2011 Norbert Roztocki
Reflections from the Rudolf Steiner Express
a train through four countries in five days celebrating one hundred fifty years
by Jordan Walker
Images by Jordan Walker and Norbert Roztocki as indicated
A version of this text originally appeared in 150 On Air, the on-board blog for the Rudolf Steiner Express
a journey within a journey
Two lines receding to a near point
(closer to closer but never touching),
the past unfolds, passing
beneath the present to a fading horizon.
Snow still clings in patches of low earth,
A cat hunts around a long abandoned
depot station. A nest awaits its returning birds.
Mid-winter is passing.
The green on ground and stickbrown bush
is not coming spring but belongs
to a misplaced warm spell or
remnants of last year holding on.
No, what comes is still unseen.
Beyond the scope of view,
deep beneath, happening to seeds and roots
and light forces in the darkness.
Even now, here, from your vantage at the back of the caravan,
the present is limited in its availability. Your perspective
is just one of many from rolling railroad cars.
It's a long train to hold in attention all at once.
Life weaves between the cars, those already slipping
into what has been, and those up ahead —
able to see what to you is still hidden.
But the line is navigable.
You can make that trip.
From self-reflective rear window to the growling
engine that pulls the whole thing along.
A journey within a journey.
Half the carriage seats are taken but the train is full.
An experience populated with multiple languages and postures,
diverse characters on anthroposophical holiday.
A pair of middle-aged couples plays cards in the restaurant wagon. The club car is full of singing and happy chatter — modeling clay at one table and a piano sometimes played.
Conversations in a foreign language that escapes your ear
and misses your tongue.
Signs of a reserved co-existing erupt
in bouts of easy friendship particular
to those traveling alone.
How quickly a family forms!
How quickly moving metal becomes a home!
A seat becomes your temporary possession and the Dutch philosopher a familiar cousin. The graduate student fresh from Madrid. A new understanding of Waldorf education pulls her toward deeper waters in front of your eyes. She listens with interest to conversations about spiritual epistemology and the finer points of a worldview that expands her thesis just as it expands your understanding of who you are, where you come from and where you are to go.
There is a familiarity here — family just met — the Hungarian musicologist, the two craft apprentices traveling with packs, staffs and top hats on their "wandering years." Martina on work-exchange with a cleaning bucket. The Brazilian with the strong German, the German with the strong smile. The old woman with the heavy suitcase and those passing through the cabin on the way someplace else.
We provide what an individual needs of a tribe for 21st Century survival: small coins on snack machine loan, checking to make sure you haven't overslept, holding space in the buffet line. But more too:
The train stops. The train moves.
Woods pass by.
Rock and snowy stone.
House and bridge.
Horse and truck.
Plastic bottles along the track.
Stations are timeless in this part of the world. And by timeless you mean unmaintained for 50 years or old ahead of their time. Crumbling plaster exposing brick beneath. A period film set.
Slow moving railroad cars can take on morbid connotations in this part of the world on an overcast day. Eastern Europe and the Jews. Not a sunny thought. But today, in Slovenia, light filters through grey clouds — the picture comes to you like a photo album in shaky old hands: man in dark uniform on the platform smoking a cigarette, young girl and serious mother; cracked wall with years of accumulated soot.
The graffiti is different now of course, and the girl's hat — the one with the ear flaps and the tassels — speaks more of Guatemalan hand crafts than world wars and forced labor camps.
But history stays with us, doesn't it?
(It’s like the tracks beneath the wheels.)
Inevitable down there — history passing
as orderly as clockwork. The receding tracks stopping only when you stop, when the whole journey comes to a rest.
This little station was also a destination reached, even if temporarily. A long line of destinations. All waiting for your eyes. That bit of rubble there, that sports field empty behind the building here, vacant barred windows, tiled roof, snow shovel leaning near a door, ready.
History lives in the details. Questions of existence become more clear when you pay attention. These details call out your place in the great order of things. And today the riddle of time is the theme that speaks towards you, a voice too soft to make out clearly — subtle lips offering the paradox of eternity (forever and ever, never and now).
2011 Norbert Roztocki
But the future does arrive. Or the threshold of it. Standing in the first carriage at the edge of what is to come, the horizon ahead still eclipsed — a steam engine with a blank face, the future present in a crack between connecting hooks.
Look how quickly the tracks rush under!
There is danger here,
cables that should not be disconnected,
an order that needs to be maintained.
This small place,
iron and rushing steel,
axle grease and diesel pistons,
windshield wipers to clear the fractured bodies of insects crushed
by the oncoming present rushing into the next moment's future.
You feel forces,
an edge to the mystery
more tangible than those waiting under frozen ground.
The squeal of metal kept in place by metal.
The floor groans at high torque.
You must change your life to proceed further.
You forfeit your title as passenger on up ahead.
There is only one role beyond this point.
No through-door. The interface connecting you is finer than ether.
The captain of this fragile ship — from one perspective an effortless cruise and from another a raft tied with stressed string
threatening to come apart from the load and frightening speed —
the conductor is the man behind the drama.
We go about our passenger business and he his,
bridging what is up ahead
and what follows behind,
conducting one force to another.
Allowing it all to pass through.
2011 Norbert Roztocki
You don't see the conductor; the conductor enables what you see:
the motion going past the window,
the adoring crowds,
the children waiting to wave.
You move through the cars as the cars move through the landscape as the landscape moves through the seasons as the seasons bring about passing time in devoted reverence to a spinning planet hurtling through the universe on a journey to circumvent a star that conducts still greater voyages.
the conductor conducts
a journey within
a journey within