Standing in front of the Green River Cemetery in Springs, I wondered to myself, could this be the place for me?
My ride started much earlier in the day, which most of them did. Strapping a tent and sleeping bag to my bike, I looked forward
to a ride out east.
Growing up on Long Island, I spent much of my summers cycling. Whether struggling for my breath on the hills of Northern Boulevard
or fighting for a few inches of black top on Montauk Highway, traveling to the East End was something I did often, and ultimately became
the place I called home.
The mist of the fall morning would eventually give way to a rising sun finding its way through the red and gold leaves that now
dominated the trees. Picking up my pace, the miles and hours would quickly pass. I soon found myself riding through small towns and villages
and being greeted by the occasional “good morning” or a simple smile and wave by those I passed.
It was a great time of year to be on the South Fork. The summer crowds that filled the beaches and roads were now replaced by those
searching for pumpkins and pies to decorate homes and fill holiday tables.
As I continued east, a light breeze began to carry the coolness of the ocean inland as the clouds above began to thicken. The sun that
was warming my face earlier was now well behind me. It was time to find a place to pitch my tent and settle in for the night.
On previous trips, it was easy to find a grassy dune to tuck into, one where I would be protected from the elements and
the fishermen racing through the sand to their favorite fishing holes. Now, the roads leading down to the ocean had a long list of restrictions,
making it clear, my small tent would not be welcome.
Heading north, away from the shore, I found myself on Accabonac Road in front of a cemetery called Green River. I later learned, this
small out of the way cemetery was well known on the East End, with tombstones dating back to the1800’s.
Standing in front of this last resting place, I wondered if it was a place I could get some rest for just one night. Looking around,
I saw no signs, no restrictions and no guidelines for entry… it was probably obvious to most.
As I stood on the shoulder of Accabonac Road a cool breeze from an ominous sky brushed across my neck. I took a quick look down
the road, hesitated for a moment, and stepped forward into the cemetery.
Walking through its gate, my riding shoes sank deep into the grey stones that covered the road. Tombstones lay scattered about,
some hidden by bushes planted decades earlier. The names on many of the graves were barely legible, having been worn down by the
punishing salt air and the effects of time. The smiles and nods that greeted me earlier in the day from nameless strangers were now
replaced by the names King, Miller and Allen, chiseled in stone. If this place was going to offer me any privacy, I thought I would have to
go further back into the cemetery, far away from Accabonac Road and those who traveled it.
The grey sky that began to surround me over the past few hours had now turned into rain. A sudden gust of wind pushed around the
fragile branches of an old maple tree and its remaining fall leaves. Rolling out my tent, I claimed a plot of land in the rear of the cemetery
and quickly found myself in the dryness and comfort of my nylon shelter. The drizzle above me became a heavy down pour and the breeze, a
stiff wind. As I slid deeper into my sleeping bag, the rain pushed the tent down upon me, as the two poles holding it upright swayed in the
An abrupt end to the rain and wind brought a stillness and silence to the night. The realization of where I was crept into my thoughts.
As I lay motionless, even the smallest of sounds did not escape me. The clouds broke apart allowing the moon to cast shadows on the roof
of my once waterproof tent. The uneven ground and roots that were nothing but a comfort earlier began to reach up and poke me with every
move. The child in me thought back to the days when monsters hid beneath my bed and creatures lived in every closet. Now, the only
difference was, I wasn’t sharing a bedroom with two older brothers who would protect me from my evil demons.
Eventually, unable to keep my eyes open, I gave myself over to the cemetery and those I shared it with. I woke the next morning
feeling very much like the twenty year old I was. The ground didn’t feel quite so hard and sleeping with the dead wasn’t really a big deal.
At times today, when life feels difficult and stress becomes the norm, I find myself missing those days on the road.
It was a time when I felt alive and naively confident.
Especially on those quiet, still nights, when I found myself buried deep in some cemetery.