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

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…


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!


Best Excuse Ever!

Really!  I couldn’t walk with the group last Saturday because a bat flew into my  bedroom first thing in the morning.  I had just gotten up at 7 am and was getting dressed for the walk when something black torpedoed into my bedroom being chased by my cat.  At first I thought it was a panic stricken bird flapping its wings but then the creature landed on a curtain rod and folded up its wings – it was jet black and quite tiny and definitely looked like a bat and not a bird.  Well!  What was I to do?

I definitely knew I did not want to be sharing my house with a bat and quickly shut my bedroom door, hoping to contain the little critter and then immediately called a wildlife control company for help.  You know, the kind of company that removes unwanted racoons and squirrels from your attic.  “Oh yes, Ma’am, we have experience with bat removal, we’ll send one of our people over to collect the bat”.

Meanwhile, the cats and I sheltered in the kitchen while we awaited arrival of the batcatcher.  Two hours later, a pleasant young man (although everyone seems young to me these days) arrived with a net and jar in hand.  “Oh no, Ma’am, we can’t just chase the bat outside, it’s winter and it would die in the cold.  We have to catch the bat and take it to a wildlife refuge centre where it can safely nest until spring when it’s warm enough to be released”.  The pleasant young man then proceeded to take apart my bedroom from top to bottom looking for said bat which was not to be found, anywhere.  Apparently bats can squeeze into a hole the size of a dime and I live in a big old house full of nooks and crannies.  Two hours later, still no bat.  Batcatcher told me there were two possibilities: 1.  I would find a dead bat over the next two weeks (no food) OR 2. bat girl/boy had made good her/his escape.

That night I moved up to the third floor and into my spare bedroom.  There had been no further bat sightings but just to be safe, as I’m sure you understand.  As I was nicely drifting off to sleep, I heard little scratching noises coming from the chimney wall behind the headboard.  Aha!  There were creatures in my chimney! Suffice to say I did not sleep well that night.  The next morning, I made another call to the wildlife company to make arrangements for them to climb up onto my roof and inspect the chimney flue for invading critters.  And no, of course they won’t poison any invading critters (perish the thought!), they will seal up any cracks they find while leaving a one way door in the main opening that will let the critters escape but deny them return entry. That’s what they tell me anyway.  The batcatchers will be returning this coming Wednesday to finish the job.  In the meantime, I await their invoice with trepidation!

P.S.  I came across the quote below that extolls the virtues of walking; it could be the TPW motto!

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right” (British historian George Trevelyan.)


Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, the world outside my door was glistening wet and grey.  When I woke up on Christmas morning, everywhere I looked was laden with luminous white snow draped over bushes and trees, houses and sidewalks; it was such a picture perfect day.                                            The next morning, Boxing Day, we were a small group of seven that gathered at the cemetery gates.   Hardy winter souls ready to enjoy the fresh cool air, the sound of the snow crunching under our feet, the quiet calm of the cemetery on a winter’s morning and most importantly for me, each other’s company.

I took deep breaths of air as I walked, thinking of the pandemic and how we’re still not through the worst of it.  A while ago I heard an Indigenous Elder speak of Covid19 as a message from our planet, our beautiful and precious home.  I hope we are learning to hear that message and to reconsider what we hold as valuable in our society.  The most painful lessons often turn out to be the most instructive.  As Winston Churchill once said:  “Now this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

So, warrior walkers, let’s kick 2020 to the curb and walk with each other, one footstep at a time, into that brave new year.

Let’s Have Some Fun!!!

The news is not good; the second wave of infection is well and truly upon us.  We’re in another lockdown and I am very, very  grumpy about it. Pessimism abounds  (I recently found a definition for pessimists that claims they are the happiest people on earth because:     1.  their dire predictions have proven correct, which means they were right,  or 2. their dire predictions have proven wrong, in which case things were better than they thought!)

In a time of such misery,  I think of words written by Susan Sontag:  “Do Not Suffer Future Pain”.   Each of us has quite enough to deal with in the present moment without projecting  horrors from the uncertain future.  We don’t know what awaits us as we face the unknown;  things could be good,  things could be bad, they could be in-between.  Most likely it will be a combination of all three.  So I try not to suffer future pain as there will be time enough for that, if and when it arrives.

And so I have decided that I must have some fun (safely, of course) to help me get through these winter months – perhaps skating parties with hot chocolate, or walks with my friends on frosty mornings , or a snowshoeing adventure  in a provincial park , maybe lots (and lots!) of sweet treats with tea and good books, and staying connected to the world in every way possible… or thinking up surprises that make others happy (and me feel good)- like sending flowers to a friend, or giving an extra big tip in a coffee shop, donating to a worthy cause or just plain helping out.

Here is a little poem written by Roger McGough called (very appropriately): SURVIVOR

“Every day,  I think about dying.

About  disease, starvation, violence, terrorism, war, the end of the world.

It helps keep my mind off things.”

I think I am feeling better already!