Life by the Tracks

My family has lived by the train tracks that cut through Birmingham for five years now. My relationship with the trains had a rocky start, but it has grown into one of wonder and appreciation.

Our first night in this house was rough. Sleep was displaced by anxiety and worry. My mind raced as I heard and felt each train thunder by. What had we done? Who in their right mind would build a house this close to train tracks? Would I ever sleep again?

There was a bit of improvement each successive night, and I began to sleep through the trains after about two weeks. My body and mind adjusted and even began to welcome the odd lullaby of steel wheels and blaring horns.

The trains are our loud and nosy neighbors, forcing themselves on us in the midst of phone calls, family conversations,  arguments and attempts at quiet solitude. But they give us opportunities to practice a strange sort of hospitality, to learn how to hold our tongues and thoughts and to realize that it’s not all about us.

Each passing train offers a reminder that we are connected to a larger story.  I choose to accept most of those offers with gratitude. It’s good to have glimpses into the world that exists beyond the walls of our home. People are working, living and travelling, and our place is a small part of their journeys.

Some who live near train tracks claim that they are no longer aware of the trains–they just blend in with the other noises around them. I’m glad I still notice the trains while I’m awake, and I appreciate that  they fade into my dreams while I’m asleep.


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