there until a train came. As a kid, I was sometimes a little annoyed by this because I didn’t understand why we had to sit there and wait for a loud, obnoxious train.
When I asked my uncle why we waited for the trains, he told me a story similar to the one I’ll tell later in this column. He lived near train tracks growing up, and he said he’d go down the road to wait for the train when he was angry or stressed. He described it beautifully, but I didn’t fully understand it until the middle of my second semester of freshman year. I essentially had an emotional breakdown because of my workload and some family drama, but I got on my bike and followed those train tracks into Kensett. I know my parents are probably going to call and chew me out when they read that I rode my bike there alone, but I needed it at the time. I admit, it was a dumb thing to do, but I plead temporary insanity. Emotional breakdown, remember?
I didn’t recognize where I was going until I got there, but when I saw that park, I instantly knew why I had gone this way. When my aunt and uncle moved me in freshman year, my uncle found his way to this park by following the train tracks. I sat down on the swings and waited for the train. I have since visited that park several times — but, for the record, never again alone on my bike. Now I understand why he waits.
Before the train comes, I can hear crickets and birds chirp. I can hear kids playing in the backyards on the other side of fences and my thoughts overwhelming all those other sounds. Cars pass and bells chime before the train comes. But then this thundering storm passes through so fast that I can feel the wind tussling the loose hairs that managed to escape my ponytail. It’s so loud that all the other noises are drowned out, even my own thoughts. The air around me is consumed by the rumbling of this train; nothing else can overcome the power of its presence. The train is all there is.
In this moment, I know that I can scream as loud as I want and no one will hear. Right now, the rest of the world doesn’t matter because the overwhelming orchestra of noises from this train pushes everything else away. And then it’s gone almost as quickly as it started.
The moments after the storm are as beautiful as the storm itself. The train was so powerfully loud for a minute and then, when it’s gone, there is only silence left in its wake. There are no crickets. There are no birds or children playing. There are no noises. Just for a second, the world seems completely still. The thoughts that were screaming at me a few minutes before are gone, as if the train scared them back into the dark corners of my brain. The cacophony of noise that rushed over me took those thoughts with it when it barreled through, and I’m left sitting in the center of the merry-go-round in complete and utter silence.
After the initial shock wears off, the town goes back to normal as if nothing happened, but I feel different. I feel better.
Then I get in my car and drive back to campus, rejoining the realities of my life as a college student. My responsibilities and to-do list wait for me in my dorm room, but things seem simpler now, and I feel better equipped. I’m recharged and ready to tackle life once again.
Although it might not do the trick for you, I invite you to use this place or, even better, find your own train.