Dusk…such a wonderful, simple word. Just four letters and one syllable. Rhymes with rust, and rather appears like the color for a brief moment. That’s the thing about dusk; it’s fleeting. So is everything in life: seasons, days, relationships, romances, feelings, happiness, joy, special occassions, memories, et cetera.
To say life is fleeting reminds me of an old time kerosene lantern. During our youth, the wick is extended and the light burns brightly. As we age, the wick gets turned down and the light dims. But before the light is extingushed, there is a dusky hue about us that is pleasing. This has nothing to do with staying active, but mostly about attitudes and perceptions. Some may describe this change in our countenance as a season of wisdom.
Certainly, there are a select few who are wise beyond their years, but being a sage requires time; time filled with trials and grief, loss and confusion. Acheivements, rewards, momentous occassions and fond memories balance out the effects of aging wisely. Such are the days of dusk. Whether we are rapidly approaching this time, cannot even image it, or have passed it, one thing is for certain…dusk is colorful as are our souls.
Zooming past me and other curious railroad enthusiasts, the Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” steam locomotive (and accompanying support cars) raced westward on it’s way back to Cheyenne, Wyoming. This image was taken on September 2nd at approx. 0948 hour between Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas.
After photographing the restored beauty at Union Station, I wanted to witness this behemoth on the open road which is where he was intended to function…and for pulling freight across America’s mountains. It may be years, if ever again, he runs our way. I would call this steel wonder a ‘she’ if it were named Big Girl, but gender selection must have been by a man !
Hearing his steam whistle miles distant, seeing the approaching steam skirt and smoke rising from his boiler, the anticipation of Big Boy was over in seconds…kind of like a lot of things we experience in life. Was it worth researching a decent spot to shoot him as he approached? Was it worth hurrying to the predetermined location and hoping I didn’t miss his arrival? Was it worth feeling the rush of air hit me as he passed, similar to what I used to experience once-upon-a-time as a locomotive engineer for Santa Fe? Yes, it was worth it.
Life is made up of moments-some last only seconds while others several minutes. When we add them all together we realize that our lives comprise myriad moments. Some good, some bad and many neutral, but they all count. A worthwhile goal, at least in my opinion, is to make as many moments as pleasant as possible. These are the ones that put a smile on our faces and bring about happy thoughts. Life is tough, and seems to be getting tougher, so occasional moments such as watching an old steam locomotive zoom by at highway speeds is a nice distraction. This pleasing moment will not soon be forgotten.
Whether coming or going, we have many opportunities to make a positive impact upon others. When we meet with family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, we have the privilege of creating a meaningful and positive moment. My success rate at accomplishing this lofty goal falls short of what I feel should be my personal Gold Standard, but I achieve far less if I fail to try.
Our Native American ancestors nicknamed the steam locomotive, The Iron Horse, after this new mode of transportation began rolling across freshly laid tracks in the vast western United States. The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. The locomotives then were much smaller than this giant, but performed well enough to carry millions of passengers and freight across plains, mountains and deserts over the course of 1900 miles (3000 kilometers) of steel rails.
I wish I could state that the advent of transcontinental rail travel was a success for everyone, but that is not the case. Certainly, the myriads of settlers heading to the Promised Lands of the West Coast were overjoyed to abandon the wagon trains which preceded them. However, our Native American brethren (they were called Indians) suffered much as the railroad basically cut their living and hunting domain in half, and quickly brought about the wholesale slaughter of buffalo and added to the demise of their nations.
As technology advanced, locomotives became more powerful as the terrain and loads dictated. The Union Pacific commissioned a score of these behemoths, the largest steamers built, between 1941 and 1944. They traversed the steep grades of the Rocky Mountains until 1962. Diesel Electric locomotives eventually replaced these marvels of steel and steam.
Two key ingredients are necessary to make steam: water and heat. Steam locomotives have large boilers which accept water from their holding tanks. Heat is created by burning wood, coal or oil. Just as todays vehicles need refueling / recharging so did the steamers require frequent stops for taking on water and fuel.
The Union Pacific recently finished an extensive refurbishing of this locomotive, and it is currently operating along their rail lines from Cheyenne, Wyoming to New Orleans, Louisiana; making a ten-state, round-trip tour. Kansas City is fortunate to be one of the longer stops. The Golden Age of Rail may be over, but nostalgia isn’t as can be attested to by the throngs of folks who flock to see this steam engine and its train.
As with all things related to man, technology and the ability to produce it creates blessings and curses. How we view innovation and use technology often determines the end result…I try to remain positive in this accelerated world we live in.
P.S. I DO like my air conditioning, refrigerator, house, car, fresh food, etc. Oh, and the freedom to enjoy them. Grateful, hopeful, and cautious.
Came across this painting while being seated at a delicious water front restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. Fishing trawlers lined-up in neat rows.
Found it to be a stunning representation of the Atlantic seaboard. The vivid colors, obscured details, and masts raised high beckoned me to look closer at this idyllic setting. The un-named artist created a maritime timeless image…may not be Fine Art, but it is eye catching and soothing to the soul.
Too many words spoil the effect…kind of like over-analyzing Simone Biles decision to pull-out of the remaining women’s gymnastic Olympic competition. I try to imagine the emotional pressure she has been under while performing flawlessly until…
Cannot relate to being the best at anything so this kind of stress is unfamiliar. However, there are other life stressors which exact similar reactions, as most of us have experienced to one degree or another. Hopefully, we garner the kind of help she is receiving. It is very encouraging to witness the support from coaches and teammates.
Masts up ! The sun shines even after the fiercest storms.