Note: I wrote the following four years ago. I was on an Amtrak train from Washington, D.C., to Boston to attend the 2013 AWP Conference. The night before, I’d taken the overnight Amtrak from Alliance to D.C., and from my sleeper car, I had watched the nighttime world go by.


I love riding on trains because you see the underneath of things, the backsides nobody ever considers. Underbelly. Last night I saw silent snow and snow and snow, sometimes a lazy snowplow or a pickup truck or a man in a Carhartt and boots, shoulders hunched to protect his neck from the wind. I fell asleep to the lull and the sway of the train on its tracks.

This morning there was more snow and there were perfect mountains. I saw a whole bunch of turkey vultures in a field. I saw the Potomac, alongside which the train rode for miles and miles. In West Virginia, I saw black rocks bigger than houses. Snow blanketed everything and haloed the horizon as it fell. I saw two partridges hurrying across a swale and I saw crows with heavy black beaks and more snowplows and beautiful graffiti on trains and on bridges and everywhere. The train crossed high over the Potomac twice and went through lots of stone-dark tunnels.

This afternoon, though, on the tracks that run up and down this busy eastern corridor, I’m not seeing nearly as much to write about. It’s dreary and everything is concrete. I did see my Baltimore, though, as we ran through Penn Station. I recognized buildings and freeways, a happy remembrance. Just now we passed underneath New York City, and as we popped up out of the tunnels and curved away I could see the glittering metropolis that stretched for miles behind us. The snowstorm my yesterday-train encountered is on our heels now; there are storm warnings everywhere. I’m sure to see feet of snow in Boston by morning.

I did see feet of snow in Boston by morning; I was in Boston for Winter Storm Nemo, which dropped more than two feet on the city. It was the fifth biggest snow event in Boston’s recorded weather history. Here’s a timelapse video of the storm.

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