Day One: On to Montreal

And so I begin the journey. I’m looking out the window on my Via Rail train, bound for Toronto. So many fields, so many trees. I’m out in the middle of nowhere until we cross a road at an angle. Briefly I’m brought back into the world of cars … and then plunged back into the wild. The plunge is delicious. A few kilometres back, a hundred Canada geese sat together in a bare field. It was family, and I loved seeing them.

The whole thing is magical, with the morning mist rising above the land. I have a private view of scenes usually beyond me – dense tangles of underbrush, tiny ponds, towering deciduous trees and the sweep of rolling fields. It’s a privilege to be here.


Well … so far I’ve composed this post using my Android phone because I couldn’t get any connection with my laptop. A Via Rail employee tried to help me but eventually ran out of ideas. He suggested I phone the tech support 1-800 number, so I did. Nearly an hour later, the gentleman on the other end of the line was still trying to fix me up. He had a thick French-Canadian accent, and I struggled to understand what he was saying. Plus nothing he recommended worked. What was miraculous was that we were both so determined … and so patient with each other. Just what a frustrated human being needs!

Finally, my Via tech guy said he’d phone me back in five minutes. Told me that he had one more idea. Meanwhile, a fellow named Christian had got on the train miles back in Kitchener, and he was my seatmate. He asked if he could help. Of course. His fingers flew over assorted screens and soon he came to a setting that looked like a problem. He switched things to “automatic DNS settings” and …

Thank you, kind sir

A few minutes later, tech support guy phoned back and I told him that Christian had fixed the problem. I handed the phone over and the two of them talked computerese. Sweet. I imagine Mr. Via is embarrassed that another passenger got the job done in a shake of a lamb’s tail, but he’ll be okay. Thank you, everyone, for pitching in. Exactly what the world needs.


We’re rolling east of Toronto. I look forward in the car and realize how very narrow a train is. Just a little arrow of human togetherness. And the corridor through which we pass is also squinchy. The life of the landscape is just metres away, flowing away as in a dream. Here’s a crow walking along the rail beside me. Here are the clouds billowing overhead. Here are cars lined up to let us pass.

Dead trees poking out of an evaporated wetland. Pillars of crushed rock evoke the pyramids. And now the sun shows up to animate the leaves. As we slow towards a town, a gaggle of residents look up to mark our passage. Somebody’s shirts are drying on the line.

Into Belleville, we parallel a road, and the cars have no chance in keeping up with us. At the station, I glance over at John’s Variety, where I savoured an ice cream cone two years ago. That time I came here to see the play “Jake’s Women” three nights in a row.

A Via Rail employee just made an a announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I remind you that it is strictly prohibited to smoke anywhere on the train, especially if you are in car five, in the middle.” Oops. Public shaming.

Now, at the Kingston station, there’s a sea of marsh grass out my window, waving in the wind. I imagine each blade as a person, and see us flow together. Fifteen minutes later, a complete contract- the 401 freeway parallels on my right. I find myself wishing for a traffic jam, so I can experience leaving them all behind. Nasty, Bruce.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the final round of the CP Canadian Women’s Open is unfolding in Regina, Saskatchewan. I’m not just stuck to the window. I’m stuck to my phone. Canada’s darling golfer Brooke Henderson has a three-stroke lead on the back nine. Go, Brooke!

A great blue heron just flew beside the train! So graceful. These sublime creatures have a wingspan of six feet. Now, back to Brooke. She has a three-stroke lead with three holes to go.


She won! Brooke is the first Canadian woman to win our national championship since 1973. Marvelous. Yay for Canada.

I’m so high that I’m virtually on the roof of the train. No more travelling words right now. I’m just going to bask in the glory of hero worship.

Tonight at 7:15 or so, I’ll step into my sleeping compartment on the Montreal to Nova Scotia train. I no doubt will so hyped this evening that I’ll have to write you again. I’ll call it “Night One: Sleeper”.

See you then.

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