What To Be On Alert For

If you have been on Amtrak Train 137, and if you have taken it past New Haven, and if you have happened to look up at the right moments between Westerly and Old Saybrook, then you will have seen it.

137 is the Northeast Regional that starts up in Boston, rolls down through Providence, Hartford, Manhattan, and winds up in DC or Virginia Beach. The tracks slice through cities and suburbs, past wide supermarkets and behind tall apartment buildings.

But there are a few moments - and they are moments, the time it would take me to say, “Hey! Did you see that?” - when the tracks seems to float over water. It is a thin lip of the Long Island Sound. The water is a pale and creamy blue. Light winks off of the waves. And the horizon over this dreamy water appears to have no end. Passengers who do catch it tap their companions on the shoulder or stare quietly out at it. It is one of those servings of nature that can hush the words right out of you.

Train 137 curves right alongside the Sound twice. Or maybe more and I’ve only looked up to catch it twice.

And that’s the thing: You have to look up to catch it. No buzzers sound. No spotlights shine. The conductor doesn’t tell you. You must be on alert for it.

Which is not such a bad way to ride the rails, or walk the world: On alert for beauty.

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