I was camping
in the Columbia gorge
, where the sky
is so dark
that the summer stars
seem to cast hard shadows on the pine-needle covered dirt and asphalt. There, train track
s run along the scenic
highway, which twists
along the narrow flats between the cliff
s of the gorge and the river
. We went (my companion
s and I) and lay on a blanket by one of the bends in the track, inside the protective fence
, and looked at the stars. We chatted and talked until we felt the train approaching, and then we sat and faced it until it came.
I don't even remember how the train felt as it approached: the first thing I remember is the blinding white of the train's headlight. From a distance, the light reduced objects to two dimensions; the trees to the side of the highway became inverse silhouettes, light and dark, the world reduced to yin and yang. My night vision eliminated any chance of grey.
The wind, thunder, sparks, a flying piece of metal, the ground shaking as I sat still, my hair whipping about my face -- I only have images, stills which capture but are not captured by the motion of the train. Its mass overwhelming me, everything around me -- I felt as small as I do beneath the stars.
But most vividly (my only memory of motion), I remember the shadows rotating as the train passed. Suddenly, the world, projected into 2D, gained depth, like a cube would if, as it suddenly rotated, you realized it to be a hypercube. The cross-sections of tree trunks revealed themselves to be cylinders; the knife-sharp fence shadows swept out volume in the dust in the air.