First of all,  God and I have a joke about 3:16.    You’ve seen all the sports events where someone holds up a  John 3:16 sign… to signify  “For God So Loved the World…”

Well, God  usually wakes me at 3:16 am,  and in the afternoon something usually happens to turn my head to the clock.

So riding the Amtrack was no exception…


3:16 am……..dear walt whitman
Forgive me for paraphrasing…..
But all i can think of is the glorious choral setting of your poem.

And that i am destroying it.

On the train between Devils Lake and Grand Forks
And it is way too hot to sleep.
However, it appears others are not having that same problem.

For “I hear America snoring, the varied buzzings I hear
Those of old men, long and deep with a stop before resuming again,
Those rapid raspy ones from the guy who had plenty of trips to the lounge car…….”
Airplanes and greyhound bus may be good for people watching,
But nothing like 24 hours in a quasi submarine on rails
In which to observe them….

But for that Wittman gets it right.
There is my seatmate, the music major headed to minnesota..
The lady riding the train from beginning to end because hitting all 50 states before she turns 50 is on her bucket list.
The Amish clan with tow-headed boys in identical bowl cuts.
The guy w ho loves the sound of his voice.

The giggling girls, flirting with the boy in the lounge car.
I hear multiple languages
And amazing questions and comments about a land i love so much.
It is a strange and wonderful cacophany.
And feels suprisingly alright.

It is middle of the night. I have closed my eyes, played games, read and prayed.
Now i am left to my own devices, and glad just to let the brain wander…
For a couple more days before i return to lists and deadlines.

I remember reading something in a freshman English course with a dr tunic many years ago.
I dont know it by heart, but essence was this :

Traveling is important…because it is there where we switch identities or prepare for who we will be to those we are traveling to. It makes sense. People know us differently as a friend, a sister, a daughter, a coworker. As a musician, a thinker, a writer, a cook, a goofball, a friend.

It is not that these identities are a mask or a facade, but we need time to make the switch. So it is as if the car, train plane is a virtual phonebooth for us to make that change.

My dad made a comment this week how Mother loved the 20 minute drive to work because it was a time that just belonged to her.

I Hear America Singing
Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.