Saturday, June 27, 2015

Searching

I've long been fascinated with railways. Not trains, but railways. They're things that can take you from where you are to places where you could be.

In my youth, when I backpacked around southern British Columbia and trekked the abandoned Kettle Valley Railway, I hitch-hiked everywhere. On one trip I was picked up by a lady of about forty in a rented car. She was leaving her life behind, resiling from an interminable and rancorous custody battle for her 9-year-old daughter. Her character had been irremediably maligned in court, and she had lost her last appeal. I was shocked to think of what it must take to make a mother leave her child behind. She was philosophical but clearly broken by it.

I was just 23 and coming off the collapse of my own marriage. We were young and it was my first real relationship. We were together four years.

"So what are you looking for?" the mother asked. She was calm and kind. "Why are you out here on the road?"

I took her question seriously and contemplated an answer, but all I could come up with was a flimsy, "I really don't know."

"I've come across a number of young men your age doing the same thing," she said. "Journeying, searching. And they're never really sure what they're searching for. It makes me wonder what it is." She paused with reflection. "I think maybe it becomes clear only later, after it's done." I wonder now if she was looking for her own answers.

I'm reminded of this conversation as I return to the Kettle Valley Railway, twenty years later, after the end of another significant relationship in my life. What am I doing? Am I looking for something? Is this a manifestation of mid-life crisis? In our forties do we regress to our twenties to see where we went wrong?

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