I make my way from Amsterdam to Belgium on the first of three trains that will span over five hours. I drift between sleep and active attention. The landscape outside the window is vivid. I see lush green fields sprouting humble brick houses with steep roofs every square mile or so. The houses are not like the ones in America, pre-fabricated and cheap. These farm houses have more history, and each one is unique. Some are like small villas, with courtyards surrounded by the house, barn, garden, and an impressive stone arch. Visitors pass under this arch when the way is clear of the massive wooden doors. The scene looks less like a village of homes, but of whole territories marked by palaces of proud families who have looked over the land for generations.
The day is rainy, and the sky is an overcast gray, although it is not raining now. In the distance are five giant wind turbines in a row, and now I see to the south there are 20 more. As we approach I see that they are all in rows of five. A flock of geese flies over the train as we pass by a field they were resting in. At the moment I am the only person in the car.
As I groggily look out the window, a man comes through the door, slowly bumbling about. As he approaches I see he has a large pack on his back and a platform protruding from his waste full of snacks and goodies. His gear makes him nearly as wide as the aisle he walks down, and thus he walks slowly and awkwardly. He looks down at me smiling and asks, not in English, what I assume to mean "snacks?" I shake my head and he keeps walking. As he returns the opposite way I change my mind and ask for a coffee. He fiddles with a package in front of him, pours the rough contents into a cup, and then pulls at a spout which connects by hose to the back of his pack and fills the cup with water. As he does this he tells me what sounds like the price. "Two?" I ask. Now he knows I speak English, and he appears amused to say, after we exchange currency for goods, "thank you very much," and as he is walking away, "have a nice day!" He passes through the doors, back into some unknown compartment which might as well be a world away.
I sip the stuff, much warmer than I expected, stare out the window for a bit, and resume my reading; Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea," a copy I picked up at a shop in Amsterdam. The timeless scent of a new book mixes with the aroma of cheap coffee.
As the low hum of the beast purrs, the transient feeling of being on a train makes me feel like I am lost in time, between worlds.