I am fortunate that my new home is equidistant between the retail riches of downtown Staunton and the absolute jewel of the Queen City, Gypsy Hill Park.
And the lyrics to the iconic Cher song are not far off as to how this 214-acre park got its name. In the 1800’s it was the main source of water for the town, and so traveling gypsies and tinkers would set up camp there to sell their wares and benefit from the fresh water springs.
A brisk 10-minute walk brings me to the park many mornings before the merciless Virginia sun hits its zenith. Since I am between jobs, I have the luxury of strolling over in the morning and blending in with what appears to be mostly retirees doing the same 1.3 mile loop. They are invariably pleasant and we greet each other warmly. Why wouldn’t they be happy? They’re retired for god’s sake – the world is their oyster!
Now in month three of unemployment, I have too easily adopted the ways of what I imagine a single retiree would do with their time. I joined a local book group, an online meetup group for people 50 and over who dine together once a month, that sort of thing. But my interests are not totally pedestrian. I also ride my motorcycle on occasion over country roads, rushing past the now rusty-topped cornfields with mountain views so gorgeous they could break your heart.
I know my rootless existence will come to an end once I’m back at work and so try to savor the days as much as possible. When I walk around Gypsy Hill Park I try to stay engaged in my surroundings, rather than tuning out with the proverbial ear buds. Today I was rewarded. Not all who use the park are of a certain type.
An older man was circling the park on his bicycle. He was sporting a motorcycle helmet, and even though the temperature was just north of 80 degrees, wearing pants, a long-sleeved shirt, heavy boots and work gloves. It made me sweat just to look at him!
I was then delighted by a passerby reminiscent of my Pajama princess of Sherando Lake. A young father was walking with his toddler son, who was walk/riding on the world’s smallest bicycle. He had on full superhero regalia, I mean tights, cape and full head mask (the toddler, not the dad). I love that. I love that its not a big deal in the Queen City to see lithe Millenials jog past midget superheroes, and old men seemingly dressed for much colder weather.
Gypsy’s, tramps, and thievesGypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Bob Stone
We’d hear it from the people of the town
They’d call us gypsy’s, tramps, and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down