Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Sisyphean Task, or, What I did on My Summer Vacation

The morning I began walking from Poughkeepsie toward Schenectady I was feeling philosophical, as I tend to be, walking for miles alongside the busy highways lined with sidewalks. Sidewalks which we have all to ourselves.
Walking from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady would not be the furthest distance I had attempted, in fact, it was the shortest of the long-distance walks. No less important than any other.
I was excited about the unique people and experiences the journey would bring. The good and the challenging roads, the historic sites, the beautiful views, overlooked while speeding along the highway in an automobile.
I knew it was going to end, all goals do.
Like the Myth of Sisyphus, I knew this lofty height would return me to another beginning.
Some interpret that Sisyphus, by being condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain (only to have it roll back each time he reached the summit) for eternity had tricked the gods into what he wanted all along, to live forever. He, it has been written, happily embraced the futility.
I had just walked from Nashville, Tennessee over the Smokey Mountains through Asheville, North Carolina. The southern heat and humidity forced me to do much of the trek under the darkness of the early pre-dawn hours. The warm Poughkeepsie sun was no comparison to the muggy climate of the southern
springtime. This much more mild climate, in Upstate New York, was already feeling like a vacation getaway.
As I entered Hyde Park a patrolmen stopped me. Already the "Hens" of the area were calling about a man "in" the road. I had been enjoying a wide shoulder on the four-lane and at no time had I needed to cross over the white "fog line". The Chief pulled in just as I had finished talking with the patrolman. After I practiced saying "Poughkeepsie to Schenectady" one more time (I have a hard stutter and had trouble with Schenectady), I told the rotund chief I was walking to encourage people to walk to prevent and control diabetes. He stopped looking me in the eye, he then quickly sent me on my way.
In Hyde Park, with the historic home of the Roosevelt's and Vanderbilt's, I passed a congregation of local law enforcement officers, apparently training their service-dogs in a large field within the rock-walled perimeter of the Roosevelt Home property. They called to me from across the road, asking what I was doing.
I replied. "I'm fulfilling my lifelong dream ( had been my dream since the previous Saturday) of walking from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady for diabetes awareness (the names were flowing by then, not a stammer saying Schenectady). Trying to get people, like your Chief, to walk to control diabetes!"
I hadn't noticed that among the K-9 SUVs with barking dogs (jealous of the dog and his giant ball rolling by), was parked the Chief. The half dozen men standing outside their vehicles all laughed and did the equivalent of whistling and pretending that I had not just "called him out". They all looked up to the sky and walked in different directions...
I walked on.
After walking through the heart of Hyde Park and just before the Vanderbilt Estate I was called onto the porch by the woman who owns The Surviving Sisters, a boutique. We talked for over an hour. Her mother came with sandwiches. We laughed and talked as if we were old friends. When I got up to leave she noticed my old, stretched out belt hanging out of the belt loop. She owned a boutique, as I said, and as I tucked it in the pant-loop, making excuses for the souvenir of my day in New York City years ago, she "lit up" with excitement. She ran into her store and came out with an abstract belt-buckle of a man rolling a giant stone...Sisyphus,. She said she had just put it out on display and now knew why. She gave me the belt...
It just fit...
The belt was just long enough for me to catch the last hole in the leather strap.
I was touched...
(I hope you are catching these double-entendres)
The remainder of the day was not lined with sidewalks and wide shoulders. The roadway narrowed with more hills. The shallow ditch became my walkway, while I rolled the world tight against rock embankments around turns. By the end of the day I was tired and hungry to the point of delirium.
Luckily I had met a man who guided me to the fire station at the edge of the next town. He gave me a ride and took me to the Indian restaurant where we talked for a long while about family and other things until closing time. It was the best food, beautiful presentation and friendly staff.
I am always surprised at the close connections I have to/with so many of the people I meet.
This day was filled with them.
If the first day was any indication, my "lifelong dream" would be a memorable one.

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