Waiting for trains
Only a few hardy souls venture out at dawn to walk the DeAnza Trail at Canoa Historic Ranch, especially this time of year. For sun lovers and cravers of warmth, the 49 degree starting temperature requires walking gear more common in a Northwest fall. Thus, we have this become accustomed to walking this trail alone.
But there is another hardy soul, a transplant from Alaska, who comes a little later dressed in little but shorts and a light jacket. For her, this weather is “balmy”, and having clothing that allows freedom of movement is important because of her job as a dog trainer and dog walker.
We can always spot her on the trail as she usually has 2-4 leashes with various dogs tied to them. The leashes tangle and untangle as each, at their own speed, revels in the smells of the desert trail. She calls them to her, always her voice encouraging and filled with gentle humor.
And then there is Ginger. Walking free alongside her.
When we first met Ginger, a rescued pit bull, she was afraid to even get out of the car of her new owner. Greeting anyone was impossible, so scared or scarred she was from her previous experience. Over the year we have been encountering her, we have seen her transform into a friendly, adventurous, confident dog.
Being loved well will have that effect.
Ginger’s confidence shone today as we approached the dog pack. Her entire wide face exploded in a dog grin, tongue flopping out one side. We thought she was happy to see us, but her owner, when she approached, drew attention to the clacking of rail cars cutting through the desert in the distance. Ginger was staring transfixed across the desert landscape.
It’s the train, she says.
Her owner, ever the dog whisperer, has been writing emails to the train company with a simple request. When you pass by the desert alongside Canoa Ranch, will you blow your train horn for my dog. Today, for the first time, the whistle blows, and we watch as Ginger’s grin explodes further.
Because Ginger loves trains more than anything, her owner says she often sits with Ginger by the wash in the distance for up to an hour waiting for a train to pass. Ginger will stare into the distance with an anticipation that is palpable. And she always knows when one is about to appear.
Ginger feels the vibrations of the coming train, she says.
I think about Ginger’s anticipation…her ability to sense when joy is inching closer. I think about her absolute trust that what she craves will be supplied. And I think about her singular focus on what matters most as she walks this trail:
The train is coming.
Sadly, my focus is often on the dangers in the desert and in life. I am constantly being struck by the venomous behaviors of human beings towards each other. My heart is stabbed by the needles and spikes of human cruelty. There is so much I do not understand.
And sometimes, I lose my capacity to register hope.
But this morning, I thought about Ginger, who like Jay Gatsby, seems to have an “extraordinary gift for hope.” Her hope is not deterred by circumstance or challenged by experience. She knows the train is coming, and she is willing to wait for how ever long it takes until her heart is filled to overflowing with its sound and motion. She is in the moment, feet firmly planted on the ground, eyes ever scanning the landscape beyond her vision.
And so it should become with me.
I need to attune my senses to what thrives in an unseen world and yet is ever present and ever available to me here on the ground on which I walk. I need to remember that the dangers around me are temporal and will never outlast what lives just beyond the horizon. And I need to focus my vision on that which I can not see but which is more real than the needle ridden landscape before me.
I need to attune my heart to the vibrations of hope in the distance.
And in these troubled times, I imagine you do too.