At the VCCA, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where the quiet is deep as writers write, composers compose and artists, sculpt, paint and draw, I leave my studio late in the day to walk before dinner. Behind the Center, a country road.The last of the cicadas lay dead, their orange and red wings faded and fading. They have completed their cycle. Another seventeen years will pass before they emerge. On both sides of the road grasses grow tall. So many birds here, blue birds, brown thrashers, mocking birds-- sparrows and robins, of course. After a severe storm, the intense heat is broken. It is hot, but air moves. There is a breeze. I turn at the crest of a hill.
A train whistle sounds. I hurry along, half walking, half running. I want to watch the train from a bridge, as I am doing now, looking down on the freight rumbling past, open cars carrying lumber, closed cars, some of them probably refrigerated, shiny black drums I think are carrying oil until I read: Corn Products. Yes, oil, but a different kind than I’d had in mind, and I feel uneasy thinking about corn oil, the ubiquitous nearly hidden distribution of genetically modified seeds.
The last two freight cars carry utility poles. I am disappointed. I'd waited and waited for the caboose, wanting to wave to a railroad man, as I used to wave long ago, a child sitting in the back seat of Dad’s car, Mom in front, all of us waiting at a railroad gate, Dad impatient behind the wheel because that’s the kind of man he was, irritable and quick tempered. What he hated most was waiting—waiting in line to buy a package of cigarettes or a newspaper. He refused to wait for a stool at a counter in a luncheonette, for a table in a restaurant, choosing to leave instead. Always, Mom and I trailed behind. Here, at this crossing, he was trapped, and I was climbing up into the front seat, kneeling in Mom’s lap, my upper body stretched outside an opened window, waving my arm at the railroad man, and he was waving back.