I can think of no peace as sublime as the peace of waiting for a train at a country station on a warm Swedish summer evening. The dusk drawn out to what seems an impossible length, a silent and respectably modest country mansion barely visible through a curtain of green leaves on the other side of the station, a well-fed cat padding its way inscrutably along the train tracks, the husband and I nearly drunk with the luxury of not having to mind a 25-minute wait for the train.
Why does it charm me so that the train will only stop at the station if the engineer sees that there are passengers waiting on the platform to climb on board? How is it that all night trains give me the same odd feeling of being in a delicious limbo, between two lives along with all the rest of the odd people who ride the night train: a young French boy disappointed nearly to the point of aggression at failing to get the attention of a pair of Swedish teenagers with his inadequate English; a sixty-ish woman dressed to the nines and talking slowly and deliberately to her sixty-ish American guests, who are not dressed to the nines; a boy nearly weighed down in his seat from all the silver jewelry hanging from his fingers and wrists and neck.
Who are these people taking the night train back into the city after a day in the country?
The Swedish phrase for the day is på landet. It means in the countryside.
- by Francis S.