Cobblestones: Reflections with Professional Boxer Maureen Shea

Boxer Maureen Shea
Boxer Maureen Shea

Sandstone sheets lie buried under snow. After a three-hour drive, I arrive at a place unfamiliar, Bluestone Wild Forest in the Catskill Preserve, looking for comfort, searching, rediscovering myself by looking back into myself.

I come for the same reason that I box. We all visit some hideaway to stop and think, to explore, understand, stimulate curiosity, tie up loose ends and try to get answers. Lonely places and situations confront and test us, no people distractions, no disguise hides, no safe place to run, I see myself, as myself, say my name aloud, and hear only my footsteps crunch in the snow.

Above a white mound, a patch of thin clear ice, the names of Irish stonecutters remain imbedded, laborers of the late 1800’s who sent barges of countless tons of stone down the Hudson River, back toward my Bronx home, New York City and aboard ships sent into the Atlantic, to the Caribbean. I wonder about these workers, here where my fingers touch letters carved deep in rock, times long gone, their hopes, dreams. They quarried the bluish-gray, Bluestone city sidewalks and curbs my father patrolled, a blue-eyed Irish police officer.

Bright ice and snow melting into streams, a running roar, glimmer upon ripples, rocks and rapids, I munch my snack, a cup of local maple syrup on apples, maple on anything. I feel my face smile. I see myself, child of seven, lemon ice on a stick, lemon “paleta,” and lemon on anything. I recall after-rain wet, sparkling cobblestones, remember Guadalajara (Valley of Stone). Sunlight, millions of jumping crescents on calm water, my mother, brown-eyed Mexican, took me to the “Lake of Chapala.”

Two to three months out of the year, this was home, cooking with nanny Mina, fresh mangos, ripe ranch corn, and you can taste the difference if picked the same day. The park, a carousel, mariachi, no glass allowed, they poured soda into a bag and you drank it with a straw. An old cobbled street hosts a bumpy donkey ride, and nothing holds more fascination than watching tortillas made in the factory.

“Ouch,” wild thorn, “Wake up,” yet these buds will blossom and the fragrance will fill the air with roses, “That’s right. Red Door,” my mother’s perfume. Rose scented, it still helps me relax, feel free and safe.

Blue eyes and brown, mix, and turn into my eyes, green.

Back at the deserted parking area, no one to interfere, say otherwise, a large bird frightened off a lone crow. An abusive, one-sided relationship, the hawk steals the smaller bird’s road-kill squirrel lunch. Three years. It was not that he hit me, or cheated, or said bad things; that was not the worst of it, but that he wasted my time. No. I wasted my time.

Fans cheer, I try not to disappoint. Yet, I stand alone inside the ropes hoping to conquer something tangible, solid, that does not escape through fingers. That is why I box. Pounding everything out, until nothing remains to haunt me, until at last, I can tell myself, “Che Sera, Sera.”

Lured by an empty stone church, stained glass colors on my hands, I brave the shadows, light a candle to keep me company, and then go back outside into daylight.

Where was depression years ago? Now, everyone I know is on anti-depressants. Normal depression must be faced like a ship sailing into a storm, Bluestone ballast to steady her, taking on some salt water, but then allowed to vanish with the sunrise, hopeful thoughts, simple joys or a good deed. At our core, what we define as “The good in everyone,” desires some recognition, a feeling of value, the need to be useful, and a part of something that makes us important.

While cement and concrete replace most Bluestone still prized for its density, slip resistant surface and variety of colors, I notice the worn entrance steps of a public school still bare witness. While tar covers granite roads, some cobblestone still grips like teeth and holds on to the byways under the Brooklyn Bridge, around Gleason’s gym where I train. An elderly man saunters up to my car window, carefully guarding his steps over the uneven side-street surface. He came out of his way to tell me something urgent, stops, points at half a wooden horse over a missing curbside drain, “I called and told them about the open sewer. I guess they put that up for now. Children pass here you know.”

Nodding, I compliment, “Ah. Good idea.”

He thanks me and continues slowly on his walk-along; both of us share something more than moments before.

The abandoned Bluestone Quarry transforms into a Wilderness Preserve, a cold, clean winter’s palace, a mirror for changes that take place inside us, some enduring like the Bluestones of Stonehenge, others, changing like snow that melts away each Catskill spring. How abstract our reason, afraid to get hurt or fearful of being left out, we step into the ring, into life, and fight. The story within everyone twists and turns, like the seasons shifts, freezing rain into melting ice. Rivulets between cobblestones, shimmering, constantly bump, reminding as we go along, we hope for lemon ice sticks or maple syrup with apples or a donkey ride, and search for a safe place to rest along the way.

David Pambianchi is a New York writer, who loves to tell stories about the city, the people, the entertainment, the sport and the businesses that catch his attention.

Novel: Carrots & Apples: Parenthood, Divorce and Public Corruption