Thursday, June 14, 2007

Saying Good Morning

Elizabeth Zelvin

I’m spending the summer out on the East End of Long Island. To tell the truth, I’m in East Hampton, but we usually try to avoid the H word, which gives people the wrong idea about our income bracket and lifestyle. Even our modest neck of the woods is very beautiful. It combines the best of beach, farmland, and country and offers clear air with the kind of light that attracts artists. It’s a great place to work on a book. When I raise my eyes from the computer screen, I see the green of the garden, the brilliant purple and yellow of irises just coming into bloom, and the usual suspects—cardinal, nuthatch, woodpecker, and tufted titmouse—hanging out at the bird feeders.

Sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee every morning quiets my maternal introject for a while. That’s shrink speak for my mother’s voice in my head, which says, “It’s a gorgeous day—you should be outside.” But I also go running. No gyms or treadmills for me: I want scenery when I run. I want water. And out here, I want—and get—people to say hello to. Back in the city, when I run around the reservoir in Central Park, I get a warm greeting from the Mayor of Central Park and a nod from one or two others who see me all the time. But most runners in the city avoid eye contact and attend strictly to business. One of the joys of the country for this city girl is that out here, people actually say, "Good morning."

I usually run on Gerard Drive, a narrow peninsula located between Springs and Amagansett that’s one of the most beautiful places in the area. It’s 1.7 miles long (3.4 miles round trip), a narrow road with Accabonac Harbor on one side and Gardiners Bay on the other. Its wetlands are home to herons, egrets, ospreys, and other water birds as well as clams. (Don’t try to dig any up without a shellfish permit—the Marine Patrol takes its job seriously.) Gerard Drive is a secret known to many people. I have it mostly to myself before Memorial Day. But once the season starts, I meet an endless parade of runners, walkers, bike riders, bikers, rollerbladers, folks with kids, dogs, and bicycles built for two. And every one of them says good morning as we meet.

I’ve developed a set of greetings that cover most situations. If it’s before noon, I say, “Good morning.” If it’s after noon, I say, “Hello” or “Hi.” “Good afternoon” feels a little too formal for Gerard Drive. If they respond, I may follow it up with, “Gorgeous day, isn’t it!” Sometimes they say it first. I run so slowly that I seldom pass anybody going in the same direction. But if I do catch up to a slow walker or someone whose dog is dawdling, I say, “Believe it or not, I’m running, not walking.” That’s a good ice breaker. So is “Gerard Drive traffic jam!” when two cars, a bicycle, and a runner converge. I always get a smile, a laugh, or a greeting that sends me on my way with a big smile on my face.


Lorraine Bartlett said...

Liz, you are soooo much more active than me. When I get to our family's summer home, I sit on my butt and READ. Although I'm thinking I'll spend more time there this summer (during the week when everybody else is at work) and write. It's quiet, and there's no Internet to distract me. Very condusive to writing.

Jeff Plumb said...

Sounds like a big change for you and sounds like you are enjoying it. And congratulations on your running. You should check out a neat website This lets you record your running times. The website has the central park reservoir configured as a track that you can record times around. But you can also request a new track such as Gerard Drive to be added so you can record your run times.