Stacy Menendez walks across the Wheaton retention ponds dam, stops, stares out across the water – and cries.
“I hardly ever get out on the trail even though I’ve lived here for 20 years,” she says, the tears turning into a sob as memories flash across her eyes. “This feels like home. I grew up in southern Maryland in a place like this. All I did was play in the woods and creeks. I ate wild blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I would go to my favorite pond and just sit there and listen to the water. My home life was horrible, so I went to the woods to escape.”
Menendez surveys a flock of geese relaxing in the ponds, three hawks that swoop over the water, and tall grass glowing like honey drops in the sun.
“Being out here makes me think that there are things bigger than me, that I’m not alone in this world,” she says, the catharsis still unfolding. “All the animals out here … they’re just so beautiful. This is so peaceful.”
Spending more time along Sligo Creek is a new priority for her — part of an overall plan to improve her life. The changes start with diet: she’s trying to reduce her consumption of processed foods and increase the amount that comes from the ground.
“I want to start getting closer to nature, and diet is one way to do that,” she says, easing her way down the dam to reach the ponds.
Menendez started on step two today, prompted by a nudge from her friends at Eye On Sligo Creek.
“I want to start exercising more,” she says. “I have this huge exercise place right in my back yard – Sligo Creek. “This is where I want to do it.”
She plans to start taking regular walks on the Sligo Creek Trail to achieve a basic level of physical strength and cardiovascular fitness. She aspires to try bicycling for the first time in decades, too.
Menendez, now aware of the world that reveals itself when stepping off the paved trail, craves more moments like today.
“That is my panacea right there,” she says, nodding her head at the creek. “The sun on my face, the animals – being down here by the water – this is way better than being up on that path.”
“Being out here makes me think that there are things bigger than me, that I’m not alone in this world. All the animals out here … they’re just so beautiful. This is so peaceful.”