The pleasure of train travel returns in a rush. Through a blurred window, the Hudson River churns. Warping around bends in the tracks, the train bends to the will of the rail. Telephone poles and trees accelerate, gone in a blink.
Northbound out of Manhattan, I am eighteen hours ahead of an impending blizzard. I let March's dull colors and dead grasses sweep by, anticipating the cloak of white that will soon appear.
11:00 am, the train pulls in. I shoulder my pack and walk ten minutes to the DIA Beacon museum. Calming pastel stripes of Agnes Martin, the agitating neon pulse of Dan Flavin. I sit in front of the Martin series for a while, transport myself to a beach house I used to know. Her paintings are like lemon bar slices cut with sea blue, or maybe creamsicle pops.
I walk a mile into town for lunch and provisions (cocoa, coffee, cheese, bagels, apples, jerky, soup, an avocado) and continue across the river. Zoraida, one of my hosts, checks me into the camper at 3:00. Baby Marcel is sleeping, upstairs.
I attempt to hike, but starting so late, only make it to the first overlook, at the casino ruins. The path is already slick with ice and recent snowfall. It's already below freezing and the light is leaving. Trees grow longer shadows. I look down from the brow of Mount Beacon, and picture the town, the Hudson, the train tracks below pasted over with white, wiped clean in the storm. So it will be.
Later, I meet Mike, Zoraida's husband, and we talk in their linoleum floor kitchen with the record player and Marcel's train toys. I tell him I took a train to get here, but he's two and I can't say if he understood. Zoraida and MIke speak Spanish, too, (his parents are Colombian, hers are from Panama) and Marcel speaks his little Spanglish blend.
They drive into town for some last minute supplies and drop me off at a tavern for a last big meal and a beer, and I walk back to the camper in the cracking cold, six pack under my arm and short white breaths in front of my mouth.
Snow begins overnight and falls all day. I alternate between cocoa and coffee, every now and then stepping inside the house to chat, warm up. I write, and read, and turn the little space heater on high and point it toward the four-blanket bed.
Mike gives me a pair of calf-height black Hunter boots. Says his mother bought them for him and they don't fit, they'll end up donated anyhow. His and Zoraida's generosity astound me. They feed me mac and cheese, insist I take whatever I want. It's so cold and snowy, they say. We can't believe you still came.
At 4:00, Mike and I carve a crude path to the backdoor. We're up to one foot. My footprints from earlier, more like lunges really, fill in quickly.
At night, I read from the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 and learn about the deepest caves in the world, the seed genome bank, Phineas Gage, empathy, and segregated wilderness. I read these slim stories bursting with life and knowledge and I want to do that, too.
The storm finally abates in the wee hours. We mark twenty inches. My beloved blue spork breaks as I spoon out the last half of an avocado, but I can still stir coffee.
I get two emails for internship interviews and a research position back in the city. Momentary jolt back into my actual life. I write in my journal "trust the process" even though I don't believe it and have to fight every instinct to worry.
I turn off the space heater to give it a break (and me, can you get woozy from space heater fumes?) and oh, how quiet it is. Windchimes tell me that though the snow has stopped, the strong gusts have not. I find that my pillow has frozen to the wall, betrayed by a thin frost layer spreading up the wall. I peel the fabric away and fibers get stuck in the crystals. I look through old photos and listen to old playlists to stir my memory, a necessary evil, and sleep cold but still content.
Partings. Zoraida revs up the Subaru and gets me to the train station so I don't have to hoof the two miles. The Hudson Valley is charmed with snow. Every surface winks. In two hours, I am back at Grand Central. It is one of the strangest things about New York, the jolt from one life, one consciousness, into another, your mind still in a quiet place that no one knows, but your body cattle-pushed and cleaved from a mass of other bodies in the white noise of the city.