This year has been all about windows. Windows of opportunity, windows to outside, brief windows of time to seize the day.
Yesterday, it was all about the window in the engine of a freight train. It was about the man at the window, leaning out to wave and blow the horn. That horn sounded a whole round sound of happiness and freedom.
What that man saw was two women, a teenaged girl and a teenaged boy (a train fanatic as it happens), who were waving from the side of the track. What we saw was him, an apparently generous, care-free soul at the "wheel" of a train, who shone the sun through a window of our day.
We also saw each other, best buddies and lifelong friends, seizing the fleeting window between possible lockdowns to share time at our home in northwest NSW.
My friend had travelled from the north coast. We carefully assessed all the factors in the lead-up to school holidays. But three days before they were due to arrive, it was announced there was a COVID case in Gunnedah. The window appeared to be slamming shut. Happily, the person had been in isolation - no lockdown. Game on.
My visiting godson has always had an affinity with trains and, having limited options for what was open and where we could go, we made a visit to Werris Creek, home to the Rail Journeys Museum. While it is close by, I had only visited once before.
It's hard to believe what can sit at your doorstep undiscovered by yourself. The museum was closed due to COVID uncertainty, but it didn't matter. The place is a mecca for the train-obsessed.
Our young friend stood in the middle of the turntable at the centre of a mini-amphitheatre that pays homage to rail history. He was in his happy place.
It was magic, not just for our train tragic, but for the four of us who loved the old buildings, the blossoms drifting on the cool air - even the payphone was a novelty for a generation who have always carried their communication in their pocket.
Then we headed to the cafe for a gelato, wandered down the main street and enjoyed the playground and all the other details the town has used to make its connection with trains such a novelty. It was a simple, sunshiney couple of hours.
This pandemic has been the crappiest, cruddiest, unkindest turn of events you could dream up in a cheese-eating induced session of nightmares. But it has made some things clear. We love our friends and our family, and they are what make us happy.
Reach through that window.
- Marie Low is a freelance journalist based in Gunnedah, NSW.