In the summer of 2009 I was traveling south by train on an 23 hour trip from Chernivtsi, Urkaine to Sofia, Bulgaria. As the border between Ukraine and Romania is not one between European Union countries, the passengers underwent a customs/passport inspection. It turns out there was plenty of time for this inspection since the entire train was lifted and its wheel chassis removed and replaced with wider gauge wheels. Apparently the train tracks are a different width in these countries so that every time a train crosses the border, this labor intensive effort is required.
Customs inspectors topping their smileless visages with agressively tall-browed drab-green hats inspected under mattresses, in suitcases and in the ceiling panels using telescopic mirrors. They also insisted on collecting my passport and taking it with them to which I nervously assented. Although I had nothing to hide, I had never before been subject to such a show of investigative intimidation at a border crossing. Once I had been cleared, I wandered a bit with my camera and found that this wheel-changing customs depot t’aint zone was also a bit of a locomotive graveyard.
I love this image, in part for the rich green color which is perfectly balanced by the rust, but also because of an ongoing curiosity I have with decay. Whenever I break a glass or plate, I have learned to automatically say to myself “it was already broken,” a Buddhist teaching which imparts a regular recognition and reminder that everything in existence and everything which is cherished already contains the seeds of its own demise and will someday be gone. Our homes, vehicles, possessions, our health, our bodies and life force, and those of our loved ones all are “already broken,” will someday be gone. The train here had reached the end of the line, the end of it’s practical life cycle. Just to the right of the train is scrap metal, it’s natural temporal extrapolation.
Further on in the trip I was miffed by being moved to another car only to share a berth with a dear-hearted Bulgarian man who spoke little English but patiently taught me the proud and strident tones of the Bulgarian National Anthem. “Gorda Stara Planina, Dona Duneva Sine..” I may not have the spelling right, but to this day I still remember almost the entire song, and his kindness.
I wrote about that train trip at the time. If you wish, you can read more Musings From the Train on my explorationsoftruth blog here. That train trip tied many pieces in my life together including photography, my family history (I had been in Ukraine researching my family’s roots) and love (I was on my way to Bulgaria to meet up with Sonia whom I had met earlier in the summer). Thinking of this makes me appreciative of the fact that although not yet broken, I already contain the fully inescapable kinesis of my own eventual demise. I hope when I reach the end of my line I can smile with appreciation as I say to myself, “I was already broken.”