Thursday, January 3, 2013

Be Safe, Be Responsible; But Make Room For Fun

Christmas Eve morning we piled into the car, since it wasn't actually raining, and drove to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge for a morning hike. It was a gorgeous morning, quiet, serene, and brisk. The sun even broke through and the light was stark and beautiful. The pictures I took would have been masterpieces if only I'd had the card in the camera... I did it again.

Anyway, to get into the refuge you have to walk over a bridge that is tall and steep and spans the long straightaway of four sets of railroad tracks. As we reached the top we heard the whistle of an oncoming train so we waited and watched it approach, slower than some but still fast enough to whip up the wind around us and simultaneously scare and excite the girls.

Standing up there as the train moved underneath us reminded me of college. I don't do a lot of wild things, I tend to err on the side of safe and responsible. Sometimes I wish that I'd let loose a bit more, other times I'm happy I've avoided a lot of regrets in the stupid decision department. (Not that I don't have a lot of regrets in other departments; that's a different series of blog posts) On many lists, this wouldn't even crack the top 100 of wild and crazy...

I went to school in the Midwest where trains have the right-away and long, flat stretches of land to really open the throttle and chew up the miles. We grew used to the sound of whistles day and night, the rumble through the ground, and climbing between cars when the train stopped for hours in the middle of campus.

One late night, a group of us went out of town to a long straightaway where the trains picked up breakneck speed and we snuck down the tracks to one of the towers that holds the signal lights. Everyone else seemed relaxed and was having fun; whispered laughter and jokes ricocheting between us. I, on the other hand, was alternating between terror and terror-filled excitement.

We climbed up the cold skinny metal and sat side-by-side in a row of anticipation suspended in the cold night air. The train came barreling towards us, the light cutting the darkness, the air tunneling around us before the roar and rumble arrived, shaking our perch and filling our ears so that our screams of terror and delight were muffled and swept away by the cars rushing just feet underneath us.

I have no idea what we did afterwards, all I remember is shakily climbing back down and tripping through the dark to the waiting car, all the while giddily hugging myself for doing something so completely out of my safe, controlled nature; for breaking rules and screaming with abandon.

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