A sunrise bike ride by the Parker River
I learned this week that my town is an aromatic smorgasbord. An early morning bike ride introduced me to the lingering smoke of last night’s barbecue, the wind-blown sweetness of pine, the low-tide whiff of mud that makes true New Englanders hungry for clams, and the horse/hay combination that brings to mind a county fair. Full Disclosure: I also made the acquaintance of one house that could be doing more to clean up after their chickens.
After eight years of living here you’d think I’d have come across a few of these before now. To know why I didn’t you need understand only one thing. I’d never taken a bike through town before. Honestly, I haven’t used a bike much since I was a ten year old still harboring the illusion that I’d make my living catching for the Red Sox. In the eight years that I’ve lived in town I’ve been busy with...well...you don’t really need to hear me whining. Yeah. I’m busy, but my summer job is kayaking. Life is pretty good.
What else did I learn on my rides? I know who’s got a garden started. I know who’s repairing the barn out behind their house. I know who’s watering the yard in the early morning despite the plentiful rain this spring. I know what sunrise looks like over the Parker River. Oh...and I know that the people living beside the chicken house are going to have a job if they ever decide to sell. I know all of this because the bike slowed me down.
It slowed me way...way… down.
Instead of zipping through town on my way to work or tee-ball practice or Market Basket I had time to see what was going on around town. The new pace forced a change in perspective.
What...you might be asking...does any of this have to do with kayaking?
Have you watched up close as the famed Essex clammers dig up those mollusks that are so wonderful when fried? Have you looked out over the Essex River Basin and north up the New Hampshire Sea Coast from the top of Choate Island? Have you visited the far tip of Crane Beach nearly four miles from the parking lot? Have you watched from the water as the beach traffic backed up while you glided gently into a quiet stretch of sand?
Seeing Essex and Ipswich from the water forces a new perspective and bestows a new understanding of how our natural resources, our long history and the rapid changes of today come together to form this community. You don’t need any of this as a reason to spend an afternoon kayaking. Come simply because it’s beautiful, or because it’s a nice way to get a little exercise. Just don’t be surprised if you head home looking at Essex in a whole new way.