Sunday, May 14, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 5 — Minnesota

Saturday after leaving Clinton we beat a diagonal northwesterly across Iowa and entered Minnesota in the late afternoon. By then I was deep into memory.

The first trigger was the freight train that passed Arch IV in Clinton at 7 am or so, while I was talking with my wife and granddaughter by FaceTime. I turned the camera around and challenged them to count cars as the freight passed. They gave up at fifty.

Once you get past Chicago, trains are a huge part of the regional economy and of my own spiritual geography, too. I was raised outside Minneapolis, with family connections in the Dakotas, Montana, and Alberta; I lived on a lake in Minnesota, where my grandparents also lived; and I often fell asleep to the click-rumble-click-rumble-click of passing freights.

Today, showing the train to my own granddaughter, I felt the thrill of home.

And, by a short leap of the heart, the pain of those who have no home.

As children my brother, sisters, and I were taught the safety rules of railroad crossings. With 100+ cars carrying coal or even wheat, a freight has absolutely NO chance of stopping for you if you happen to have stopped in front of it. So we were taught NEVER to cross when the lights were flashing. We were taught that if your car stalled on the track (God forbid) ALWAYS get out and get off ASAP. And so on.

By the time the “L’Arche Across America” van crossed into Minnesota, I had told such stories to Woody, Doris, John, Jane, and Todd. Together, we rode along in awe at the quite sudden spring green of the southern counties along the Iowa border, and the immensity of space.

I know that I believe in God because when I was a child all of the adults I most loved believed in Him, and by loving them I came to love Him too.

All things most dear to me began in Minnesota, my faith before all. Last night I fell asleep at a hotel in Luverne in the southwest corner of my home state, awaiting the morrow in South Dakota. We were not beside any tracks but freights thundered through my heart.

I am in awe of the Midwest. I am a Big Ten guy at heart.

And I am grateful to God and to L’Arche and to my parents and to my dear Ammie and Grampa, who were so good to me, for helping me to appreciate these things.

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