Senneterre is a curious town of about 3’000 inhabitants. And if there’s a far-western Quebec, it has to be here. The center of the city is clearly indicated by a green sign, in case we were looking for it unsuccessfully (and there is no doubt that others have had to go there several times).
The width of the avenues, the Boomtown style, the workers everywhere, the poutine restaurant on the corner (and its je-ne-sais-combien curtains), all this unlikely mix makes me want to dance in its huge crossroads with a sky-blue train dress and a tiara set with brilliants.
At five o’clock or so, I jump into the Senneterre-Montreal passenger car, picnic in the bag for the day (cheese that makes skouik under the tooth, bagels, pepperettes and seeds) ready to face the 10-12-14 hours that my last Canadian epic will last (this time). My train ticket announces an arrival in Montreal around 5:00 pm, but the hostess who greets me suggests that I don’t expect to be there before 6:00 pm. No problem, I have time.
Then I enjoy every second of boredom that’s available to me as I would a rare and precious whiskey. Ten hours between forests and rivers, a few stops in the middle of nowhere, conversations from another world, barely heard, about hunting, fishing and the rest, not an ounce of network, nothing or almost nothing, just time, me, and the wilderness.
I put this week in Abitibi-Témiscamingue back in perspective: a sublime road trip with, as a replacement sun, good humour and fraternity everywhere / life lessons in spades, about courage, determination, harmony and patience / landscapes just from here, animals and people who let themselves live naturally, happy / an impressive glimpse of what can be accomplished in only one hundred years of history.
I put the beginning of the year in perspective at 300km/h. I put into perspective these six years of travel, preceded by twenty-five years of defeat and two years of the strongest determination on the planet. But it’s starting to get far…
Except for the laughter of the girls coloring in the back of the car; except for those cute little old people telling each other how they put a canoe on a seaplane to go fishing in some remote corner. Except for the hostess who puts all the passengers for Montreal near a “nice window”; except for those who hurry to each other to get off and smoke as soon as the train finally stops. Except for a few noisy family reunions on the platforms; except for those who get on and off at the most unlikely stops on the planet (but where do they live, in a tree house? a teepee in a clearing? a raft on the river?).
That’s the magic of trains: to slow down your life to the point where you could cut out and delimit each fraction of time, consider it as a whole entity (like a domino game!) and then put it back into that great, globally imperturbable line.
On the train, I give meaning to what doesn’t make sense. The train, like a microscope, reveals what really matters, the engine behind everything: the precious seconds of these years that rebuild you. And, in the time it takes to move, they are already behind you, waiting for you on the tops of forests or the swirling of rivers, somewhere along the path of your memories.