The Hudson rolls by to my right, dragging slowly like a needle round a record. That morning, Tom Cornell had written me to sit on the left side, where you could most closely watch the river race past for the two hour ride. “The Hudson River Valley beats the Rhine by a mile!” he wrote.
At one in the afternoon the water is a matte shade of light gray, without a sun above to grant it gleaming facets. I squint, trying to see some sparkle, something I can remember, but the river is expressionless, a closed mouth.
Eventually sudden wisps of land appear--handfuls of green wishfully placed here and there flash by—trees wrapped in furry vines, arms of leaves twisted and twirled heavenward, all the way up, out and around branches until the entire tree is cozy inside of a warm web of green. These thick, stubby stalks, fat with rolls of foliage, remind me of the layered steeples of childhood sandcastles. “Just take a bit of wet sand like this,” my dad would say, as the pale mud would drip onto one of the castle’s outer walls, as if straight from his fingertips, until tiny towers found their finest point. “And let it run through your fingers… Just. Like. This.” It always took some time before a shape emerged. Many times even after a beautiful steeple seemed also strong and certain, it would fall and disappear into the ground. Those lopsided, swollen ones were those that remained, that guarded the heart of the castle. “It doesn’t have to look perfect,” he would say, as he pulled his hand away, slowly as if a butterfly had landed upon it.
In between these moments of forest, a blanket of water remains still, silences the underground. A couple of days before, a psychic had told my sister that her sister would be doing some traveling: she would visit farms and shelters. “She has a lot of empathy,” my sister repeated, mimicking the woman pressing her hand hard to her heart, “and it will be a challenge for her. It will be harder than she thinks.”
At the Peckskill stop, the sun blooms, flowers in fast motion, and drops petals of light below revealing the water, choppy and sharp edged as diamonds. Behind it, the mountains overlap, as one falls down into the next and up, up again; the rich, dark green fur of them is thick as sheep’s wool. The train is then, at once, so close to the water I feel it is just below my seat, that if I could open a window and reach down just a bit, my fingers would run through its flowing mane.
Again a cloud awaits us just after we pull away from Beacon, a cloud that has turned the water a periwinkle, a pale purple smooth as milk. A bright ribbon of blue sky outlines the hills, and just above this glowing line a long dark cloud spills wide. I see, forehead pressed against the window, that rays of white are raining down from this cloud’s underbelly, illuminating the endless, elusive river below. Poughkeepsie will be the next stop, I hear, before a downfall silently booms.