Sunday, November 30, 2008

The End of November

Once again, November is over, about two weeks after it began. November and October always seem like the shortest months of the year. They're over far too soon.

The postbirds started leaving today. I'm not the only passenger on the Train who tries to write every day in November; the birds have been swamped with letters all month. They've taken off every day in ungainly postmarked flocks. Today is the last day, though, and most of the passengers will go back to being merely intermittent correspondents, like me. (Hopefully, most of them will do better than that.) The Train will get by with only a half-dozen postbirds for the rest of the year. The rest are off to warmer places for the Winter. They're all Wayfinders, so it won't take them long to get there.

I've found my warm place already; I'll be staying on the Train for the rest of the Winter. Most travelers in the Railway Regions do the same. Trenchcoat Guy showed up this morning, waiting by himself at the tiny Blue Wilderness station (named for the bluets that grow all over the roof and the ground around it). The Train stopped for him and he got on, grinning as widely as always. He has acquired a truly enormous umbrella at some point in the last month. It's pumpkin-orange with a pattern of plaid mushrooms. It's wider than the station, which is little more than a roof on a stick.

I don't know how he got there; there's nothing but trees for miles. Maybe he hitched a ride on a balloon. Maybe he really is a septuplet and this is one of his identical brothers. Maybe he just walked. He's certainly not telling anyone.

It's quiet out here in the wilderness. There are no cities, no noise like the rumble of Milldacken's thousand wheels or the buzzing of Carvendrone, none of the bustling crowds that have been such a common sight for the last two months. Just the calls of birds and the constant rhythm of the Train. Even Flishel has mostly stopped talking; he's been working on something in a small book, using several kinds of ink and the occasional dab of umbrella paint. He hasn't shown it to anyone yet. Maybe he won't. The sleeping passenger continues to sleep, breathing softly in the corner of the compartment. The days are long and peaceful.

Someone has been sitting on the roof and playing the handbagpipes for the last three days. Whoever it is picks a different tune each day - lilting, tentative melodies that move in loops and never quite seem to repeat themselves.

The whole Train gets quieter as the weather gets colder. The cold-blooded passengers get sleepy, even the ones who aren't hibernating. The warm-blooded ones are content to sit in their compartments and read, or dream, or just watch the mountains go by. No one ever knows where the Train is going; we all just get on and hope it's somewhere interesting. It certainly has been this year.

I'll try to write more next year than I have before. I love the November challenge, as exhausting as it is, but it shouldn't be the only time you ever hear from me. I can't promise anything; my mind is not the most organized place. I will try, though.

Wish me luck.


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