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  • Your feet start to twitch. Uh-oh. You pace round and round the house. You put on your boots and stride round and round the land. Round and round. You put on your Icelandic bear of a hat, get in the truck and drive round and round the county. Round and round.

    You begin to resemble a nursery rhyme.

    So you stop in town.
    But you’re off coffee.
    You’re off gluten.
    You’re even off wine.

    So there’s the bookstore.
    You head in and right past the “new and interesting” table and right past your friend J who stands at the cash register and right past the cookbooks and even past the poetry and fiction to the travel section where you page through the books about dogsledding across the Arctic and walking through Mongolia and cycling around the world.

    But your feet still twitch.

    So you leave. You nod at J who watches wistfully from the cash register, drawing doodles on the counter with her finger. The sleigh bells jingle sadly against the door as you head out. You’re not buying anything today. You’re off books.

    On the way back to your truck, you wave to someone you know across the street and you nod to an old colleague from the days when you taught at the pish-posh college and wonder what he thinks of your Icelandic bear of a hat but you don’t stop to chat.
    You’re off people.

    And it occurs to you that you're off a lot of things.

    But then, as you walk over the bridge, you're distracted from that thought by the morning train passing
    slow slow slowly
    along the tracks beneath. You could jog faster than that train, that sorry old freight train. You think about hopping a car, the way your sister-in-law did forty years ago, about how that would feel, joining the ranks of the hobo. It’s going slow enough, and has scrawly red graffiti splashed on the third boxcar, but it's probably only crawling as far as Rutland, and you probably couldn’t catch it anyway. Or scramble in even if there was an empty car with an open door just waiting for you. Not with your mud boots on.
    Besides, you're off running.

    But you keep staring at the tracks slicing the slim scant snow. If only it were a passenger train. You suddenly long for a passenger train. An old school passenger train crossing vast open spaces. You long for it more than you've longed for anything in a long time. You can see it--the compartments and luggage racks overhead and fogged windows, the whistle and conductor and steam flowing from the stack, the rattling of carts and the stories of passengers--

    You're confusing yourself with someone in a sweeping saga, in a Russian novel, in a Hollywood movie.

    There hasn’t been a passenger train in these parts for decades, and the old depot is an auto parts store. You turn that thought around like a penny in your mouth because you get how perfect an ending that is and can't believe you never put it together before.

    And it makes you laugh. And there you stand on that railroad bridge in town, you with your twitchy feet and your dreams of passenger trains running up the spine of Vermont, you in your mud boots and lumberjack shirt and Icelandic bear of a hat and your yearly cleanse, and you laugh until the train disappears and your restlessness fizzes away.

    You look around your small town. Yes, the sky is still a thick lead lid clamped down on the rooftops, down on your Icelandic bear of a hat. You look down at your mud boots. Yes, your left pinky still twitches a bit. Yes, it's still January.
    But it's okay. Really.
    For you're not off trains, you're not off dreaming.
    Transcendence is yours.
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