When I was a kid I used to walk by train tracks a lot. I like trains. There is something solid and dependable about them. And they always know where they’re going.
As I walked by the tracks I used to pretend I was a character in a book – someone like Huck Finn walking along with my bundle of belongings tied to a stick, chewing straw and whistling even though I had holes in my shoes.
I liked the sense of adventure that was cast into the air by the tracks. The sense of the absolute vastness of the world out there, much wider than my little legs would have been capable of travelling.
I began to love trains because of my grandfather. He lived near the line that ran all the way from Glasgow to Edinburgh. When I had sleepovers I was soothed to sleep by the train trundling north, counting how long it took for the ch-chung ch-chung of the carriages to disappear out of earshot.
My grandfather marked his days by the train timetables. He always had his breakfast at the same time so he could watch the 7.18 on its way to Castlecary. It sounded its whistle just as his boiled egg bubbled in the pot.
In the evening he had a whisky as the 6.02 came down from Falkirk. Regular as clockwork, he would say as he raised his glass.
Have you ever thought that everyday events, commonplace things can provide the key to the meaning of existence?
Train tracks are synonymous with focus and direction for me.
Even when the track is forked, one shift of the lever indicates the right track to take.
At this time of year there are a lot of choices. A mental and physical unwinding that throws up many forks in the road.
Will we go down the familiar road and go on as before?
Or will we shift the lever out of the embrace of the familiar and plunge into something new?
It seems that the choices that arise as a new year beckons are very much like a train reaching a fork in the track.
I think of that child walking by the tracks, head full of wonder, enchanted by the eloquence of the railway line, not considering that any track could be the wrong one, knowing that any track followed will take her to where she needs to be.
Knowing that there is no reason tomorrow cannot be as good as today.
And I am suddenly ready to face the new year.