Since COVID, I have found myself thinking differently about my body. She has always been strong and supportive. Since COVID was a bandit of more than time, things are different now. And I’m sharing some of the differences because I know I’m not the only one taking note.
I walk or ride my bike all the way from the small parking lot at Karen Cragnolin Park to Hominy Creek River Park and back. Each way it’s about a 3-mile, almost level, paved path. I live about 4 miles from Carrier Park. So, taking my bike involves something of a production. I mount the bike rack, hoist the bike up and on each way, making sure the fits are as tight as I can get them. Unloading twice per trip makes for a total of four lifts. I’m still strong enough to safely handle lifting and loading, but it’s not as easy as it used to be. So, I’m grateful when someone in the parking lot kindly offers a hand.
Now I would describe the beautiful surroundings, lush greenery and open skies, and of course, folks kayaking and tubing in the French Broad, the many events on the park grounds — skaters, football practice, you name it — but for my safety, I pay close attention to what is going on in front of and all around me. (The best thing that could have happened is the new path at the small parking lot in Cragnolin Park, taking bikers at least for a few minutes off the sidewalk at Amboy Road!)
Once inside the main gate, my ride becomes even more about safety first. My coaster rides smoothly, so long as I make no sudden moves and transition well after a surprise! I find that people are generally not watching or anticipating the movement of others on this path. They’re just out there, doing what they do. That being the case, I come out earlier and earlier to have fewer surprise encounters and now see that sunup is probably the best time to avoid the meandering crowd. But wait.
There are numerous things to expect. The long, high, horizontal buckles in the pavement. Families with strollers and dogs stopped cold on the path, with no extra attention to pay to elders on bikes. Let’s not forget the kids riding electric scooters while on their phones. Kids staring at their phones and seeing no oncoming traffic! Then, of course, you have the speeding bikers zipping silently around the rest of us in a blur. Each time I ride safely round-trip feels like some kind of miracle! Yes, I’m describing the stress involved in solo biking in the park. (Perhaps with a riding buddy and no distractions, I’d enjoy this venture more …)
As it is, I love the fresh air, good exercise and time in nature. Thankfully, I react to surprises in time, but not without a choice four-letter word for the trouble! Why? Because my bike venture — responding with a quick swerve and avoiding accidents — suddenly feels like work. Because there was a time when such maneuvers were second nature, needing no extra thought, effort or recovery. After all, I’ve been riding a bike since my single digits, right?
But alas, that old saying “It’s just like riding a bike” doesn’t hold up anymore. Not because riding a bike is any different, as much as I am. Different.
That single-digits time of bike riding fun was the 1960s, long come and gone. Within the last 60 years, I’ve seen times, things and I, myself, naturally change. My depth perception, reflexes and focus are all changed. Some call it the one constant in life. Now, this cautious rider remembers that these infrequent trips are about more than just coming out, marveling at the natural beauty and enjoying the ride. Can she get a witness?
— Meta Commerse
Meta Commerse is founder of Story Medicine Worldwide, where she curates the Elder Women’s Writers’ Workshop, soon registering new members. Email her at email@example.com.