The railroad track is miles away, And the day is loud with voices speaking, Yet there isn't a train goes by all day But I hear its whistle shrieking. All night there isn't a train goes by, Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, But I see its cinders red on the sky, And hear its engine steaming. My heart is warm with the friends I make, And better friends I'll not be knowing; Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, No matter where it's going.
This poem is in the public domain.
I first gave this poem to my good friend and colleague for her birthday several years ago after we had sojourned to distant shores. We had already attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conventions together, so we knew the essentials. Our schedules jibed pretty well. I was an earlier-riser, awake by six a.m., showered, out the door, and downstairs reading or writing and drinking coffee before Dana awoke an hour or so later. She had her morning space; I had mine. I snored but not so much that it either kept her awake or awakened her prematurely. (You’re not lying about that, are you, Dana?) I could fall asleep with lights and television. When I’m tired, I’m OUT! I must admit, both of us were done in after the long, learning-filled days. In truth, that’s only the hotel-room part of it, and while important, most of us can handle almost anyone for five days, especially if one is non-judgmental; that’s Dana.
The trickier thing by far is to find someone who enriches the going, buys in, opens herself up to experiences whether planned or spontaneous. That is what Dana became for me as a travel companion, and a teaching one, too. My conventions and my day-to-day classroom life were better because she was there beside me.
In 2016 we organized a trip with former students, traveling to Greece and Italy. These were amazing kids, and the experience was incomparable. Whether it was reenacting the original Olympic run on the track where once the Greeks had trod—despite temperatures nearing 100°—or climbing Mt. Vesuvius after a full day and late night, these young people, almost-sophomores, were game. When we returned home, Dana wanted a “Discovery Tour Redux” but me…not so much. Perfection can be daunting. What we did realize, though, was that we could take our show on a wider road. That has much more to do with Dana than me. She is ever-intrepid while I wade in the shallows of “what-if” far too often.