Monday, March 31, 2008

Riding History Redux

This is not a typical motorcycling blog entry, on the surface anyway. This entry starts with a retelling of two vivid dreams I still recall from childhood. The memory of these dreams has been carefully protected, deep inside. Why, I am not sure yet, but they are safe and it is time I record them on a more permanent medium.

Slowly waking up one lazy Summer Saturday morning for cartoons and an afternoon of fun in the country, a loud train whistle in the distance jolts me upright. I look out the window, to the top of the valley that surrounds our farmhouse and see an old steam engine chugging along with several passenger cars behind. I rub my eyes but the locomotive is still there. Only six years old or so, my brain even then could remember no train tracks in the area. Consciousness still fuzzy, I dart down stairs yelling, "Mom! Mom!"

She is in the yard hanging clothes on the clothesline. Running over to her, I look up the hill again to where only a few minutes ago there was a steam locomotive from the late 1800's. I remember being confused.

"Mom, are there train tracks on the hill?"

"Oh, no," she smiled. "Why don't you run on into the house and get some breakfast."

Even more confused, I walk slowly and quietly, looking at the top of he valley, straining my ears to hear the train whistle. After a hearty breakfast and an hour of cartoons, the imagery of the train was pushed into the back of my brain, and filed under the category of weird dream. Caught in an altered state, just between dream land and the real world, my adolescent consciousness did its best.

The second was pure dream with no intermingling or intertwining of consciousness beyond the understanding that it was a dream. I am sitting on an outside porch, a very young child of three or four, playing with a rather chubby baby. To the side was a very young version of my father washing his hands and face with cool fresh well water from a wash basin. Since I was in my early teens when this dream occurred, the time frame was fairly easy to determine. It was the early 1900's, maybe 1930's or so. The dream mostly took place at an old house that wasn't so old within the time frame of the dream. It was white and nicely kept.

The next frame was of me, a little older, dressed in mourning black, riding in a wagon next to a crying woman and another man, both dressed in black. In the back was a simple casket. I knew the destination but the road looked unusual. The sun was at an odd angle. I awoke simply thinking of this as a common dream.

Decades later I become interested in the history of the place I grew up. Maps and stories and family trees and histories were for the most part easily accessible in the internet.

My first entry into odd feelings of deja 'vous began in 2003 when I found online, a very late 1800's Illinois railroad map. The dream became vivid in my mind and goose bumps ran down my back. There, near the top of that valley where I grew up, ran the telltale hash marks of a railroad. Running from New Boston, near the farm, then up to Rock Island. No other maps showed this line, either before or after.

The originator of the map told me by e-mail that the it also showed lines that were planned for construction, as well as existing lines.

Then I looked at an old plat map. It was from the 1920's if memory serves. I notice something odd. The road I remember as a child, that ran from our farmhouse to the cemetery was not there. Instead there was an angular road at that time, now gone and covered by a corn field. The other dream jumped from my deep memories. THAT explained the odd angle of the sun.

Riding my motorcycle out into the desert and places less traveled, there are times when I swear I can hear people talking, children laughing. Dust clouds rise and rumbles in the distance for no apparent reason are the norm.

What is it that separates the now from the then? What separates the now from yesterday's other possible futures? Maybe they are all riding along together with only a thin film between.

If this is the case, and yesterday and tomorrow and today and yesterday's other tomorrows are all intertwined, and night time dreams and fantasies are merely peeks to other times and possibilities, there is but one type of person who will discover it.

That person will be a motorcyclist, riding down a desert trail or jungle road or snow covered tundra. That is the only type of person who could grasp the entirety, the concept, the Zen of everything and nothing in an instant.

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