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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Trains

For a large part of my life, I have suffered from insomnia. I have trouble falling asleep, I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, and I wake up ridiculously early. It goes in phases - sometimes I sleep pretty well for months and sometimes I go weeks without a good night's sleep. The worst I ever suffered from insomnia was when I was in college (the first time) and living in the dorms on campus. When I lived in the dorm, I used to lie awake for hours upon hours, sometimes in tears from being so exhausted, absolutely unable to fall asleep. I tried serotonim, sleeping pills, warm milk, reading until my eyes couldn't stay open, and many other tactics. But all to no avail, I still couldn't fall asleep. The memories I have of those nights are of frustration and exasperation. But I do have one other memory from those nights - the sound of the trains that passed through Birmingham at all hours of the night. At 3, 4, or 5 in the morning, trains would travel through, their tracks close enough to my dorm for me to hear the whistles blowing when they chugged by. In the stupor of my exhaustion, there was something about the sound of those trains that gave me comfort. Every night, without fail, that noise would lull me, not necessarily putting an end to my insomnia, but it would calm me and give me some measure of peace. Whenever I hear the train these days, it always transports me to those nights - not the frustration of being unable to sleep, but the comfort I felt in the constant sound of the trains passing through. I have recently begun to hear the trains from my apartment on quiet nights, and I love it and find myself stopping to listen to the soft whistle. In the past year, I have discovered that traveling by train is wonderful also. I love driving, but I can get so much more done, and it is so much more relaxing to travel by train. Yesterday, I took the train up and back to New York. On the way up, I managed to get a lot of studying done, and on the way home, I managed to get some sleep in (something I better not do if I am driving!). More than that, I have now gotten to be inside that source of comfort and I find it just as lulling and soothing to be inside the train as to hear it travel through. I am not sure what it is that I love about the train so much, but I think it is one of those sensations and feelings that I will always hold close.

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