Thoughts on Memory

I prepared for a warm, rainy morning on Saturday.  I dressed lightly with a raincoat and a hat with a visor to keep the rain off my face.  I was ready a few minutes early so I loaded up all of the recycling and struggled with the door lock as my arms were full and took the elevator to the ground floor to drop it off in the garbage room..  I went outdoors and looked for the timing of next streetcar on my phone.  It was close and I was pleased that I’d likely be a bit early arriving at the cemetery.  I got on and sat down, well-spaced away from other people and read the news on my phone.  I got up to get off at the intersection where I catch the subway north and that’s when I realized I WAS NOT WEARING A MASK!  And I didn’t have one with me.

Horrified, I apologized to all the people on the streetcar as I got off.  I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you find yourself at a party in your underwear.  I sent a message to the other walkers that I needed to walk home and get a mask and thus, would miss our walk.  All the way home I asked myself, “How could this happen?”  At 73, I am always looking for signs that my mind is failing.  I decided this was one.

But serendipitously the CBC show, “Quirks and Quarks” ran 2 segments that pertained to my concerns. Dr. Scott Small, author of  Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, explained why forgetting is necessary for brain health.  And for an aging brain,  research on mice using fecal transplants from young to old mice reversed age-related inflammation in the body and the brains of older mice, and changed the chemistry of their brain’s hippocampus — the region involved in learning and memory — to resemble that of younger mice. The transplant also led to improvements in the older mice’s memory, learning and anxiety levels, all of which are affected negatively with age.   There is hope!

And in the meantime, I’ve relocated my masks closer to the door.

Soon It’s Going to Rain

I admit it. I was hoping for rain. I know I don’t need a reason to stay inside because I have been doing it for close to two years now. But, having a rainy day to give me the excuse to finish the book I am reading is delightful.

Full honours go the intrepid (and damp) walkers who, unlike me, opened their doors, stuck their noses out, and did not go back inside to dry them off. I know how lovely a fall rain can be. I also know the joy of sharing the adventure with stalwart friends. I am grateful for these pleasures, just not today.

I am a person who loves to swim, even in cold water, so you would think I should not mind the rain. But what can I say? I prefer to choose which bits of me get wet and in which order it happens. Today, I chose to take a long shower in warm water and drink hot coffee. Maybe tomorrow I will put my wet suit on and hit the lake.

Happy Thanksgiving to all TPW walkers, the wet and the dry. May you all enjoy good food, good company, and a peaceful weekend.

Making a Tough Decision

Edgar Guest wrote:

How much grit do you think you’ve got?

Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?

Have you ever tested yourself to know

How far with yourself your will can go?

If you want to know if you have grit,

Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

 

This week folks in the TPW made the tough decision not to go to an out of town race next week in an area with a severe covid outbreak.  They had trained all spring and summer, hills and length, to be ready for their first half marathon in over a year and a half of covid restrictions.  All were fully vaccinated and were unlikely to contract the virus but the risk of carrying the disease to the unvaccinated remained. The decision was very hard and it involved cancelling flights and hotels at the last minute.  I’m so proud of these walkers who put the health of others above their own joy.

Intrepid Trekkers Battle Heat and Humidity

 

Saturday’s Pan Am Trail walk took 8 of us out to the east end of the city to explore the Highland Creek area of Morningside Park.  Although the heat and humidity was probably higher than any of us would have liked, the pretty creek and the forest of mature trees around us, including some lovely weeping willows, made the walk more enjoyable than was anticipated.  The paved trail was 5 km out and back, followed by another trail of 2.25 km out and back, for a total of 14.5 km.  The highlight came just near the first 5 km mark when we rounded a bend in the path, to be totally surprised by the shores of Lake Ontario in front of us – something none of us had expected.   At the traditional coffee break at the end of the walk Fiona shared with us a supply of fabulous sweet cherry tomatoes from her allotment garden –  a lovely way to wrap up the morning.

A PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL DAY

What a beautiful day! The humidity finally lifted making many of feel alive once more. Who doesn’t want to walk when the air is clear and the sun is gently shining? I haven’t felt this free in quite a while.

It made me realize how much the weather can affect our moods and behaviour. I have become a slave to my weather app. Will it be too hot to be outside for long? Will we get soaked if we go out too early? Will I risk a fall if it becomes icy or the snow starts to melt?

I do not remember caring this much about the weather – or the climate — as a younger person. Perhaps that is because the extremes did not seem actually dangerous. If it was too hot (I knew no one with air conditioning), you went to the movies. Remember the signs that looked like ice melting? “It is Cool in Here!” they proudly stated. And it was.

Coming in from a long walk in the cold felt so comforting. The warmth was a gift. It almost made the frost-bitten toes seem worthwhile.

I love open water swimming, but I always check on the E-coli count at each Toronto beach before I head out. Will I get sick if I don’t pay attention?

Now I wonder if ignorance IS bliss. Climate change tells us that we may not have been paying enough attention to the signs around us. But weather is only weather. Let’s try to enjoy all of it. What doesn’t kill us…

A rainy Saturday morning

 

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!

Lovely Sounds, Awful Sounds

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.

A Year Later

 

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.

Sunlight on the water

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!

This is not a cheerful post

 

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.