Wednesday, December 14, 2011

traveling slow with Crow

So where has Susan been lately you may wonder, or probably not. What happened is that some time ago I decided I should come up with a picture of my own for every new post and more often than not whatever interesting subject I'd considered important enough or silly enough to write about got lost while I was in the process of coming up with a suitable drawing. Frequently the drawings got lost as well. Thank goodness whether or not the world continues to revolve doesn't count on me for its impetus.

This time I'd been thinking about trains and how much more sense they make as the most civilized mode of overland travel left. Once the United States had the world's biggest and best rail system, and Canada's wasn't far behind. Quite a few people still alive today remember the days when fast, efficient rail service connected all but the very smallest towns in America. This is still true for many other countries in the world and we hope they may return. Goodness knows the opportunity to experience beauty and relaxation should trump speed in a better world.

Crow loves to travel in comfort and style so I thought you'd like to see a picture of him as he departed from the Halifax Train Station on his way to visit some old friends before the northern winter takes hold. He'll be back before Christmas and asked me to wish all of you well while he's away.

As for me, I promise to try posting a bit more often even if it's necessary to back off on my idea of completing a drawing for every post. Now I'd better go and make sure Crow's stock of brandy and fruitcake are sufficient for his return.

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
 ~Lao Tzu


  1. Ah, I want to travel on a train like that! Crow is lucky to travel in such style. Reminds me of the Orient Express and Poirot!

    I really liked the trains and efficient service in most of Europe but haven't been on a Canadian one since we emigrated to Canada, traveling from Halifax to Winnipeg. Husband worked as a porter on the Winnipeg to Vancouver run a few summers during his university years.

    Anyway, a most gorgeous drawing, Susan!! Enjoy the slowness brought on by winter's dark days as you await Crow's return.

  2. Bon voyage Crow.I wish we had trains like that! My favourite journey was a train trip from Ostende in Belgium to Moscow. One day the Trans Siberian

  3. wow, this could be 'the yellow submarine' ala train if you were to paint it...not that i want to add to your you realize that if i had a painting for every post i would be posting about, maybe, MAYBE, once a month and that would only be to update on the minuscule amount of progress i might have made. so don't make yourself crazy if you cannot live up to these high expectations of yours. hear me? ;) all said with a smile, i hope you know!!

    and this drawing of yours is wonderful...i think you are fabulous the way you draw these, the detail you fit into them ... they can be stared at for quite awhile and not all their secrets given up! in short, i love this one too! are you dreaming up a story to go with Crow and his paintings?

    hoping you are staying warm up there, out there in the great freezing atlantic shores of winter. i hope you are still able to take your walks too. much lovexoxoxoxo

  4. marja-leena - A train like this one would be wonderful, wouldn't it? I think the whole high speed idea is quite silly and what they should do is simply run more tracks for normal speed trains.

    I did get to travel around on trains a lot in England and around Europe and loved them. The cross Canada journey we made by train from Montreal to Vancouver was very beautiful. That was 1972 so I imagine your husband was well established in his career by then but the porters were great.

    I'm glad you like the drawing as I'm quite pleased with it too.

    jams - I'm sure the Trans Siberian would be an amazing train journey as would a rail trip through India. I'm not too likely to do either but Crow keeps me well informed.

    linda - One thing that always interested me about pen and ink drawings is that by using different patterns color can be suggested. It was a trick used a lot in old b&w films and on television in the early days. I like your 'yellow submarine/train' but I think this one will be the only version. It's entirely possible that a larger story may emerge in the fullness of time. No worries - you're not the first to mention I have a high level of self expectations but without them I wouldn't get anything done at all :-)

    So far (knock on the wooden couch arm) the weather has been bearable this winter. We go for long walks whether it is or not but when it gets really cold I need a fresh kleenex every hundred yards or so.
    much love to you too. xoxo

  5. After our first two years teaching in the remote Alaska bush my wife and I splurged for two first class train tickets - with a compartment - from Washington state to Washington D.C.- to visit family. There was a scheduled change in Chicago. We arrived in Chicago six hours late (no reason - just not running on time.) AMTRACK told us we could take a motel for the night and they would try to get us on coach the next day for the remainder of our trip (Again we had paid for first class - big bucks.) The ticket agent was curt and unconcerned. We ended up renting a car for the last leg of the trip. What a disappointment.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    My grandfather worked for the Illinois Central Rail Road for fifty years, I still love trains.

    The best to crow - glad you are back.

  6. oh Susan! this train! this is a train that can take us to Hogwarts or Halifax..... Bagdad or the beach..... Petra or the Pyrenees.... Neverneverland or the North Pole!! .....or nowhere at all, just for the pleasure of traveling. the cross Canada trip by train is something I've promised myself one day before too long.... but I'll have to get a job that actually pays something more than peanuts first. you're doing a much better job of coming through with your blogging / creative goals than I've proven to be so far.... this was a lovely bedtime treat.


    Apologies, was temporarily possessed by an American.

  8. Ah, travelling by train; a lovely experience. Lucky Crow!

    In my youth, I once explored Europe by rail, a summer I have great memories of; now I tend to make long journeys (particularly back to the island Ireland of my birth) by plane. Indeed we are frequently rushing around too much ...

  9. ol'buzzard - Train travel in North America is more about memories of how things used to be good but took a swift nosedive once the governments began to focus their spending on intercontinental highways and major airports. Since Amtrak doesn't own the rails passenger trains have routinely been bumped to sidings while goods trains take precedence. There are now less than half the tracks there were in 1949. As you say train travel has become extremely expensive and much less enjoyable with passing time. It's unfortunate because diesel electric engines are by far more fuel efficient than cars or planes.

    gfid - Yes, isn't it a lovely train? I'm so glad you like it and I love your thoughts about the possible destinations of such an elegant conveyance. As you know I was lucky enough to make the trans Canada trip in the early 70's when first class on CN was still affordable and fun too. I'll keep my fingers crossed you're able to have your dream come true and that we can meet you one afternoon at the Halifax Station.

    randal - It's really past time we lost that particular version of the future and opted for a sane one. Nah, you're right - they'll never go willingly.

    francis - I remember reading that story about your wonderful summer in 1981. Traveling through Europe by rail was a great experience and I understand it's still very good. Sometimes getting somewhere fast is necessary but mostly we'd all be better off taking the slow and scenic route.

  10. susan.. My visits here never disappoint me, drawing or not. When I saw you had paid me a visit, I felt so good, then guilt took over as I have neglected you and a few other of my favorite people. I think the world DOES revolve around fine folks like you.
    I scrolled down here this morning and looked at the drawings you've done. They are magnificent! I love the train Crow will be traveling on. I will try to return to sleep so I can dream about being on a train trip on that train. I believe it would take me to a place that I would never want to leave.
    It is a shame about what has happened to train travel. And now, with my limitations and the fear that I might not be able to plan and take long trips again, I wish more than ever for the dreams. Maybe someday I'll make that run from Thompson to Churchill and see the last of the Polar Bears.
    Give Crow my best and tip one with him for me.


  11. One more thing susan... I am proud to say that I do walk the walkn that Lao Tzu speaks of.

    And, when you paint this drawing, I want to buy it. I came back to look again. It is surreal. I really really love it. Takes me back to Yellow Submarine and R. Crumb. Psychedelic 60's. Deal?

    More Peace

  12. What a great drawing - and I agree that the trains were the way to travel back in the day. A way to actually see the terrain you were traveling.

  13. I would love to see train travel make a comeback. Crow definitely knows how to travel in style.

  14. My experiences with trains are mostly bittersweet. They figure prominently in a few tragedies. Nothing, obviously, like Tolstoy's... ;-)

  15. spadoman - It's good to see you've been well enough to do a little visiting again so never mind about being a bit late. The good thing about a blog, especially one as slow moving as mine, is that there's always time to scroll down to see what's happened. I'm very happy to hear you like the pictures I've been drawing; at the moment I'm in the midst of trying to slow down to the pace required to do my quieter paintings. Your close call and losing Inger this past fall have combined to convince me that if there's something I really need to see painted that I must take the time to do it properly. I'm not sick, mind you, but one never knows what may come.

    It really is a shame what was allowed to happen to train travel in North America as even slower trains are a much more efficient mode for travel and moving goods than interstates. Yes, I know there were always roads to get people from one side of the US to the other and a lot of great roadside attractions to discover on the way. I don't know how the current madness will finish but I have a feeling that as easily extracted fuel supplies continue to dry up that a consequence will be that the world gets larger again. Not that there won't be some hard times on the way.

    I hadn't been planning to paint this Crow train picture but if I can find an inexpensive way to have a copy printed on good paper I'll hand color it and send it to you. It would be a pleasure to know I could add some color to your wonderful dreams.

  16. nancy - It does seem ridiculous to race from one place to another where we find essentially the same things as in the place we left, doesn't it? There would be many benefits to being able to travel slow again. I'm delighted you like the drawing.

    lisa - It could be done since a lot of the old track lines were simply left as easements and walking trails. Yes, Crow does enjoy his comforts, as do we.

    gina - I have that same sort of bittersweet feeling about airports - far too many good-byes and a number of them that were final.

    Ah yes, Anna Karenina.. 'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'

    I hope you are well.

  17. It’s a dream train, a lower-world shamanic locomotive lacking the minimum number of wheels to even stand still in our world, a multi-coloured psychedelic train in monochrome, with its upper-deck observation cabin and its power animal, Crow.

    Many of your phantasmagorical drawings have a transport theme. Is this conscious or unconscious?

  18. Oh, what an absolutely exquisite drawing, Susan! A world of beauty, smarts, and style all from your mind and hand....spectacular. I agree with marja-leena; reminds me of the Orient Express too. And what a fine guest Crow would make. I hope he has a lovely time with friends, and I look forward to more of your visionary posts.

  19. Along with the chuffing and the steam-hissery of the engine yearning to run, I can hear "Magical Mystery Tour" playing for travelers waiting to board Crow's out-of-this-world train.

    What I like most about your wonderful drawings, Susan, is that they always "take me away, take me away."

    I love traveling by train, ever since I was a little girl. Your/Crow's train is a fantastical reminder of those great rail trips. I'm ready to board, too. I'll sign on as Crow's personal baggage handler!

  20. If your drawings are part of the blogging deal, then by all means take your time. I can wait.

    I do have an issue with calling train travel the most civilized way to travel over land. Being a cyclist and a purveyor of bicycles and cycling equipment, I subscribe to HG Wells' feelings about bicycles:

    Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

    In my mind the bicycle is the perfect marriage of technology and polite travel.

    That said, I only found out recently that the US may not move as many passengers by train as they used to, but the US is still number one in tonnage moved and also lead in cheapest cost per mile.

    How Trains work

  21. vincent - I love your description, one I could only draw but you interpreted my intention perfectly.

    That's an interesting question, one I'd never consciously considered - so I suppose that's the answer. Considering the fact I've never managed to live in any single place longer than seven years, moving and all the experiences the word entails has simply become part of my nature.

    lydia - I'm very happy to know you appreciate the drawing as I had a lot of fun in the conception and execution. Naturally I thought of the old Orient Express when I was planning a train drawing suitable to Crow's tastes in Victorian style. What I learned is that there's a new one - the Venice Simplon OE but travel on it is strictly limited to the 1% who can afford the rates and not quite what I had in mind.

    the crow - I loved that song too and the boundless possibilities it suggested. That's what Crow enjoys about it too.

    The only problem I run into is going far enough away to find what I want to convey and then having to find my way back. Knowing there are a few people who are waiting to see what I've discovered makes the return worthwhile. I'm sure Crow would prefer having you as a companion rather than as baggage handler. He has magic fields he uses for that sort of thing.

    mrmacrum - I'm feeling as though they shouldn't be the only thing that drives the posts as some of my work takes weeks and I'd rather not be gone so long. Nevertheless, I appreciate your being willing to wait.

    I agree with your opinion that bicycles are also a very civilized mode of transport but not quite so practical a way of covering long distances for most people. I did know that train transport is the cheapest way of moving material per mile but not that the US was still ahead in tonnage. Weird about how much coal is still transported, isn't it? I just think there should be more passenger lines being replaced since they're much cheaper than keeping up the interstates and it won't be long before long distance travel by car will become unaffordable for most.

  22. Railroads didn't fall from grace here in America, they were pushed.

    Back a ways, Standard Oil and BF Goodrich teamed up to buy up every available rail and trolley line in the land, and rather than shepherding them into the future, they ripped up the rails and sold them for scrap, paving the way for the ascendancy of the automobile as our Nation's main mode of transportation. That move worked like a charm (for them,) but leaves us in our present-day lurch.

    Pity, isn't it?

  23. cr - Your story is reminiscent of the plot of 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' where the evil character Doom plans to tear out all the trolley lines in LA and replace them with super highways. Thank goodness nothing like that ever really happened.