We’ve always heard that you have to “crawl before you walk,” but one of the things I am learning as I start this new chapter in my life is that I may have to learn to ‘creep before I crawl.’ Now, if you wondered the difference between the two, you’re not alone. I looked it up. According to Active Babies, Smart Kids, an Australian television show that touts itself as “the practical guide to baby and child development for every Mum and Dad,” the difference is simple. When babies move around using the ‘commando style’ tummy move, they are crawling. “Creeping begins when they lift their tummies off the floor and move on their hands and knees.”
So really, creeping comes after crawling in child development, but maybe it’s not quite the same for old women who have just found themselves on a new floor with a desperate need to explore and find meaning and purpose. Luckily, I landed in a place called Abingdon, Virginia, which is known for, among other things, the Abingdon Creeper Trail. The Trail came to be in 1987, and is 34 beautiful miles of reclaimed railroad turned into a perfect place to bike, hike, ride horses, and start to remember what it felt like to be a kid and just have fun for a little while with few expectations other than…well, having fun. After working hard for the past several weeks, today was the day to pump up the tires, pack the bikes, and try out this noteworthy attraction in my new hometown. To say that the Creeper Trail didn’t disappoint would be an understatement.
There are only twelve days until I finish teaching and start my last ‘summer vacation,’ prior to becoming officially retired. So today I took my first ride on the Creeper Trail. My twelve mile ride with my wonderful husband and the neighbor kid who just graduated from high school, was my first opportunity to ‘creep’ a little and start to get a feel for what life might be like in another few weeks for me. An inveterate workaholic, I seldom take vacation days, and even when I do, I almost always have a laptop with me to stay in touch with clients or students, whoever needs my help the most desperately. Sure, I enjoy myself, but I’m never really that far ‘off the clock,’ and I didn’t realize how much of a difference the letting go of everything else really makes.
As we pedaled our way from the trailhead in Abingdon to the first stop on Wautauga Road, I looked around so much at the millions of different greens of the leaves and marveled at the farms and homes that back up to the trail on either side. I loved the aged wood of the trestle bridges, almost silvery gray in color, and I forgot to look at the clock or time myself to make sure I wasn’t wasting time. In short, I wasted time. I stopped periodically to fish out my phone…not to check for messages but to utilize the camera feature. But even that I didn’t overdo…maybe one day I’ll walk the same length of the trail with my camera in hand, but today, it was like trying to enjoy an ice cream cone…you get a brain freeze, and you’re sure you’re going to stop enjoying it, but then it starts to melt a little, and you have to take a lick to keep your hands from getting sticky. Suddenly, you’re reminded automatically how delicious it is again.
I guess what I’m hoping is that I’m going to start enjoying life all over again and finding new nuances and paths that I want to explore and taste all over again. For so long, I have focused so much of my energies on making sure everything is done perfectly and that everyone I work for is getting more than their money’s worth from my services. I am a living example of “under promise and over deliver,” in my work ethic, and while that’s a really good thing and has served me well, it has also meant for working nearly every weekend of the last 40 years because someone else wanted to clean off his or her desk on Friday afternoon and needed to pass along the tasks to a party that would be responsible enough to get it done by Monday morning, no matter what. Forty years later, I’m learning that all that running may have helped others, but it kept me from seeing and experiencing the butterflies, lady bugs, and flowers that you find when you crawl – or rather creep through life a little more slowly.
So here’s to strapping on a helmet, filling the tires, and hitting the Creeper Trail to experience change and transition a little more slowly this time, and a lot more just for me. If you’re going to follow or join me, expect to see photos of butterflies and lady bugs and the placid little rest stops and benches I find along the way as this old woman learns to creep.