haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
|Current Issue |Contents Page - This Issue |Editorial Staff |About This Journal |
|Submissions |Acceptance Criteria |Haibun Definitions |Articles |Archives |

September 2008, vol 4 no 3

[return to Contents Page]

Ron Pavellas



Empty Time

Here we are again in Gällivare (yeah-li-va-reh, and roll the 'r'), awaiting the train from Narvik, Norway, just over the northwestern corner of Sweden. We need to get from Gällivare to Luleå by train, thence to Piteå by bus where we will stay at a traveler's hostel for the night so we can, on Sunday, visit Eva's son Max, a junior physician, who has a summer job in this remote lumber and paper-mill town on Sweden's northeast coast.

The electronic sign showing scheduled departure and arrival times for trains through Gällivare tells us the 3:26 PM train is delayed because of problems on "the Norwegian side," thus allowing us Swedes to absolve the railroad people on the Sweden side.

The pleasantly clear female voice from the overhead speakers informs us that we cannot reasonably expect the 3:26 train until "arton, null, null," or 18.00 (6:00 PM).

I have finished reading the two books I brought for the overnight train trip from Stockholm to Gällivare; for the subsequent two-hour bus trip to the boat landing and, quickly, across Langas lake to Saltoluokta Mountain Station; for pauses between hikes and meals and baths; and for the just completed return bus trip to Gällivare, now five days later.

I have nothing to read except Swedish newspapers, but I am illiterate in Svenska. Eva has her daily Sudoku number puzzle, but this exercise in mental torture is not for me.

I have taken a 20-minute walk around town and passed by almost all the stores and boutiques.

I have watched the others waiting inside and outside the station's waiting room. I feel I have known them for a lifetime.

The waiting room is hot and muggy. It smells of stale humans and their detritus. The temporarily stranded passengers are moving, sitting, aimlessly moving again, dull-looking specks in slow Brownian motion.

Despite the pesky mosquitoes I sit outside the train station, sheltered from the scattered rain showers by the overhanging roof. The sun on its shallowly slanting path glares at me through pauses in the gray and white clouds on the vast horizon. We are well above the Arctic Circle here.

The nearby low hills covering one-third of the view to my left are plain and uninteresting. The shifting mountains of cumulus clouds above the remainder of the horizon are too distant to dwell upon. They are there for the occasional glance when I need to rest my eyes from this writing.

I move to the unsheltered side of the station to avoid the relentless sun and sit on a damp bench facing the "Grand Hotel Lapland," an unremarkable edifice of four stories.

The area outside this part of the train station serves as a bus terminal for connections to northern regions not served by the train.

Eva comes to me from the waiting room and tells me the train has been delayed yet another hour according to the electronic sign. We notice a bus leaving the area showing the legend "Luleå-Kiruna." We check the posted bus schedules outside the train station only to learn this was the last bus to Luleå today. We, and the others, had not thought to check the bus schedules as alternatives to the late train. The train company is silent on such matters.

So we wait until at least 6:53 PM for the 3:28 PM train. It is now 4:53 PM, providing two hours, at least, to do...what?

I remain in writing mode, waiting for the next random impulse to translate itself through my fingers and this pen.

Empty time.

Perhaps I will find
While waiting hours for the train
My Buddha nature

[return to Contents Page]