Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sandhill Turns 41

Today Sandhill Farm is hosting its annual May Day party, which is a tri-communities all-skate gala marking the anniversary of its birth in 1974, the pagan holiday of Beltane, and the fullness of spring.

Last year, I was on a leave of absence from Sandhill, exploring living with my wife at Dancing Rabbit (though we’d been married since 2007, we had not ever lived together, and my willingness to make that move was an integral part of her decision to rescind her request for a divorce the previous July). As Dancing Rabbit is only three miles distant from Sandhill, I had no trouble making over for the May Day. I remember last year’s festivities for all the storytelling on our 40th birthday, which included a number of ex-members returning for the occasion. It was a happy day.

Today, I think back on a year ago with wistfulness, sadness, and wonder. So much has changed. I’m typing this on board the westbound Cardinal (Amtrak’s train #51) as it limps toward Chicago more than eight hours behind schedule. I’ve long since missed my connection to the California Zephyr, which pulled out of Chicago at 2 pm without me. As I look outside the window, the green in the trees is right (spring is here!), but I’m missing the party back in Rutledge. Sandhill set the date after I’d made plans to visit Annie in Virginia and Betty in Denver with no stopover in Missouri in between.

I let go of my Sandhill membership when Ma’ikwe and I recommitted to our marriage last July, on the one-year anniversary of her first decision to end it. Though that represented a big change (letting go of Sandhill after 40 years) it felt right at the time and I have no regrets choosing love over home. And then it all unraveled. Ma’ikwe decided this February that ending our marriage was the right thing after all, and Sandhill decided it would be better for all concerned if I didn’t return.

So on this May Day I am reflecting on all that I have left behind in Rutledge, and find it somewhat amusing that while everyone else is celebrating, I’ll be alone in a hotel room in Chicago, courtesy of Amtrak because of the botched connection to my second train. Last evening, in West Virginia (somewhere between Thurmond and Montgomery, alongside the banks of the New River) our engine hit a tree that had fallen on the tracks and managed to burst an air hose. That meant no brakes, which, in turn, meant no movement. It took many hours to manifest a replacement freight engine to effect our rescue, with the result that everyone’s connections in Chicago had no chance today.

Once out of our designated time corridor, we were subject to additional delays to let freight trains pass, and we even had a stop at a crossroads for a medical emergency, where a passenger having trouble breathing was met by an ambulance. It’s been quite a trip so far and I’ve still got an 18-hour sojourn to Denver awaiting tomorrow.

For as far back as I can remember, on the night of Sandhill’s May Day Party it would be my job to tend the fire for the sweet lodge. But not this year. Instead, I’m sweating how to make it up to Betty, whose time with me will be almost cut in half by my missed connection.

I tell people they shouldn’t take the train if they’re in a hurry, and today I get to learn that lesson one more time. Tonight, at my hotel, at least I’ll have the time to raise a glass to toast Sandhill in absentia. I wish them well.


Anonymous said...

I took AMTRAK for 1st time from Sacramento to San Antonio- roundtrip- too many delays and too long about 42 hours each way- I wanted to at least try it one time in US. Flying would actually have been cheaper on SW Airlines if I would have booked early and time only 5 hours each way. I lived in Japan and also traveled in Europe- in both places bullet trains are great and investments in railroads is good and trains do not share line with freight trains- would use bullet train in US if we had equivalent

Anonymous said...

CNN news this morning covered a story that AMTRAK budget has been slashed by over $200 million - one congresswoman said that AMTRAK shares freight train tracks around 98% of the time. When I was on the AMTRAK trip conductor announced that there was a freight train coming that had high priority cargo and since the freight train company owns the tracks we had to pull over to let the freight train pass. We sat still for about 30 minutes.