Sunday, April 7, 2013

a resonance of culture and history...

 "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly..."  Eleanor Roosevelt

Early Saturday morning, my daughter's train from Santiago was late. Mindlessly, I began walking up and down the Tucson train station platform to put in time. A freight train passed. Families traveling for Easter began to gather, some speaking Mexican, some American. Several people were setting up booths to sell their wares.

After strolling a few minutes, I was stopped by the smell of sage. In the middle of the platform, a Native American was fanning its embers to life with two eagle feathers. Curling smoke played with my senses. A woman waited for a morning blessing. The sage woke my awareness. I continued my walk-about, slower and softer.

At the far end of the platform I smelled burritos, chili's, and enchiladas being cooked on a grill by a Mexican woman. I stopped and watched her -- a colorful jacket for the early morning desert chill and a round brim hat for the sun later in the day. How much work she must have done in the early hours before it was light. On my return walk I noticed the man with the eagle feathers was sweeping the sage smoke over her, her stoves, and the food boxes she had brought. She never smiled or looked at him as the smoke swirled about her. My thought, "Oh, he has done this many times before."  Her non-response felt reverent.

Still no sound of my daughter's train. I turned and repeated my steps back down to the other end of the platform.  A old train engine and coal car were behind an iron fence. A era of experienced engulfed me. As I looked up, the engine appeared as large as those in my childhood -- the big brass bell on top, the coal car behind, and the engineer (sometimes my grandfather*) leaning out the window with the man behind him shoveling coal into the furnace.  Then an "All Aboard" sounded from the conductor a few passenger cars back. The train began steaming-chugging-cranking out of the station as I covered little girl-ears.

Leaving my reminiscence and coming back up the platform I noticed sculptures of two men, each carrying a rifle, wearing a long coat and a pistol on each hip. Not far from the sculptures, a historical sign was dated 1882. A map roughly drawn showed the railway station, several wiggly rectangles indicated where the passengers got off, where the freight was unloaded. A smaller rectangle shape was penciled in just across the track. Under it the author had written, "Frank Stilwell killed." The drawing was signed, Wyatt Earp. He had taken his revenge on his brother Morgan's death in Tombstone after the shoot out at the OK Corral.

People began moving toward the boarding gate. The Amtrak pulled in. My daughter emerged from the train and one look told me she had enjoyed her days in the Baja, maybe, as much as I had enjoyed the hour wait.

*My grandfather's family came from Scotland to Nova Scotia in the late 1800's because the Dominion Atlantic Railroad was beginning to open lines up through out the Annapolis Valley and the western part of the province.

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