There are so many lines to walk. Fine lines. Thin lines. Deadlines. Straight lines. Front lines. Borderlines. Picket lines. Fire lines. Yellow lines … whew yeah, we’re just getting started here with the line thing.
Today it’s about walking that fine rail line at the end of Live Oak Avenue. Traversing 32 miles of central coast towns, cool beaches & colorful fields from south to north, this 140 year old now-publicly-owned line is patiently awaiting its post-carbon destiny.
In the meantime, I walk it.
My friend Lisa & I have become experts at walking the rails. Our goal is to walk the entire line – we completed the Capitola-Santa Cruz-North Coast segment last month, twice!…back & forth from each starting place & different views in each direction. I’ve also walked much of the line with Santa Cruz historian Sandy Lydon, which was nearly as fun as my walks with Lisa.
So here’s the trick*: walk at your own pace as much as possible. Sometimes you’ll step on ties worn smooth, sometimes on the rocky ballast in between, sometimes both in the same step. If the edge between the two is too radical, there’s probably another, easier path somewhere nearby…that’s how you know others before you have overcome a similar challenge. Sometimes, most often on a bridge or trestle, you may, for a few moments, need to adjust your pace to match the ties beneath your feet. Pay attention & activate that core! (i.e., don’t let the distraction of animated discussion or the amazing vista that just came into view trip you up).
The downside of walking the line is: you have to look down! So when you see people walking along the track who seem depressed or a little off, remember we’re really all just trying to stay upright.
There are multitudinous reasons why I love moving along this line: it’s nearby, it’s basically flat, it takes me to places I want to go, I don’t have to be in a car with other cars in annoying traffic, it’s scenic, it’s our history, & it’s our future. & oh yeah, I put a lot of effort into making sure it came ‘back’ into public hands to be available for that future.
Sometimes, the line feels abandoned & invisible. Somedays we’re dodging ticks while wading through weeds grown up between the ties; some parts of the tracks are flooded due to illicit drainage from adjacent properties. Somedays the trash & detritus feels oppressive; somedays we find a rusting treasure in the weeds. Most days, though, we just walk at our own pace, trying to pay attention, appreciating the light, enjoying the birdsong, reviewing local debates, envisioning possible futures. I know some of those futures might preclude the need for these rail-walking strategies, but hey, if & when, I’ll manage!
& of course, I’ve gotta end this one with that all-time favorite by those memorable Traveling Wilburys.
* Although it goes without saying, I hope, please don’t try this if there are actually trains or streetcars on your rail line.