I often come to Chestnut Ridge Park to do my triathlon and endurance run training. That’s how I was introduced to the park — through my running friends. It can be a perfect spot for running hills and a great meeting point for long bike rides. Sometimes I get caught up in the utilitarian aspect of the park, it’s place in my life as a destination for training, for getting things done. I love training. I love challenging myself. I love that feeling of accomplishment of satisfaction, of emotional release when I’ve trashed my legs and my lungs are burning.
But sometimes, it is helpful to remember to simple be.
As I planned this outing for our latest Women’s Adventure Retreat, I researched some of the history of Chestnut Ridge Park. It’s name for the chestnut trees in the area. (OK, no big mystery there.) The park was created in the mid-1920 and built primarily through the Works Progress Administration, using wood from fallen chestnut trees and regionally-produced medina sandstone. Again, not much of a surprise since so many park infrastructure dates back to depression-era programs which put people to work. And I couldn’t help but think a little bit about that. As the United States was in the midst of an economic crises on the verge of breaking the entire nation, one of the means to salvation included improving and servicing parks. Surely much of it was economic — finding work that millions of Americans could do to put them to work and start giving people paychecks, skills and hope. But there’s something poetic, at least to me, about rebuilding your life (whether you’re a nation or an individual) by nurturing the outdoors.
Our group parked our bikes and took off on a short hike on one of the many trails which wind through the wooded parkland. We were passed by trail runners and encountered a few families with small children. We discussed our previous outdoor adventures — hiking and canoeing in Algonquin, riding a motorcycle through New England, splashing your way through a mud run. As if on cue, discussing the finer points of the mud run summoned a gentle rain which turned into a steady, but brief downpour. We didn’t really care that much. Rain, you see, happens. And the more time you spend outdoors — whether it’s an adventure in the woods, the roads in your neighborhood or the playground down the street — the more beauty you see in your daily situations.
We decided to cycle back to our starting point at Gear for Adventure and have our picnic in the community room instead of dodging raindrops at the park. Our lunch was amazing (as it always is when Jude the Foodie is involved) and we continued to chat and connect over food and swag bags, which contained a beautiful journal from the gals at Believe I Am. That’s when Jackie shared a story about her grandmother who kept a daily journal for all of her adult life. She told us how her family members traded the journals to read the passages filled with a mixture of the mundane and the interesting. During Sunday’s cycling and hiking, Jackie started thinking she should start keeping a journal, to chronicle all the outdoor adventures she’s beginning to enjoy.
It was the perfect note to end our day together — a reminder that we all get to write our own story. We can wait to see what others will say about us, or we can seize authorship of our own lives. It’s not about writing the Great American Novel. It’s about writing your life story — one which is current and unfolding. You don’t need to write the past to craft the present.
So go ahead. Be bold this week. Get outside in any way, shape or form that suits you. Perhaps in a way that’s even different for you. Jot down a few words about it. Record what you did. Note how you felt. Or write what you dream to do tomorrow. You can create an entirely new experience for yourself in one small step.