In the early days of rail travel, steam locomotives could only travel forward. Trains required turntables, like this one at the John Street roundhouse in Toronto, Canada, to turn them around for return journeys. While at John Street, the locomotives received “servicing and light repairs.”
According to the Toronto Railway Historical Association, locomotives serviced there were so attractively maintained, their appearance became known among railroaders as the “John Street polish.”
I’ll be taking a few weeks away for some “servicing and light repairs” of my own before turning around for a return journey, or at least some spit and polish before moving forward again.
Some of the time will be spent at my cottage—one of my roundhouses.
“The difference between ‘don’t wait’ and ‘non-waiting’ is like the difference between detachment and non-attachment. Detachment implies distancing ourselves from a particular object or experience. It can feel cool . . . Non-attachment simply means not holding on to, not grasping . . .
Non-waiting is a quiet welcoming, more of an invitation than a demand. When we stop leaning into the next experience by hoping for a particular outcome, or leaning into the past by hoping we might somehow change it, only then are we free to know this moment completely.”
My family is so many generations deep in Canada that I don’t really feel Irish. A little Irish-ish, maybe.
Enough that tomorrow I will drink Irish beer and eat Guinness Stew sopped up with Irish Soda Bread.
I do it to honour my ancestors who immigrated and suffered—really suffered—so that I can sit in my warm house and eat plentiful food in good health. They lived in a remote log cabin. No plumbing. No furnace. No Mac’s Milk on the corner or butchery down the street.
It is especially fitting to do so this year, during a pandemic, because in 1866 my ancestors lost three children in one week to a diphtheria epidemic.
Children aged 13, 11 and 9 just . . . gone . . . in the space of a week.
Three children in one week lost to a disease that we never have to think about because WE HAVE VACCINES.
Time has made some people complacent. North Americans born after 1920 don’t know how death used to brush up close in daily life. Our generation has never seen with our own eyes an entire family wiped out in a week, because WE HAVE VACCINES.