An Anniversary of the Heart

Beautiful flowers along the route Credits: Jennifer Popper
East Coast Greenway Alliance display in Cranford's Nomahegan Park, NJ Credits: Jennifer Popper
The Big Walk - 20 miles Credits: Jennifer Popper
Jaine Jankesh Credits: Jaine Jankesh
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Car show in Rahway Credits: Jennifer Popper
Car show, Lucifer's Garage Credits: Jennifer Popper
Car show in Rahway Credits: Jennifer Popper
Roads blocked off for a car show in Rahway Credits: Jennifer Popper
Despicable, indeed... and random! Credits: Jennifer Popper
Beautiful flowers along the route Credits: Jennifer Popper
Murf Credits: Jennifer Popper
Stefunny and Murf of 4 Paws & a Bicycle Credits: Jennifer Popper
The first park the Freewalkers hit coming out of Metropark Station - Merrill Park Credits: Jennifer Popper
The East Coast Greenway signs are discreet, but once you know to look for them, you see them everywhere. Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Credits: Jennifer Popper
Somewhere in Cranford... Credits: Jennifer Popper
Nomahegan Park, Cranford Credits: Jennifer Popper
The trail heading out of Nomahegan Park Credits: Jennifer Popper
Crossing a bridge, overlooking the Garden State Parkway Credits: Jennifer Popper
Ed traveling through a tunnel Credits: Jennifer Popper

Over the course of the past week, life has presented a rollercoaster of emotions, from sadness and longing to inspiration and awe.  

I completed my last full day of work, and am officially laid off, hence sadness for not seeing colleague friends every day.  It’s a strange feeling to not have to be somewhere at nine o’clock each weekday.  The alarm still goes off each morning, and prompts me to get up, though.  Sometimes it takes a few extra swipes at the snooze button, truthfully. 

Speaking of friends, I reconnected with a friend who lives out in Las Vegas, and she has joined the bracelet brigade.  See how Jaine decorated her wrist with a matching Cars bracelet.  One of the more cleverly adorned wrists, I might add.  For each bracelet sold, a portion of SJF Keep Collective Boutique's commission is donated to my walk next summer.

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Later in the week, I had the distinct pleasure to host Stefunny and Murf of 4 Paws & a Bicycle.  They are making their way up the East Coast Greenway from Key West in Florida to Calais in Maine, unlike my walk, only from New Jersey to Maine. 

Stefunny and I had an easy time chatting about her experience so far, and we talked through some things I could tweak as I’ll be walking with a backpack vs. riding a bike pulling a trailer.  Murf, her Australian Shepard, has such a sweet disposition, and has no problem making himself right at home. The two left midday on Friday; it is quite a sight to see them run and ride together! 

The rest of that day was then spent in quiet contemplation, longing to celebrate my anniversary with my husband.  It is the first one without Michael.  What I wouldn’t give to have him back to celebrate number sixteen.  Alas, I opened a bottle of wine, and after Bill Maher, I headed to bed.  After all, I needed to leave at 5:30 am on Saturday.

A good friend was kind (and crazy) enough to chauffeur me over to the starting point at the crack of dawn.  I was joining the Freewalkers for The Big Walk, a 50 mile journey from Metropark train station to New York Penn Station along the greenway.  To be honest, I only made it through the first 20 miles, and had been skeptical from the beginning that I would be able to make it to New York. 

However, my main reason for joining the group for this walk was to learn about the portion of the greenway where I will start in 2018, in Cranford's Nomahegan Park.  The park was busy on this particular day, and in the midst of all of the activity, a 5K was finishing up.  

After a quick pit stop for the Freewalkers (a.k.a. bathroom break), we began our journey that took us along the perimeter of the park, turning right to then walk parallel to Kenilworth Boulevard, and on into Blackbrook Park.  On the edge of Galloping Hill Golf Course, I thought of the number of times Michael would meet our friend Dave to play a round.

Approaching the 18 mile mark, and keeping such a quick pace, I knew I was almost done.  The group stopped for a break, and it was then that I made the decision to break off from these ambitious Freewalkers to head to Union train station back to Netherwood Heights. 

Lesson learned.  Not many can just get up and go walk 50 miles in a day.  I was humbled.  

And then the emotional week came to a close, with the knowledge that while I have taken on a goal that is quite grand, it is doable.  I take strength from the family and friends who believe in me and have made a donation to Jenn's Journey North, purchased a bracelet, and have said they will walk with me.  I am inspired by the trek currently underway by 4 Paws & a Bicycle, and the many other people who face adversity but still forge ahead.

But most of all, I remember the kindness, humor and generous soul to whom I was married.  Happy Anniversary in heaven, Michael.

A walk on the East Coast Greenway from New Jersey to Maine.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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