Saturday, May 23, 2009

Artefacts of other eras and a symbiotic narrative in the first person

There are numerous things that intrigue me about railway tracks. It’s the package that I come for.

I love the marriage of rural and industrial. What a perfect stew pot of information and imagination to cook and feast upon. As we all know, the railway, which was once the most important system of transport has become a decaying symbolic representation of the 19th and 20th century. It was one of our favourite things that we brought over from our backcountry. Though still used cross continently for freight transport and revitalized by large urban centres with significant sprawl for efficient commuter transport, it nonetheless feels old fashioned and closing on defunct. For many an individual, the rail tracks serve as a backdrop to explore the imaginary.

I begin my expedition by discarding my real life presence; I am no longer looking after my staff, my dad, my adult kids, my pets, or my house. I am no longer having nightmares about my recently deceased mother. It is on the tracks that I come to terms with debilitating and chronic feelings of futility and inferiority. It is here that I regain energy to fight spiralling and misdirected distrust of people with whom I love. This is a place for escape and recoup: A place to meditate, envision, strategize, release, breath, explore, connect.

I love the sound of the whistle when it blows. I love the scraping of tracks when I am in the train. I don’t even have to go anywhere special. I carry a child’s excitement of getting on a train. The act of looking out the window in silence at the landscape that swooshes by and the space and time this travelling allows me to reflect, makes train travel one of my favoured private cerebral spaces.

Walking along the tracks can be as therapeutic.

Worlds of otherthingsapartfromselfabsorbedme.

One of the more interesting things that I have noticed is that snails are abundant on the tracks. I don’t quite understand why. It’s not as hypothetically simple as; there are no other great snail populations in and around Montreal because there are few wild green spots. There are other wild green spots and the mountain being one in particular, I went and had a gander.

I went up to the mountain and found no snails. I found bryophytes and trees and moisture and wild flowers but no snails. My question is this, what is it about the tracks that attract the snail? Is there a special mineral that has seeped into the earth due to the rails and their traffic? Are there special snail eating plants that grow only along the track? Is it a local magnetism or do the snails travel along the great stretch of tracks cross continentally? What is it about the tracks that attract the snail? Why only the tracks? What makes the tracks so special?

This is an ongoing contemplative inquiry of mine and needless to say, I am at the beginning with lots of time to diddle daddle. In my quest to answer at least some of my questions, I have come across a gem of a place called Bishops Mills Natural History Centre. Here is a group of people so delightful and sincere that it has reminded me why I place such positive value on living things, including humans. People like this are genuine examples of why it is possible to live in a beautiful world. Not because they have shown incredible bravery or because they have reined over any large empire (at least not human) but because they live by their principles and are in awe of the world around them. They are indeed, alive.

Through their pages I was able to tentatively (like any humble neophyte) identify the type of snail that inhabit my little pocket of grand universe. There are possibly two types. The most obvious is the dark banded snail called Cepaea nemoralis ( aka the grove snail). I am thinking though unsure, that the white lipped (respectively) called the Cepaea hortensis also lives amongst the tracks. Both are edible but in all honesty, ever since I lived in BC, in close proximity to the amazing banana slug, I have lost my appetite for such things . . .
Special soundtrack courtesy of Ry

Although I do not see any darts they do look like they are in the midst of doing the deed. See the white balloon like seepage from in-between the two snails? As if all this isn’t awesome enough, there are more reasons why walking the tracks . . . rock!

Railroad snailhobe! Have you ever gotten down with the world of moss?

Marchantia are rich in their own right. Liverworts have been around for about 475,000,000 years! They are part of a miniature world, a universe really, and I am in complete marvel of them. From their modular compartmentalized epidermis (that helps heal from local trauma), to their little gemma cups (see the little bowls on their body, aka thallus?) and the gemmae discs that flush out with the rain to replicate themselves anew. I am thunderstruck by the antheridiophore and archegoniophore- the male (shorter flower like) and female (taller palm tree/unbrella) reproductive structures.

Trains, snails, and marchantia! How lucky I am to bear witness to these.

Thursday, May 14, 2009



Everything makes sense. Even upside down. I follow the dots and make my lines. I reach up I can dig deep I withstand the blood rushing away from the feet. With a toss of a few words carelessly strewn I can cross stitch them back so they have a cushion to sink, a pond to bathe a bed to rest. No stress.

Unless falling apart is an issue. Corrosion is part of the big picture cycle. Shit speaks loud in the forest even if no one is listening. It eventually makes kaboom. Afterwards choice will always be abandoned for automated remote control. That machine runs so loud it’s hard to hear the other more subtle sounds.

Down to ground. The ground. Grounding. I should be so happy; to think at least that I have myself; an entire solar system brimming with verve. Get with the program; here for the long haul, as an island. Once in a while ships touch bulwark, but that’s a luxury for places like the high plateau.