Cross-Country Reality Check
SNOW WHITE, BLOOD RED
Now the train has picked
up speed. We have passed through Martinez and are headed over to Sacramento.
I have seen this country before by car; now I see it by train and it is
a better experience.
The train is a big Amtrak double-decker diesel-electric with dining car, cafe, and observation
lounge. There is lots of walking space if you get antsy, and on a
three-day trip to Chicago you probably will.
I see the reddish-brown
soil along the tracks. I see the Sacramento River and the piles of rocks
from dredging, necessary after extensive hydraulic mining clogged it during
the California Gold Rush. Miners, like bankers, will ruin everything if not
Then we pass by Auburn and Truckee and are headed up into
the Sierras. We start to see patches of snow along the tracks and in the
woods. Rain is now coming down, splattering the windows. Then there is snow
everywhere. A half an hour ago the leaves of the trees were light green. Now
they are dark green, and the trees thin out as we get
higher. It looks like a wicked Winter scene now as we cross Donner Pass and
Donner Lake. I do not see witches in the
woods—or bankers!—but I'm sure they are there wishing us the worst. I no longer feel cheerful, as I did
around Richardson Bay. I wonder how long it is going to take till we are out
of here, down the mountain and back into the light. In the high mountains in Winter there
is a kind of dullness like a toothache. It is good only for contrast or
imagining evil. But evil doesn't need too much imagination. It's as palpable
as a tumor on the neck.
Light green, dark green,
snow white, blood red.
Finally we are back in the good country, trailing the American
River, and I am wishing I could get off at the next small town and go
camping and fishing all by myself. The river snakes along merrily between
little patches of trees and grass.
Merrily, merrily ...
But is life really a dream?
Woman Named Sweetie