A Sliver of Light

Following this debilitating post-election week, I found myself aching for solitude and solace.

The autumn day is sunny and bright, with few white clouds slowly drifting across the pale blue sky. Below, sun rays brighten the dwindling yellow, orange, and browning leaves that remain on the trees. The slight breeze is tender, inviting me into the day to share what I know are exquisite delights that I cannot feel.

A bicycle rack has been strapped to my car much of the summer. My bike rolls easily through the basement door onto the grassy driveway to the car. A squeeze on each tire reveals a firmness that will not need extra air today. Good. I’m anxious to be on my way.

One hand firmly grasping the bar beneath the handlebars and the other beneath the seat, with my knees bent, I straighten my legs and elevate the bike to the rack. It’s heavy and sometimes I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to be independent with this particular task. It’s an important question for a woman in her seventh decade who lives alone and cherishes that solitude. And loves biking.

Soon, the Trek is securely in place, the helmet, gloves, and water bottle tucked in the front seat, and my car starts out on the twenty-five mile journey to Piney River. In all of Albemarle and Nelson Counties, Piney River is my favorite place to ride. It is off highway and thus safe from traffic on the narrow windy country roads in my area. The drive is pleasant as I pass by some of my favorite landmarks along the way—the antique shop; the yard with a front garden filled with brilliant red canna lilies; a favorite café, Basic Necessities.

Half an hour later, I reach the sharp turn that unveils the Piney River trailhead entrance on the left side of the road. I park, unload my bike and accessories for a ride, and soon  pedal over the concrete path onto the soft grassy path alongside the gently flowing river. In another lifetime, this path was the railroad track for the former Virginia Blue Ridge Railway that closed in 1981.


As I leave the busy road behind and enter onto the six-mile hiking, biking, and horseback trail, I am quickly embraced by silence broken only by the gentle trickling of the river, occasional lovely birdsongs, and the whisper of my tires circling over dying fallen rust-colored leaves. My body relaxes and I become more aware of the sensations I always experience in this place that is sacred to me. As I pedal on, I savor the feel of bright sunshine warming my body, the muscles in my legs pushing the pedals of the serenity of the pastoral scenes everywhere I look as I travel on. A mile iint0 the ride, I pedal over a wooden bridge where the river then moves to my left.piney-river

I notice something dark on the trail ahead and, as I approach, see a black snake curled like a garden hose basking in the day’s heavenly warmth. We notice each other without alarm.

Piney Bridge.jpg

A few miles later my tires thump across another wooden bridge beneath which the river crosses to my right side now. Then I break out into  country, with a fifty-or-so-acre meadow on the river side and multiple trees on the other bank. Several former and at least one active farm border the trail now and in the next meadow several black cows dot the green pasture grass.

When I cross the third bridge, I remember the summer day a small pink pair of flip flops lay on the bridge edge. I looked around for the little person who wore them but no one was in the area. Ever Miss Marple seeking clues, I parked the bike and looked under the bridge where silence greeted me. I sent a thought of safety to the child and envisioned her playing happily along the trail, barefooted.

I ride next beneath a huge bridge supporting a large, noisy major highway above me and quickly pedal on until I return to the serene, sweet solitude ahead. In a little while, I’ve reached the end of the trail, apparently privately owned land behind the fence that stops me. Paused, grateful for this place and the feel of my body filled with increasingly pleasure, I sip some water, then turn around and begin to ride back. The occasional hikers and bikers I pass acknowledge my presence with a smile or a nod, silently conveying their gratefulness for their moments here with Mother Nature, as I am.

In awhile, I stop near a middle-aged couple who are sharing their granola bars with an orange tabby who approached them as they rested by at the river. We talk briefly about the beauty of the day, the sparkling loveliness of the river, and friendliness of the cat, then say good-bye. These contacts buoy the silent shadows of concern for the people of our country.

When, about an hour after starting out, I return to the trailhead entrance, I’m tired. On my best days, after resting briefly, I again ride the full trail round trip, tallying up 25 miles for the day. Other days, I ride until my body signals it’s time stop—like today, a low energy day. Reluctantly, I walk my bike out to the parking lot, remove my helmet and gloves, and prepare to leave for home. I don’t want to leave… my heart aches to remain here…. Yet as I drive back into the world, I slowly realize that today’s respite into the sacred refuge that is Piney River has ever-so-gently reminded me again that our world is embraced by a greater power than we. I gratefully open to that flicker of light slicing into the darkness that pervaded my soul three days ago.

About Mary Jo Doig

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (https://maryjod.wordpress.com), Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
This entry was posted in Change, Gifts, Grace, Gratitude, Mother Nature, Mystery, Peacefulness, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Sliver of Light

  1. gwynnrogers says:

    I loved riding along with you. I could feel the warmth of the sunlight and hear the chirp of the birds. The solitude of the woods is fulfilling. Thank you. I loved reading about you and your life. I am very curious about your “True Stories from Real Women.” Can I find it on line? Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Thank you, Gwynn. True Words from Real Women is a 10-page section of Story Circle Network’s quarterly Journal that accepts life-stories from our members. The Journal is sent to all members as part of membership benefits. If you’d like to see one, I’ll mail you one of mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gwynnrogers says:

    Now, there is a membership fee, right? I can’t afford it. Also, is Sheila Bender part of the Story Circle Network? I used to work for her husband, and I’m afraid I don’t have any respect for Sheila. I WOULD LOVE to see the Journal though.


    • Mary Jo Doig says:

      Sheila is a member and an online teacher for SCN. I wouldn’t imagine your paths were to cross though, if you didn’t seek her out. Gwen, we have scholarship memberships and I would be honored to sponsor you for a scholarship so you could try us out for a year and then you could decide if you gain skills and rich support there. If you’d like to try, just say the word. Okay?

      Liked by 1 person

      • gwynnrogers says:

        You have read some of my family stories and writing, correct? Am I writing in the direction that you are teaching? If my writing fits with the style that you all are writing, I would LOVE to be part of your group. I also need a kick in the butt to get writing again. Mostly, I have been writing about my experiences of caregiving for my husband. I’ll message you. Thank you for your kindness!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mary Jo Doig says:

        I look forward to hearing from you… and I strongly encourage you to consider joining an online writing group. You will be encouraged, supported, and gain confidence in your writing, which is very good life-writing, Gwynn. Meanwhile, I’ll contact our Executive Director about a scholarship. Heart, Mary Jo


  3. Thank you for taking us on this joyous and serene drive through nature. Magnificent way to wind down after this stressful week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Jo, this post is very healing. A vicarious nature excursion for your readers. Wonderful pictures. Thank you, thank you!


  5. Beautiful, Mary Jo. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s