Suddenly the train I’ve been riding on has come to a screeching halt. The other passengers have disappeared. Actually wait, were there other passengers? I look left out the window, I look right, down the aisle, no one is there. The engine is silenced. At first, I spin in circles. Spinning and spinning, how can this be? I look down at my watch to see how long it’s been, but my watch has vanished. It’s all getting fuzzy. But the sun shines above and sustenance surrounds me but nothing on earth seems to be moving.
Well, wait that’s not true. The clouds stretched across the sky are moving. The wind that is blowing the blades of grass across the field in a soothingly rhythmic pattern is moving.
But I’m not moving.
I get down off the train and look around. I notice the red dirt beneath my feet is certainly moving. I start kicking at the dirt. I kick and kick as the swirls of dust surround me. Kick, kick, kick, swirls of red dirt fall upon my clothes like paint upon a canvas. Eventually my renegade kicking foot finds its way to the engine. And I’m kicking and kicking. But it won’t start up again. Hands on my hips, I look down at the red dust. It’s coated my shoes and drawn swirls on my pants.
I turn around to see where I even am.
Lily comes out running, “MAMA!” she calls out. “LILA!” I reply. Craig follows closely behind. I turn back. The train is gone. The tracks have vanished and the red dust has turned to gravel.
“What happened?” I say to Craig. “Where did it go? The train, the tracks? The path?”
He lets out a subtle smile and stretches out his hands, one to each of us; leading us back inside. I look down and see the red dirt is tracking footprints across our front walk. I turn back. I see miles and miles of red footprints, going this way and that, as far as the eye can see. Before I step up into the front door, I notice the last of the red dusty footprints on the welcome mat. Craig hands me a glass of ice cold water. Lily wraps her arms around my legs.
I’m home. The miles and miles of steps have sent me home. For now. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. But there’s dinner in the oven and our shows on the TV. Lily needs a bath and clothes need to be laid out. Lunches need to be made and artwork needs to be hung upon the fridge.
Days later, as Lily and I climb a pile of rocks up north “in the mountains”, she asks me, “MAMA, what are we doing.” “LILA, we are hiking.”
“Mama, why are we hiking,” she prods me again. I give this some thought, “Because look out there. Look at the sun and the mountains and the rocks and the dirt. You see all that? That’s a beautiful part of life. And we’re hiking out here so we can make sure we remember to see it.”