I woke in anticipation of my walk. My shortened morning routine, enabling an early departure, meant that I just had time for a quick look at my phone. At least one walking friend was planning to come, despite the iffy weather. Transit was slow and I hoped I wouldn’t be late.
Leaving the subway I recognized the stride of another TPW member in rain clothes and hurried to catch up with her. We walked into the cemetery together and another walker got out of her car to join us. Two others arrived and it was time to start out.
Only those who belong to a walking group could understand the pleasure of striding beside someone as you talk over your lives. Rain, snow, heat, wind – they add spice to what is essentially a self-care activity. Exercise is just a side benefit. The real benefit is exploration of one’s life through the reflection of sympathetic feedback from someone who has heard one’s life story over years of side by side talk.
Thanks to all the TPW members who have taken a turn walking beside me!
I like listening to people speak. I had the great pleasure of walking this morning with one of TPW’s delightful members who enjoys the simple greenness of gardens. We walked at a pace just right for looking at trees and shrubs. S. pointed out how you don’t need colourful flowers to make a garden beautiful. And she is so right. The cemetery was at its summer best, and I got to listen to my friend tell me about her life. COVID has made many of us miss this important sound. It is so nice to hear voices other than just those in the media and those of people we live with.
Except sometimes. As we were heading out of the cemetery grounds a bicyclist came from behind us and told us to get “off the f***’n road.” We had not heard his bell and he was not pleased. I think we all could have lived without hearing that voice. But shortly thereafter, another man passed us saying “Pardon me, I am passing on your left.” His politeness felt like a hug after the earlier experience.
The morning was not yet over. As C. and I were returning from coffee, several police cars with their lights flashing were racing north on Yonge Street. One pulled up just past the entrance to the cemetery and another at the gate where a small group of young people was gathered. One young woman was sobbing. She told the officer that a man who had a swastika on his body had yelled “Hey, Jew” at her. She was, in fact, Jewish but did not know how this man had known.
Ugly speech is not illegal in Canada. Hate speech is a very complex, vague and overly broad charge which can only be laid with the consent of the Attorney General. And it never solves any problems. I am Jewish too. It is awful to have a man like this frightening people – any people. My friend C. walked me to my car and told me to be safe. The young woman’s friends were comforting her and expressing their anger about the man who had shouted at her. I believe that kind, warm, and caring gestures, voices, and words mean far more and have a longer lasting effect than ugliness and anger. We can choose how we use our voices. Our TPW friends choose well.
Last year in June I wrote about covid and the waterfront 10K and whether there’d be one this year. Of course, there hasn’t been. I was quite optimistic because:
- 10 Covid vacines were being tested on humans at that time. And here we are a year later with almost 70% of eligible people in Canada with their first dose and about 20% with their second. As testy as I sometimes am about inefficiencies, that is pretty remarkable.
- The Canadian government had a tracking app ready for deployment. I’ve had that app on my phone since it came out and it’s never contacted me. Is that because I was careful or because the app didn’t provide the contact tracing capability we’d hoped?
- Rates were coming down. I assumed distancing was working. Of course, the autumn and winter showed that infection rates were much worse than I ever expected. And yet, here we are on the other side and rates are coming down quite rapidly once again.
So I’m back in the land of sunshine and rainbows, looking forward to a pleasant, if somewhat cautious, summer.
It has been a long 15 months. We have all felt it in different ways, but few of us are unscathed by the pandemic and by the ways it has changed our lives. While I have enjoyed many moments of solitude, I confess that I am longing to see smiling, unmasked faces – people talking about the joy and the sorrow in their lives. My family has put up with my many moods. We try to support one another, knowing that we can’t say what we are really hoping for – something entirely different!
In the meantime, there was sunlight today and it glanced off the lake, drawing me and a few odd dogs into swim. The non-swimming dogs were happily bouncing along the footpaths near the lake, weaving in between bicycles and pedestrians. The farmers’ market in the Eastern Humber Bay Shores parking lot was open – fresh Ontario strawberries! And best of all, I feel I will be welcomed back to the TPW fold once I feel I will no longer pose a threat to my fellow walkers. But a word of warning: If we walk by the water and I disappear into the waves, please don’t worry – just join me!
I so much want to write something cheerful! I just had my grandkids here for the weekend and we had a wonderful time (mostly.) My friends have been in touch and I have had lovely , warm conversations. I even met a friend (masked and distanced) for a walk and talk. Yet I can’t seem to pull my bootstraps sufficiently taut to get my mood elevated.
I feel let down. I really don’t hold anybody responsible. The news is full of who is to blame and I know not all decisions made have been wise. But we are in unprecedented times. There is no roadmap. What I do intensely dislike is the search for someone to blame. Politicians, in their desperation not to be held accountable, throw blame around at others endlessly. It wears me out.
If I feel like this, I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to work on the front lines, giving all you have to defeat the real enemy, the virus, while these same politicians ignore your advice while they thank you for your sacrifice.
I had a bad day this week. I should not complain, but it was one of those days that seemed to have no reason in it. I did not do anything. I thought that having no goal would be helpful, but it wasn’t. Serious languishing was the order of the day. Not even my colourful garden was able to draw me outside. Enough, I thought, the following morning: I pried myself out of bed and walked down to the lake. I am so fortunate to be able to walk to the water from my home. There is always something worth knowing about on the water.
Someone in a canoe was placing brooding platforms for the red-necked grebes. Someone else was feeding swans. The stand-up paddle-boarders had figured out how to get around the newly formed sandbar at the Humber River Bridge. And the clear water…
I studied the wind and the waves to decide whether it was safe enough for a swim in my wetsuit. I knew it would be cold, but how cold? I drove to Cherry Beach, the best swimming beach in the city, where I found three or four other similarly lake-enchanted people in wetsuits. They were far from shore, all at a very safe COVID distance from one another. The current was strong and I had to fight pretty hard to get to my turn-around spot. But, after a half-hour swim, the languor was gone. The water was a balmy 10 degrees C; warm enough to put my face in without freezing my brain. While it may not afford the excitement of trip to a tropical island, this is OUR lake, and it can deliver the respite and even the joy we all so badly need right now.
Except just now, of course. Like many of you, I ended up walking lonely as a cloud this morning. (Why a cloud, Wordsworth? Just for the rhyme?) Anyway, I went early and it was grey and colder than it’s been for awhile which sort of matched my mood.
As I walked I listened to the Munk podcast which had been recorded before the Ontario pandemic edicts for the weekend were announced. Each of the announcers searched for a word to describe their reaction to the current state of affairs. One chose “bleak : a middle-aged father who cannot see his family or friends, whose children cannot go to school, who can no longer really the count on an end point. The other chose the word “grit.” It’s not more hopeful, just determined to hold on.
All along, I have been chirping on about having a birthday party in June, even if it’s just a backyard do. Now, I don’t feel too hopeful of that. But I still prefer grit to bleak.
“Grit is not just simple elbow-grease term for rugged persistence. It is an often invisible display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest and do it again and again.” Sarah Lewis
I made the mistake of trying to figure out how far I walked. It turns out there is an app on my phone that gives me this information. But it does not stop there. This app has decided that I have a goal. It determines that I must walk 10, 000 steps each day. It admonishes me when I don’t and over-congratulates me when I do. There is a spinning target and large whizzing print when I hit the app’s goal. It even accumulates weekly data.
I have always prided myself in being quite happy to go through life without goals. I truly do not care if I walk 5 or 10 km., I just was curious to see how far I had gone. Now this busybody on my phone thinks I have to reach a particular number – and it admonishes me when I do not. It wants me to enter my weight and create a “ranking.” It challenges me to “Get started on the life you want.”
Well, thanks very much Mr. App. I have been living the life I want for quite some
time. I really don’t like being encouraged by this thing. So why have I not removed it from my phone? I am still trying to figure that out. But watch out – it is asking to be introduced to my friends.
Like Emily Dickinson, I waited all year for March, believing that surely release would come! And maybe it will for many of us! I love the breathlessness of this poem!
Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—
I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—
I declare – how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—
Who knocks? That April—
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come.
Many times, women of a certain age are seen (or rather, unseen) as no longer making a contribution to society. The TPW walkers know this is nonsense. This week alone, I have had the privilege of cheering on our “junior seniors” who became role models for the rest of us by being among the first to be vaccinated with the Astra-Zeneca inoculation against COVID-19. These are some of the same folks who for the past year have encouraged us to look on the bright side of lockdown. They have helped point out light at the end of the tunnel and have managed to stay cheerful and hopeful when others may not have felt the same way. We have walkers who make plans, baked goods, masks, and wry comments – all in as a way of keeping the rest of us going. My hat is off (largely because it is sunny and a bit warmer) to those special people who have made this very long year a lot less grim. You know who you are: Please give yourselves a big hug, because we are not yet safe enough to hug one another. But it won’t be long now!