It’s ice time and I don’t mean the bad kind of ice that we slip on but the good kind of ice that belongs on skating rinks. I love skating. Not that I am very good at it, not at all, but I can stay up and go forward which are the two most important things to do, I think, other than being able to stop!
I grew up on the west island of Montreal and every winter my girlfriends and I would lace up our skates and head out onto Lac St Louis and skate for hours. The ice was terrible, all bumpy and cracked but it didn’t matter to us. We would fling ourselves around, tripping over sticks frozen into the lake, fascinated by the deep black, murky ice full of bubbles and debris trapped below the surface. Fissures would lace the ice with fantastical images that were woven in to the cracks. The wind would whip our cheeks red and sometimes freeze our eyelashes with snowflakes. Often we would skate until the blisters came and then we would hobble home to warm ourselves up, tired but happy.
I forgot about skating for many years, I was a grown up too busy with other things to do, and I only re-discovered its joys after about forty years. It’s amazing what our bodies can remember to do if we let them. So strap on your skates, TPW’s, and join our little group for our weekly skate together. You’ll have more fun than you thought possible.
As I walked through the cemetery on Saturday morning, which was a gift of a day by the way, with a clear blue sky and a hot shining sun, that illuminated all the beautiful fall colours of the trees standing before us, I was struck, once again, at how kind and generous the members of TPW are. Whether it’s illness or grief, chronic or temporary, individuals offer to assist one another without a moment’s hesitation; each one helping in whatever way they can manage. Each one taking a turn accompanying the one who now needs a companion at all times; or changing the routines as required by the ever changing and sad circumstances. A community that shows such care for each other. I hope you realize how strong, brave and compassionate each one of you is! And know that I feel so very grateful to be part of such a group.
First of all, three cheers for the TPW’S who made their way to Melissa’s race in Banff and went the distance! From their photos, it looks like they had a wonderful time in such a beautiful part of our country.
We who hadn’t joined them, walked our usual route in Mount Pleasant cemetery on Saturday morning, enjoying the fall colours and crisp air but the warm sun of a beautiful blue sky day. It’s so peaceful and quiet in the cemetery (I guess that’s not surprising given it’s a cemetery) that I contemplated once again the many pleasures of walking.
According to the NYTimes daily newsletter that I receive, the artist Jenny Odell has written a book called: “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” and says “To do nothing is to hold yourself still so that you can perceive what is actually there.” For me, that is the greatest pleasure of walking. Of course I hear about all the health and social benefits from walking but something not so often referenced is how the pace of it allows me to “see” the environment around me. To clear my mind and just observe, absorb and reflect upon my surroundings. I am so busy trying to stay connected, responding and reacting to events reported in the news, that it is such a pleasure to slow down and just walk companionably with others. The familiarity of walking lets me fire up all my senses so I can watch and listen to where I find myself, in the time I have left.
“Oh, what a beautiful day I’ve got a beautiful feelin’ Everything’s goin’ my way” (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
Well, except for the “everything’s goin’ my way” part (as those of you who have heard my latest housing misadventure know), we had the most beautiful morning’s walk on the Toronto Islands on Saturday. The beginning of the day was a tad cool with that autumn’s coming nip in the air but it was sunny with an absolutely clear blue sky; a perfect day in every way. We met at 8 am at the Ward’s Island ferry and joined the small group of people taking the first crossing. It had been a couple of years since we walked on the islands and it’s so easy to forget how wonderfully special they are. The green lushness of the landscape, surrounded by the glittering blue lake, and the peaceful quiet of the roadway we followed as we walked to Hanlan’s Point and back, taking the boardwalk along the breezy waterfront on our return. And of course afterwards, we had to rest our weary bones at the Island Cafe where we ate and drank sitting in the shade on a most beautiful day. How lucky we are!
Photos are on the TPW chat on Whatsapp..
Where better to start than with a poet, in the words of Robert Frost: “Home is the place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
It’s been an interesting experience to find myself “homeless” after so many years; as I live in-between my previous house and my new house while all my belongings except for a suitcase and knapsack remain in storage. Of course I acknowledge that I am not truly homeless in the worst sense of the word, someone who carries their worldly belongings as they move around trying to find the next safe place to rest their head. But still, I feel this sense of detachment from the earth, of being uprooted, of not having a home. The last time I had no home was right after university when I got a job with a travelling theatre company. I gave up my apartment in Toronto and headed across the country for six months, realizing that I really didn’t have a home anymore because it certainly wasn’t where my parents lived.
It is this stripped down way of living that has me asking what exactly a home is; what makes me feel at home? (Some people call dying: “going home” but I’m not thinking of that as my home just yet!). For me, home should feel like the place where I belong but where does that sense of belonging come from? And so I circle back to Robert Frost as I visit my new house and imagine where my belongings will be put and think to myself, this place is beginning to feel like mine. So maybe it is all the stuff we bring with us, both real and imagined, that we have gathered over so many years, that makes us feel at home, where ever we are.
And to celebrate the arrival of spring (finally!) is the following poem called “Bloom” by Emily Dickinson
Bloom—is Result—to meet a Flower
And casually glance
Would scarcely cause one to suspect
The minor Circumstance
Assisting in the Bright Affair
So intricately done
Then offered as a Butterfly
To the Meridian—
To pack the Bud—oppose the Worm—
Obtain its right of Dew—
Adjust the Heat—elude the Wind—
Escape the prowling Bee
Great Nature not to disappoint
Awaiting Her that Day—
To be a Flower, is profound
And in other news, in these unpredictable times when mandates, rules and regulations are constantly being revised, I have found the following website to be filled with good information as to how to conduct oneself during these (hopefully) waning days of Covid-19. Recommended by a friend’s doctor: https://dfcm.utoronto.ca/confused-about-covid
What a fun day we had this Saturday! Gathered together for our annual business meeting, we shared food, drink, each other’s company and lots of information about upcoming races, training and trips planned. I am so grateful to be part of this remarkable group of walkers. I believe we bring out the best in each other.
My thanks to each and every one of you who came to my house, who contributed delicious food, including someone who delivered a salad but couldn’t attend, our fearless leader who steered the meeting, those who helped clean up, and unbeknownst to me, even left gifts. Thoughtful photos were taken and circulated among us and lots of laughter was heard.
We’ve been through a lot this past year, a seemingly never ending pandemic, loss of loved ones, physical ailments, emotional pain and lately, a tragic downturn of global affairs, and yet we continue walking together, upright and strong, ever onwards in the midst of uncertainty.
It makes me think of something Madeleine Albright once said: “The act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.” And so with hope in my heart and faith in life, I continue to walk on, with all of you.
Well, the grand old dame on Crawford Street (and I don’t mean me!) was well and truly tarted up and she sold for a pretty penny. But what a process it was! Plasterers, painters, home inspector, floor plan drafter, stagers, and photographer. The last time I sold a house, way back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, the prevailing wisdom was, every time a prospective buyer dropped by, you were to have hot, just out of the oven, muffins, spreading their wonderful aroma throughout the house. You didn’t even need to do anything else.
Nowadays, valkyries from Valhalla (or Storm Troopers from Star Wars, if you’d like a more contemporary image), descend upon the house, spread out like locusts, and pack things up faster than one could imagine. I had to rescue a pair of shoes, my phone charger and the TV remote before they were banished into boxes. I still haven’t found my hand weights or some of my winter walking clothes. I finally found my running shoes in a box in the garage. There are things I’m sure I won’t find until I move.
And so the deed is done, not without some sense of sadness after 33 years but sadness mixed with relief as I know it is the right thing for me to do. Now I am onto Mission Number two which is to find another place to live. Change is definitely hard but it is also good. And as the good doctor said in an episode of “Call the Midwife”, as he was consoling his teenage children about their impending house hold move: “The memories don’t stay with the house, the memories come with us”.
To each and every one of you, powerful walkers, may you find peace, joy and happiness with your families and friends during these holidays.
And as for the new year, I have only one wish that is actually more of a curse and it is: VIRUS BEGONE!!! (that should work don’t you think?)
I confess, when my turn at the blog came around this month, I intended to write about the experience of loss; a contemplation of the age I now find myself to be, spurred by the funeral service we attended to support our much loved friend. Coping with loss (of so many different kinds!) whether it be physical or mental or emotional has become a greater part of our lives and somehow we must find a way to come to terms with it. But when I woke up early Sunday morning, nature unfolded a different plan for me and I will let Emily Bronte say the rest:
The night is darkening round me, / The wild winds coldly blow; / But a tyrant spell has bound me / And I cannot, cannot go. / The giant trees are bending / Their bare boughs weighed with snow. / And the storm is fast descending, / And yet I cannot go. / Clouds beyond clouds above me, / Wastes beyond wastes below; / But nothing drear can move me; / I will not, cannot go.
Go out and enjoy our magical winter wonderland!