Moving Mountains by Nathan Pearce

Issue 90

You are a blur, to the foreground, of a passing train. Nothing more. Like succession plants, relearning to live on altered land; like the yellow, purple, magenta bloom, creeping out of the concrete, on your everyday trip through town – to work, to your old lady's trailer, to bum a square. It doesn't matter. You don't notice. Not the all-too-common sunflower, at best, if lucky, on the foreground. A blur.

Get drunk and race them, every hour on the hour. Get drunk and follow the tracks back home, in a January heatwave, or a summer snowdrift. Get drunk and imagine what this meant before it meant anything at all, when imperialism wasn't a dirty word and progress applauded. The beauty. Get drunk, hold you son, laugh when he calls the prairie dragons. And imagine them breathing fire. Imagine getting out one day. 

For now, you are a blur. For now. But once you board, get taken through time to a time someone fought to preserve, nostalgia as a form of formaldehyde. See America first: national forests, national parks, those reservations. Land, habitat, culture, fragmented and telling our story. You could be the one that got away, if only for a moment, on a linear line, from easy to west, like the grain in the wood when you used to work with your hands.

East to west, like linear thought in reverse and then back again, on a track, parallel to anything set against it. What will be before you and out the window, the present, comes with a click-flash. It'll be gone. But the backdrop will linger, longer, reminding that perspective doesn't come with just time, but distance. Seated, immobile, you'll go far, kid. One day.

Then you'll come back, out her to the forgotten periphery, where we race trains, on our everyday way home from work, where we relish the mundane, having not yet become blind to the rarity of what is all too common. So share those photos, once taken. Share those thoughts. Get drunk. Then squint your eyes and move your head. From east to west. Side to side. Try to remember, if anything, that blur.

Essay by Tyler Dunning.

These photographs were made in the Western United States in the summer of 2016. Most of them were made from the windows of passenger trains or at train stops.

Nathan Pearce lives and works in Fairfield, Illinois.
To view more of Nathan's work, please visit his website.