Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

 

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?)

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

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:

SPELLBOUND

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!

Preparing to Say Goodbye…

Not to you, dear walkers, but to my house.  My house where we raised our two baby daughters to adulthood, where I cared for my dying husband, where I have lived for the past 33 years, that house, my home.  I know in my head that it’s time; it’s far too much house for one person and two cats and I’ve seen too many elder relatives stay far too long alone in their homes as their houses crumble around them.  So I know it’s time, but the hard part is that one has to actually do the deed while one is still capable and that means before one has to.  That’s the only way to stay on top of it, to get out earlier than necessary.  I will be turning 70 years old in the coming year and in my mind that has always been my “drop dead” date (sorry, a very bad pun)

But when one leaves a place, presumably one has to go somewhere else and where was that  somewhere going to be???  The last time I moved was 33 years ago and I did it together with my husband.  Now I have to do this on my own (but not without the help of my friends, thank goodness) and where am I to go?  I find this time of my life to be very profound, with almost continuous  losses of different kinds that I must reflect upon and absorb without bitterness.

“I’m scared”, I thought, “I can’t do this”.  But then I remembered; to be alive is to be subject to continuous change and so really the challenge of selling, then buying, moving out, and then moving in, setting up, and then settling down is an integral part of life that proves I am still alive and in motion…Not dead yet, I think!

 

And Still We Persisted!

Who could have foreseen it?  After all the planning BD had done and the training we had endured during the hot summer months (including that excellent hill training in High Park!),  who could have imagined that Alberta  would be in such horrific pandemic shape by the end of September 2021?  And the race we had decided for our first(!) post pandemic trip out of town together would also be out of the question for a second time in a row.  In the words of Dorothy Parker:  “This wasn’t plain terrible, this was fancy terrible.  This was terrible with raisins in it”.

So what did we walkers do with our disappointment?  We held our own “Melissa’s Race” along the waterfront of Lake Ontario;  a far cry from the city of Banff to be sure and yet there we were, undaunted and unstoppable, doing our own “virtual” race in the spirit of the actual race we were missing.  The day itself was race perfect, a little cool but sunny with a glorious breeze blowing through every once in a while.  Varying start times reflected the differing lengths the walkers were doing; 5 km, 10 km and 21 km but we all knew where we were going to finish – on the patio of the Amsterdam Brew Pub where we celebrated being together again after a well walked race and a wretched pandemic. Now just how lovely was that?  We have the photos to prove it.

Oh, The Places We’ve Been!

I was born and raised in Montreal and only came to Toronto as a young adult, and being a city girl, I have lived all these years in the downtown core,  within a 10 block radius.  The  sprawling suburbs of Toronto are therefore a complete mystery to me.  Oh, I’ve heard the street names in the radio traffic reports;  Morningside, Ellesmere, Kipling, Winston Churchill Blvd, but I have never been to them.  This has now changed for me, as we walkers explore parts of the Pan Am Trail.  We’ve travelled to places in Scarborough that I’ve never been to before and oh the sights we’ve seen:

We’ve walked through parklands where men of a certain age bring their caged birds for some fresh air and school buses sleep,  through meadowlands bursting with wildflowers and where a rabbit lingers, down dirt paths running alongside wandering creeks, through thick forests of dappled light and shade,  and on out to the big beautiful lake itself, where the sound of the surf crashes against retaining walls and showers us with spray, where a mink has caught a cormorant for dinner and drags it along the shore to its den.  Experiencing the wild and unpredictable beauty of the eastern shore of our city.

What an inspired thought to get us out of our routine and exploring the land where we live.  My thanks to M and P for making it happen.

 

PPE (aka Post Pandemic Euphoria!)

I know, I know; people are already talking about a possible fourth wave in the fall but give me some slack here! This month,  I have had lunch (inside!) with two friends; I have had dinner outside (no masks!  no physical distancing!) with six friends; I have had lunch on a restaurant patio (not my own cooking!)  with two friends;  I have met (in the flesh!) some people I have only ever seen before on Zoom, and I am so very, very grateful for every single minute of it.  May it continue for as long as possible and remain a testament to the miracle of vaccines.

Speaking of gratitude, how wonderful it has been to be training again!  A group of us has signed up for a race in Banff at the end of September and  we have plunged right back into a training schedule.  We’ve been doing hill training on Thursdays and endurance walks on Saturday, travelling all over the city to walk on parts of the Pan American trail. We walk, we talk, we support each other when we tire, we moan and we groan,  and we go the distance.  How good it feels to be back in the pack.

Speaking of distance, why do races have to be so darn long?  Just asking…And finally, when will we old enough to stop doing this?  Never, you say?  Pity…

 

 

Welcome: the Two Dose Summer!

I love poetry.  I’ve loved  It right from childhood (now who doesn’t remember the giggle fest of “Eletelephony”?) so it’s not a later in life acquired taste.  It’s a bred in the bones, deeply resonating, visceral connection with the language of poetry.   My father used to recite “The Lion and Albert” at parties so perhaps I inherited the poetry gene.  I also love science fiction, having fallen under the spell of  “The Foundation Trilogy”  as a teenager (in which I encountered the word “jihad” for the very first time).

So perhaps it is natural that I will quote this from Ursula K Le Guin: “And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning.  It is the truth.”  Below are two poems about entering a new world – which for us is the summer of 2021.

Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, / more than the neighbour’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate / sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me.

When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, / leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, / the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over / whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, /  the hurt, the empty.

Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf / unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

(Ada Limón      Fireflycreativewriting.com)

Autobiography of Eve

Wearing nothing but snakeskin / boots, I blazed a footpath, the first / radical road out of that old kingdom / toward a new unknown. / When I came to those great flaming gates / of burning gold, / I stood alone in terror at the threshold between Paradise and Earth. / There I heard a mysterious echo: / my own voice /  singing to me from across the forbidden / side. I shook awake – / at once alive in a blaze of green fire. / Let it be known: I did not fall from grace. / I leapt / to freedom.

(Ansel Elkins)

P.S.  Just imagine it, Eve wearing snakeskin boots!  You go girl!

 

How Did This Happen?

Can we talk?  Between you and me, I have a confession.  I think I am getting older.  In fact, I don’t just think,  I have actual evidence of it.

Number 1:  is the day I tried to put my socks on and I couldn’t reach my feet.  What on earth happened during the night?  Did my arms suddenly shrink?  I could always reach my feet before this.

Number 2:  is the time I went to get on my bicycle and I couldn’t get my leg up and over the seat.  What on earth happened here?   I’ve been riding a bicycle since I was seven years old.

But Number 3 was the worst indignity of all:  as I bent down to pick something up from the floor, I grunted.  Oh no, not that too!  I remember my elderly parents grunting every time they bent over.

Clearly emergency remedial  action needed to be taken!  But what?  I diagnosed the symptoms –  surely stiffening muscles were obviously at fault.  I sprang (well, maybe “sprang” is not quite the right word) into action.  I made up a series of stretching exercises to do first thing in the morning to loosen my back so I could reach my feet again and then  added some hip stretches so I could hop (okay, maybe “hop” isn’t quite the right word either) onto my bike.   Suffice to say so far so good, both strategies are working.   But what to do about the grunting?  Now I understand why my mother-in-law simply kicked offending items out of the way as she walked through a room.  No bending and grunting for her.   But how practical is that?  I needed another solution.  By trial and error, I discovered that  if one takes a deep breath in while bending down, it will do the trick.  Not a peep can escape when one is  breathing  in.  Victory!

Resistance is not futile; at least not for the next little while and  I figure I’ve got some time before further action will need to be taken.  And there you have my happy story, dear reader;  a modest proposal for remedy and  a conviction to remain an upright and walking warrior with my TPW friends  until the end (hopefully) of my days.

P.S.  Hot Tip – Dr Fauci was interviewed by Jane Brody (both are eighty years old) about how to remain healthy as one ages.  Dr F no longer runs marathons but he power walks 3-4 miles every evening.  Sounds like us…

IT’S GROUNDHOG DAY…AGAIN!

Well, here we are, in complete lockdown again.  I have to admit that for the very first time, I feel like a prisoner in my own home and in despair, like a child being punished for something they didn’t do.  And  this on top of what The New York Times calls: “Languishing – a sense of stagnation and emptiness”…  Who could imagine this would happen?  Clearly not our inept provincial government, only our dedicated and exhausted healthcare providers, but don’t get me started, it’s too enraging and bad for my blood pressure, though anger has sent me exercising so furiously maybe that’s one good thing?

So my fellow solitary walkers,  it’s definitely time to break out the emergency brownies again (one brownie a day is my prescription although now it’s “take whenever needed”) along with some laughter (otherwise we would weep).  I dragged out my volume of “Age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese”;  and below are some quotes I think we can all relate to:

“I have everything now that I had twenty years ago, except now it’s all lower”  (Gypsy Rose Lee)

“I cut my own hair.  I got sick of barbers because they talk too much.  And too much of their talk was about my hair falling out”  (Robert Frost)

“When you get to my age, life seems little more than one long march to and from the lavatory” (John Mortimer)

Reporter:  “What do you expect the future to be like?”  Very Old Woman: “Very short”  (One of the oldest women in France during a birthday interview)

“I regret having been so polite in the past.  I’d like to trample on at least a dozen people”  (Harold Brodkey)

Interviewer:  “To what do you attribute your longevity?  Chef Julia Child:  “Red meat and gin”

And as always, things could be worse (I guess) -for all you math phobes,  here’s what Samuel Beckett once said:  “Even death is unreliable; instead of zero it may be some ghastly hallucination, such as the square root of minus one”

Walk on, my merry band of walkers,  this too shall pass, we shall walk with each other again, though not nearly soon enough for me.

With love,  Philippa

P.S.  Hot Tip:  Listen to CBC radio’s Sunday Magazine (April 25) for Piya’s interview with neuroscientist Lisa Genova – it is guaranteed to make your aging brain feel better.

 

 

V-DAY!!! A Call to Arms…

I have (what is the right word?) traversed this pandemic to the best of my ability; I’ve tried to remain calm and reasonable in the face of constantly changing information and negotiated the multiple levels of risk like a gambler at the wheel of fortune.  But my subconscious?  That’s a whole other story…as I am having  dreams that I have never had before.

In one dream, to my horror, I enter  a large indoor gathering where I am the ONLY person wearing a mask.  In  another dream, I am the only one NOT wearing a mask and lost in a huge group of people.  But the worst dream I have had so far is the one in which I reach out to grab someone`s hand as I watch them falling in front of me  and as our hands touch, we both recoil in horror.   Sound familiar? I think we are, each one of us, suffering from a pandemic  anxiety that has seeped into our very bones.  Who ever had dreams / nightmares about face masks prior to 2020?  Or been horrified at the very idea of touching another person`s skin?

Therefore it was such a wonderful relief that, contrary to being told that my age group would be vaccinated in June, I had my first dose of vaccine last Wednesday, March 24. Now,  no matter how bad the numbers become in this province, somehow I am feeling that things will eventually, over time, be all right and I am so grateful to live in a country that not only tries to do the right thing but also has the means to do it.  This pandemic is a world changing event; I only hope we learn the right lessons from it.  It is, as an Indigenous Elder said, a message from our planet and we would be wise to heed it and take action.  It’s a call to arms, both in the sense of vaccines, and to the belief that we, collectively, must do better.

Happy Passover!