“Slow down; you’re doin’ fine” (one month anniversary)

It’s just before daybreak and I know the roosters are crowing on Spinning Plates Farm in rural North Carolina, which I left a week ago today. Instead, I hear the steady hum of Old Country Road outside my dad and stepmom’s condo in the Long Island village where I grew up in a 1500-square-foot Dutch colonial house, now newly painted dark gray, just a few blocks away.

My father turns 90 this week and there has already been a party, thrown by his neighbors. It was fun, and fun matters (now more than ever).

This condo building is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. These deep, unexpected, way-beyond-neighborly intergenerational friendships started during a days-long blackout here in New York years ago when all the neighbors met and ended up grilling their rapidly-defrosting meats together.

They’ve been friends ever since (plus are quick to welcome new people to the building). Cocktails and Christmas parties, cards on Tuesdays and Fridays, and casual conversation and cooperation every day. This one has cancer. That one has the flu. Another one’s mother is ill or is having a baby or needs a parking spot or package picked up. They’re all ages and walks of life. And they truly love each other.

“We are family here,” says Billy, who’s running for the Board that directs the collection of six buildings that make up this little corner of the world a quarter mile away from the train station that takes me 16 miles away to and from Manhattan.

My week ahead is busy. My hubby and daughters will be coming in. Other family is here as well. It’s a big occasion. I’m a little nervous about it, if you want to know the truth. I’m not great juggling lots of folks and all the different needs. I’m better one on one (mostly on farms and bikes lol).

I have had other Loved Ones Visits. My friend Judy and her family when this trip started, two weeks in, and after I Ieft the farm. My friend Mindy right after my night in Philly where I ran up the Rocky stairs both at my hostel and at the Phildelphia Museum of Art where that scene from the movie took place. My younger daughter, who lives in the same complex in New York City right now from which my husband (at that time, fiance) and I relocated to Atlanta 33 years ago. And today, I’m meeting a dear friend of mine from when I was 18.

As for Round America with a Duck logistics-to-date, it’s working out! I’ve ridden FlixBus, AmTrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad — and gotten teary watching hellos and goodbyes at the stations. I’ve ridden my bike every single day and met strangers and seen art. I’ve packed and unpacked my stuff already too many times to count (and have used literally everything that I’ve brought with me). I’ve bought groceries and done my daily sun salutations and slept like a log. I’ve (mostly) kept to my budget. I’ve shared stories and sagas with my hubby, mother, daughters and friends. I’ve been lonely and scared and sad as well as overwhelmingly joyful and at peace. In short, I’ve lived a richer life. And for that, I am grateful.

Life and death are at our doorstep every day, it seems. I saw ghost bike memorials to people riding bikes killed by motor vehicle drivers in both Philly and New York. There’s also a designated Slow Street alley in Philly for children to play. There’s another one in the East Village of New York City — Avenue B just below 14th. There are signs that limit speed and welcome bikes, pedestrians and local traffic only. There are barriers that make it clear that people driving cars are guests. I’ve made videos about both of these (RoundAmericaWithADuck and SpeedOfBike on TikTok, and RoundAmericaWithADuck on Instagram).

Many songs run through my head (although I’m saving Feelin Groovy for a ride across the 59th Street Bridge, maybe tomorrow). The one that resonates most on this one-month anniversary of when I left home, just twenty minutes or so away from where he grew up, is Billy Joel’s song with lyrics that go, “Slow Down, you’re doin’ fine. You can’t be everything you wanna be before your time.” As I purge myself of embedded traumas and I open myself up to new possibilities, I know that who I am today is already different from a month ago, and who I am becoming cannot yet be fathomed. As the song continues, “although it’s so romantic on the borderline.”

I’m on the borderline of here and there, fully aware that I am occupying liminal space right now. And there’s something beautiful — and vulnerable — about that.

Thank you for joining me. As always, trust the journey.

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