Viewing Wickedness from a Train

Problems on Both Sides of the Tracks

My family enjoys train rides. We have sent our kids back and forth to relative’s houses on theĀ  train during school vacations. We would stick new comic books, snacks and juice packs into their travel bags to distract them from temptation to run amok in the aisles. The trip between Eugene and Portland was just over 2 hours which was just long enough for them to forget the warnings from the parents they left waving nervously at them from the train station. I never received any threatening letters from Amtrack after those trips so I figure very little damage was done.

I enjoy train rides much more than driving. I can read, write, sew or zone out on music while watching Oregon pass by my window. The view has changed over the years. When I was a child, towns were still arranged as if more passengers arriving by train than by highway. Cities were careful to arrange their finer architecture so that the buildings faced the tracks.

Now train tracks are viewed with disdain. The view from the train includes the backs of buildings, razor wire, graffiti and vacant lots. It’s like seeing the Willamette Valley with it’s pants down. As an herbalist, I kind of like it.

Before you shake your finger at me for being a landscape pervert, remember that those weeds growing feral over the abandoned cars are also medicinal herbs. Even in the blur over a rapidly moving locomotive, I recognize old friends. March bears the skeletons of summer with the first green blush of new growth.

Blackberry, English Ivy, and bindweed tug at rotten fence posts. Long brown wands from last year’s mullein sag with the weight of the rain. Tangled remains of Japanese knotweed threaten to crack the foundation of warehouses. Scotch broom litters an abandoned lot.

All of Oregon’s invasive bad boys are glaring at me from their side of the tracks. They are all problem children- neglected and feral. Each species is responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars to undo the damage that they cause. They also have their soft sides that only crazy herb ladies like me can see. I know what they offer if tamed and sheltered. It doesn’t stop me from shoo them off my lawn but I chuckle once their backs are turned.

The view from the train reminds me that they’ll be back. Something in me respects that. Just don’t tell them I said that. I’ll never live it down.

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