A Damp and Drizzly November in the Soul

I’ve been back on public transport this week, regularly catching trains into work for the first time in about nine months. Usually I’m pretty fond of trains. The buses and me, we’re never going to see eye to eye, but there’s something remarkably civilized about rail transport. Especially Brisbane rail transport, which recently embraced the idea of giving people free wi-fi while they’re in transit (which, is apparently, the future once the car-loving baby boomers no longer have control of government).

On the other hand, the train can also be a remarkably frustrating way to travel. I read an article a couple of years back that pointed out the inhibitor for most people when it comes to public transport isn’t the duration of the journey, but how often the services leave. Apparently we’re eager to be in motion when we’re trying to get somewhere and we’re grumpy as hell when we’re left to sit around on the platform.

I spend a lot of time waiting on platforms when I head home in the afternoons. The trains that get me to work in a quick and efficient manner in the mornings go wonky as hell when I commute home. Like, this trip will take twice as long as the trip here kind of wonky.

I’m always amazed by the number of writers that seem to love being in motion. There’s a bunch of famous writers who are closely connected to running – Haruki Murakami and Joyce Carol Oates have both written about the connect between jogging and getting a book written – and there’s a similar number of writers who are all about taking long strolls or going on long drives. Even if they’ve never been to sea, I’m getting a whole bunch of writers see the opening to Moby Dick and feel a strange kinship with sentiments expressed in the opening:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet, and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street and knocking people’s hats off — then, I account it high time to get to the sea as soon as I can.

Writing has its own motion, whether it’s the inevitable forward surge of the narrative structure or the growing rhythm of poetry. The joy of writing, at it’s core, lies in the momentum of language. Writing may be a sedentary profession, full of long hours spent sitting at a keyboard, but there’s motion there, plenty of it, and the inevitable frustration of being left waiting at the station.

I’ve been catching trains all week. I account it high time to get to the sea.

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