I took advantage of the wonderful warm weather this week to walk around my new town and explore. Last night, I decided to walk home via the railroad tracks that parallel the Youghiogheny River. The evening quiet was broken only by the sound of the river, swollen from the melting snow, and the occasional car driving over the crossing in the distance.
Then, I heard a whistle far off in the distance. So, I stepped over the tracks and down the sloped, heavy gravel roadbed to a place where I could sit. A minute or so later, I heard the bells of the crossing ahead and saw the incredibly bright lights of the engine approaching. I sat and watched the vague form of the behemoth rush past me in the dark.
Car after car flew by, probably one hundred or more, filled with who knows what going who knows where? What struck me was the massiveness of the creature zooming past and its relatively quiet passing. The well-greased wheels spun noiselessly and one could hardly imagine that thousands of tons were speeding by in the starless evening.
On the one hand, one can hardly help but feel insignificant next to such a marvel that would dwarf a blue whale, or even a herd of elephants. However, the train and thousands like it across the globe was built by us and controlled by us in a complex array of technology and effort.
I returned to the tracks, the sounds of the train now faded, replaced by the gurgling of the water and the occasional scurrying of a nocturnal animal. I breathed in the cool night breeze and looked again at the cloudy sky obscuring the cosmos I knew lie beyond. In spite of our modern accomplishments, nothing yet can replace the calm of strolling, feeling the crunching and shifting of stones beneath one’s feet, and reflecting on just being in that noisy quiet.