I don’t know if it’s because I turned 40 this year. Or because I started yoga teacher training. Or because I started taking Lexapro. Or a combination of those and other things, but I’m a person going through a transition. I’m sort of on a new path.
One of the many new things in my life that I’ve been taking advantage of is the new trail that was recently built between Jarvis and West Main Street in Cheshire. It’s not officially connected to Southington yet, but it’s walk able and no one tells you to get off. It’s not connected to Cornwall Street either, which would make it possible to not get off the trail all the way from Southington to New Haven, but the small road that connects West Main and Cornwall (Willow) is safe and short enough that it’s no problem at all to do the whole route without getting too far off the path.
It’s a new pathway. I ran on it for the first time about a month & a half ago. It was the same day I put on a Fitbit. Daren got one at the conference I joined him at in Vancouver. He had it on his dresser for a few weeks until I asked him if he was going to use it. He said no and that it would be ok if I did. I put it on that morning and ran the 1.25 miles up to the new trail. I didn’t know what I would soon be embarking on. As soon as I stepped off my usual route from Lancaster onto Jarvis, I felt a little scared and excited. I’d never really been off my usual path (A.K.A. rut), and the excitement of being on new territory without a car just felt sort of freeing. I turned the corner and really didn’t know how long it would take me to get to the trail. I knew it by car, but being on foot was so much different. It turned out to not be that far at my jogging pace. I looked down at Map MyRun on my iPhone and saw that I had already run 1.25 miles when I hit the entrance of the trail. It was kind of exciting to see it live in person. I mean I drove past it every day, but to be standing in front of it, in the bright morning sunlight; it felt a bit magical. I stopped to take a picture of the new sign. I thought when I left that morning I might start walking once I got to the trail; but I wasn’t tired just yet, and felt the strong desire to keep running.
The path is flat compared to the hills in my neighborhood that I’m accustomed to. At times those hills kick my butt and I need to stop and walk; and other times I can just run on the balls of my feet and lift my legs little higher to somehow to run seamlessly up them. The flatness felt novel and good. It felt like I could run forever.
I ran a little further into the trail and saw the Prom? sign that I’m now very familiar with graffitied into the mountain. Where did that come from? Is it the Cheshire prom pose place? Did some romantic high school boy do that for a girl while the trail was being built? Who knows… but it’s kind of nice. It is right across from a bench. I stopped to take another picture. I felt the warm morning sunlight on my skin and just wanted to soak it in. I ran further while breathing slow. It’s an old trick that also sometimes works for me and other times does not. This particular day it worked. The slow breathing, warm sun and shadowy trees created the perfect jogging conditions for me. I continued down this new path not really having an idea of how far I’d run or how far it even was until West Main Street. I just knew I wanted to keep going. Running waters, green muck, many benches, beautiful trees… It was all breath taking. I felt so alive. And before long when I heard the sound of cars in the near distance I knew I was getting close to the end; and almost without warning – there it was. I had to stop and just look at the familiar site of West Main Street. I had never seen it from the side of the road and vulnerably out in person without the armor of a car. A person without that protection is just exposed to the elements; but at the same time, so close to them. I could smell the greenery, touch nature, feel the heat, smell that green muck. It was beautiful. I took a picture at West Main and turned around, now having a baseline of how long it might take to get home.
Again, I thought I’d get tired and walk. To my surprise on the flatness of the path I never did get too tired to keep running. I took many more pictures and reveled in how it felt to be outside in a new territory. I loved it. When I got back to Jarvis and had to run up the hill, I continued to push myself just up to the next mailbox before I decided I would walk. Then it was going to be the next mailbox, then the next one… and before I knew it I was at the top of the hill and didn’t have to stop! As soon as I rounded the corner onto Lancaster, I was back to my very familiar territory. I felt a little new. I had left the familiar path for a new one and was able to come back with new eyes. I ran down Brigadoon and turned onto Dundee when my Fitbit buzzed around my wrist. I knew I hit 10,000 steps already for the day. I also knew from my Map MyRun experience that is about 5 miles. At that point I knew my round trip would be about 5 1/2 miles. I got home to check and it had been 5.55. I was so excited. I had never run that far in my life. It wasn’t that hard! And it was so much fun.
Over the past few weeks I went out onto the new trail as much as I could. I took Koji for a walk 2 days after my first venture out the other way toward Southington. That part isn’t officially opened yet, but Daren had run on it a few times and assured me that many others were using it. It wasn’t quite as finished, but it was just as paved and pretty. I started to combine the new route with my old one to get up to 9 miles without running anywhere dangerous.
One Sunday after yoga training last month, I don’t know what inspired me; but I got on my bike and decided to bike to and then down the path alone. I hadn’t biked alone since I was a teenager heading to a friend’s house. Biking was equally riveting and exciting. The cool thing is that I was able to move so much faster. I was at the path in no time, and then at the end of the trail at West Main before I could imagine. I didn’t want to just turn around and go home so quickly, so I decided to actually go off the path and see if I could find my way to the entrance that is on Cornwall Avenue where it connects to New Haven on my own… without a map app (who could imagine such a thing?). It was easier than I thought it even might be. I knew that a street parallel to Mountain and Route 10 must eventually hit Cornwall. And it did, like fast! Before long, I was on the very familiar trail from Cornwall to Higgins. Once I got on it, it felt so much older, but older in a good way. It had history and spirit that I could just feel in the air. It was different from the newness of the portion that connects Jarvis to West Main. The trees were more grown in, the road a little more broken in, and nature just in fuller bloom; as if the habitat was more comfortable with it’s surroundings. I biked all the way down to Brooksvale Park in Hamden that day, crossing many familiar roads that Daren and I biked over the years. I stopped at the park and checked Map MyRun. I had only gone 6.7 miles but it was so far from my house. I realized how this path could get me to where I’d like to in an alternative way sans a motor vehichle. It felt so good to do this on my own too, without the comfort of another human and without having to rely on technology to find my way around. I felt so independent. My round trip that day was 13.4 miles. Two weeks ago I actually biked 29 alone and all on the trail.
This new path has opened up my world in so many ways. It helped me to realize how strong I am, either on foot or on the bike. It’s given me the power to go places without a car, which is something I have been aching to do for quite some time. It’s connected my part of town to other parts of Cheshire and neighboring towns so much more quickly. It’s connected me to nature. It’s connected me to myself.
While biking on the path a few days ago while coming back from a yoga class in Southington; I couldn’t help but marvel at the coincidence of this new path with so many new changes in my life, and compare it to the same process of creating new neural pathways in your brain. On the Cheshire-Southington portion that is still being worked on, the workers had their trucks out and were building the brick areas around the concrete stanchions that stop cars from being able to get onto the path. I have been watching this portion of the path being built and change day by day. Like me. I’m changing day by day, just a little at a time. I’m building new neural pathways. Each day, one change at a time I’m creating new routes, improving them and making them a little deeper so they eventually will be the automatic default reaction instead of the old patterns and ruts. Just like the path.
As above, so below. Pathways are pretty amazing, whether in our minds or in the physical realm. I couldn’t help but think about history and when the Romans started building roads. It opened people’s worlds. It promoted trade. Suddenly there was less constraint and more possibilities. Roads, highways and paths do get old though. Sometimes either the path wears out or the place it leads to is not a place you want to go any longer. It happens in our brains too. It’s a lot of work to create a new route to somewhere else. It’s often scary too, because there are so many unknowns both in the construction of it and the destination (especially if you aren’t familiar with the destination). Who wants to do that work when every inch is unknown and the default old route just feels so darned comfortable and familiar? It’s work, whether mental or physical. It’s scary and painful. There does need to be some level of destruction to create something new and beautiful. But once you step out of that rut and into the unknown, it’s exciting too. It feels a little dangerous and your level of alertness is also much higher. But that level of alertness also helps you to stop and appreciate what is around in a way that you don’t normally see your world because that world feels familiar and safe, so we get lost in our thoughts and don’t even pay attention to what is around us.
When you do revisit old familiar ways, thoughts, patterns, or pathways after being on a new one; there is often a level of appreciation and/or awareness of what is no longer serving you and what needs to be let go. A combination of what is good from the old and an exploration of the new is what creates new possibilities and the ability for us to grow individually in our minds, in our lives, physically to a new place with a better way to get to a possibly better destination; or as a society just as the Romans started.
New pathways both mentally and physically makes life more exciting and helps us to grow by changing patterns in our brains so we can experience life in a better way. That sounds good to me! Thank you Cheshire rails to trails projects. It’s just one of many physical things that is changing in my physical and mental world these days and I want to honor it by sharing it’s beauty with the world. Love, Peace & Namaste.