The sky is a clear, cold pale blue that stretches down to meet the golden Mongolian plains that are swaying past our train window. White blotches of stubborn late season snow staining the North facing mountain sides and refusing to fade.
The blue is sliced with the razor line vapour trail of a jet. I always wonder where the plane is coming from and going to. I always wonder about the lives sitting up so high, some asleep, some sipping wine, maybe some pecking at dinner that has just been served. There is the clink and murmur of meal time. The lives of those on board are so varied. The businessman travelling once again who moves on autopilot through customs and immigration. Taxi to his nice hotel, calls home to say goodnight to the kids, a few days of meetings and then heaves himself around and returns home. The grandma off to see the family loaded with love and presents. The backpacker on their first sweaty palmed overseas trip. The expat returning home to pick up a life they left behind.
All these incredibly diverse motivations, emotions and drivers held captive inside their motionless time machine. Step inside on one side of the world and emerge on the other without any sense of motion what so ever – save take off and landing.
And here we sit thousands of metres below them. Swaying from side to side as we click clack across endless dry earth and ice.
The plane seems to move with us in some strange illusion. Like we are moving in the same direction perfectly. In time, in sync both speeding towards our destination. But slowly it creeps ahead leaving us behind and leaving nothing but a dissipating broken up scar of where it passed.
And suddenly I became aware of the difference in our travels. Looking up I was overwhelmed by the distance and difference between us and them. Them motionless with a low level white noise hum of the jets and an unchanging blue outside their window. Us constantly swaying to a constant rhythm with land that moves, bends and changes with every slight change of the compass.
There are so many types of journey but there is something about crossing land and earth that transcends any air travel that I have ever done. It sounds so simplistic to say it is grounded and connected to something bigger. Maybe it is more primal, more human to see land pass beneath our feet. God knows that our primitive brains don’t deal very well with going to sleep on one side of the planet and waking up on the other. The sun just doesn’t sit in the right place, the stars are all suddenly wrong. (We have had the joy of seeing Orion twist ever so slowly towards his (up)right position. No longer a saucepan but a warrior with a sword.)
Sometimes on long flights I look out and think I can see the curve of the earth. I don’t know if it is a trick of the light or not but it always gives me a sense of disconnect with the planet. It’s too high for my mind to really comprehend. I like the feeling though but it is so different to this. Right now I look outside and the land has changed again since I last looked up from this page. There is more snow now, a few trees. It feels more Siberian. But what is the same is this beautiful feeling of the land sliding beneath my feet. And if I let my mind drift I get this sensation of my little family and I sliding across the earth from Australia to England. Seeing everything we can, watching the land change. Noticing the trees change, the houses, the hills, the snow, the rivers and animals and sky.
I am overwhelmed with this strange paradox of this journey feeling like it is taking forever yet also feeling like it is going too fast.
In the midst of some passages I yearn for home and wonder how I will ever make it to the end of this year. When it takes us 2 hours to get outside the hotel to explore I can find myself groaning with effort. Then suddenly we are sliding across the lower reaches of Siberia, Mel sewing across from me, the kids doing school, me writing….and I want this to just all slow down. I want it to stop. I want to never pass this point, for time to freeze and this perfect stillness to just hang in the air until I am ready for it to move on and change. Home will always be there. The friends will come around and sit at our kitchen bench and we will talk about the kids and surf and school. These beautiful rituals of home will happen again. This thing I have right now may never.
Slow down little train….slow down.