Bike riding is one of my favorite forms of exercise for several months out of the year; throughout New Jersey’s spring, summer, and fall seasons. Even in winter we may have some warm days to bike ride.
My husband surprised me with a beautiful bike before we were married, the first summer I was living with him. I was so proud of myself for learning the area fast and being somewhat independent, I loved taking bike rides to a favorite park in the area.
This particular park was beautiful. I’d see deer, ducks and ducklings, geese, and of course many dogs being walked. A 20-minute ride from our home to the park and back could turn into a 45- to 60-minute extravaganza, as I loved to diddly dally, stopping to pet every cute dog and pausing to see the deer and ducklings … or even a squirrel or rabbit. I’m just always so in awe of it.
From time to time I’d see my husband’s brother’s girlfriend, Eileen, in the park and we’re exchange pleasant words. She was retired, and with me being self-employed, we’d often be in the park when everyone else was at work. She’d greet me with a big smile and big, “Hi!” It always lifted my spirits to see her, she was just such a happy person.
Right after Thanksgiving of 2015, Eileen passed suddenly. She wasn’t ill, it was just one of those things that happens. And just as suddenly, I stopped going to the park because I couldn’t go without shedding tears thinking of her. One day I road my bike towards the park and when I got there, I turned around to come back home, as I was not about to enter; it was just too sad.
After a whole winter of not going to the park, I started again in the spring. However, once my 19-year-old cat Derick died, I couldn’t bring myself to go to the park again. It was just too depressing being out in the sunshine when I was once again mourning. Instead I stayed at home with the shades down.
When my spirits finally lifted and I tried heading out to the park again, I realized something about the park changed. It just didn’t have the same positive vibe it once had.
In one area, there’s this little bridge going over water and people are supposed to walk their bikes over it. One day as I was walking my bike, a guy was running with a stroller. He almost ran right into me and screamed at me, “Get out of my way!”
I called the town and tried to explain what happened — that no one should run with a stroller and they should possibly have an official moderating the park. What if I wasn’t such a petite person? If that guy banged into someone who was larger, the child could have went flying out of the stroller and possibly ended up going over the bridge and into the water.
There were other incidents, but after that particular, I stayed away from the park for another few weeks. What was going on? Was I attracting bad things coming my way because I was so down about the losses in my life? Or was I just in a world of my own, not paying attention because I wanted to shut out all the noise around me? Is this why my essence was attracting such negativity?
Or perhaps I just needed a change … for closure … two many things about that park reminded me of what I lost. Mainly seeing Eileen there. But also, whenever I stopped to talk to people about their dogs, I was always telling them about my cats — Derick who just died at the age of 19, and Billy Cat who died two years earlier, also at the age of 19. When I moved to this area to be with my husband, my two cats came with me … it’s as if we all embraced the wonderment of a new township together. Me, a person who commuted to NYC for work for so many years, now was driving a car. And the cats who always lived with me in apartments, now had free roam of a large house. And then back to Eileen, the one who told me how to pronounce the Indian name of the park. I considered that park “my” park since 2006 … and now life was so different.
That’s when it dawned on me … there was another park near our house that could possibly be better for my spirits. (This one had a name I knew how to pronounce on my own!) Maybe this “new” park had my name on it?
This park was a little quieter. Maybe too quiet. Without all the dogs and possibilities of running into someone I knew, it might be a lonely ride. I got on my bike and went anyway.
And, wow, what a great peaceful ride it was. At this park, people weren’t running with baby strollers. They weren’t even talking on cell phones. They seemed to be there to take in the scenery. And they were more polite. People moved out of each others way. People nodded or smiled. It was a more beautiful vibe.
There were less dogs. But there were also less geese and less geese droppings. There were less hills, but one clean straight path to just ride on as the sun hit my chest. All alone with my thoughts, my ideas, my inspirations. I was able to think about Eileen and the cats without feeling such a heaviness like I felt in the other park. The memories were now simply sweet … thanks to the peace of a quiet, less traveled road.
Yes, the road less traveled was a lovely one; and certainly a case of less equals more.
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “Love Cats” available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513