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.)
Believe it or not, there are a few things I am starting to quite like.
1) Masks in winter. They keep my nose warm. Maybe I’ll keep wearing masks during flu season forever. Can’t hurt, might help!
2) Phone calls with friends. I’m spending a lot more time on calls and Facetime. Not just calling to check what time we’re meeting (which I’d do on text) but long, intimate calls where we explore our feelings, our thoughts about current events, our positions. This is a lot like a long walk with a TPW friend but I’m doing it with many other friends, as well.
3) Zoom. I won’t miss it all but it is pleasant to meet a group of people without travelling and to only have to dress the top half of my body.
4) Daily walks. The pandemic has really pushed me to make a walk my priority every day. I get outside in all weather. I spend the walk musing aimlessly. Healthy for mind and body!
5) Having more time to cook. I’m not baking bread – I dread the covid-19 pounds. But I am taking the extra time to cook myself the foods I love
There would be no reason not to continue these things when we are all free. But will I take the time?
Some thoughts on Community. I believe human beings are hard-wired to seek out a community wherever they are. When I think back to training for my first marathon, over 10 years ago, I recall what a bonding experience it was to do the training, finish the race and share in the celebrating afterwards. That cycle has been repeated often since then, through so many other events with fellow TPW members. The sense of community within TPW is one of the most valuable aspects of this wonderful, supportive group. Whether celebrating a new career, or transitioning from a career into retirement, celebrating happy family events such as weddings or grandchildren, or even learning to adjust to the loss of family members, the support of this group goes far beyond just the physical side of training for a marathon. For this I am grateful, as I suspect many other members of TPW are as well. This pandemic year has magnified the need for a sense of community in all of us, and although we have not all been able to walk together as a group, the spirit of community remains strong and we look forward to the time when we can all be together again.
Sitting on the shelf I noticed more and more unlikely “athletes” wander into the store. I thought, who are they kidding?
Then one day in walks this woman looking around hesitantly but determined. I heard her ask a staff person what type of shoe she should buy for long distance training. WHAT!! She looked like the furthest she had walked in the last few years was to the corner store.
After some discussion and measurement, the clerk had her try me on. She walked quickly back and forth with more speed and agility than I expected. She then tried on a few other pairs of shoes. Finally, she took me home.
At first, I spent more time in the closet than on her feet. As Spring approached, we spent more time outdoors together. As the weather improved so did our distance. I was now remembering the days when we only walked a Kilometer or two. We were going hard and fast. She was talking about doing ½ marathons (OMG). Little did I know what we were going to do together.
Over the next 6 months we crossed the finish line for two ½ marathons plus many other shorter races. October had us heading to Washington. I was gently packed into her carryon so I would not be misplaced. I heard chatter from other shoes that we were heading to a MARATHON!
Early Sunday morning we headed quietly with a large group of friends to the start line, surrounded by thousands of other shoes all anxious and excited to go. The buzz was contagious. We crossed the timing mat and listened to advice from veterans to keep your pace and remember your training. Distance and time stood still, then flew. Up the rise and across the finish line was exhilarating. Surrounded by friendly caring marine boots was comforting and congratulatory.
I have since been retired and replaced by many new shoes. I found a new home in a Peruvian village with relatives of my original owner’s friend. Life is good.
What a glorious day it was for walking on Saturday. Not as cold as was expected and a sky that was bluer than blue! I walked along the lakeshore and the lake was oh, so calm. Wonderful!
Along the way I got to thinking about COVID (what else!?!) and all the restrictions we’re dealing with. This is really tough. And we should be proud of the extent we’re going to abiding with the efforts to curtail the spread. When (not if) we finally get to the end of this it will be a changed world and we can look back with pride at how we handled ourselves.
On another note, I’m currently reading the last in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. It’s a “weird fiction” set of novels about nature rebelling against the environmental devastation humans are inflicting on it – I’m not finished, but that’s where things seem to be heading.
I guess that, and a sky that seems all the more blue for the reduction in smog, got me thinking that after we’ve survived COVID, maybe we can use the same resolve to become more green. I put if forward that it is much slower than COVID but climate change is just as much of a pandemic as COVID. This is just a practice to show us what we can achieve as a society; an exercise that shows we can tackle huge societal problems.
I’m not going to suggest what to do. Except to do what we always do – read up, share ideas, make recommendations – as we walk our regular walks. Ours is a green activity and we have extraordinary, bright minds in TPW. Here’s to walking on glorious days well into the future. Let’s just do it.
As we enter this last week of January, some random, positive thoughts to focus on:
- This wonderful, unexpected, warmer than normal January temperatures. Wherever each of us has walked, this has made getting out and walking so much easier and pleasant.
- Amanda Gorman. What a gift she gave us. To witness such talent, strength, beauty and wisdom so far beyond her years. And so much hope.
- The vaccines are coming! Yes I know some challenging setbacks, but as a group it looks like we’ll get our jabs by the end of the second quarter?
- Plans and planning! It is my belief that being able to plan anything helps to normalize this abnormal, almost woozy state we are all living in and through. From Sporting Life to Banff, and events in between. How sweet it is to share in those details and planning, knowing how special the experiences will be – but also building on all our prior races and adventures with so many memories that bring smiles to our weary faces
- Our circle of support. In this pandemic, the term “family” has been tossed around in different contexts. From policy to practicality. Bubbles and visiting. All somewhat confusing. For those living alone, and for those whose family members are stretched far and wide, or just not being able to see (or hug) our loved ones, we have relied on our friends and those important social connections to help sustain us. Here’s to our TPW family – wherever you are and wherever you walk. We know we are likeminded in spirit and connection. And we also know that the joys of walking all together, once more when that time comes, will be even more sweet.
I spend a lot of time trying to get a handle on what is a known known, a known unknown, an unknown known and an unknown unknown about this pandemic. Mostly I want to know when it will be over so I don’t even have to plan when I’ll be walking with the TPW again. It will be Saturday morning and, if I don’t have a meeting, Tuesday evening.
I checked the “vaccine calculator” this morning. Although some vaccines have been held up for delivery, it still forecasts that I will have my vaccine between February and June. That gives me something to plan toward. I watch the numbers of new cases in Toronto and make little games for myself. For example “if the numbers of new daily cases are coming down for 3 consecutive days, I will go to the store instead of ordering my groceries.” They haven’t and I haven’t.
I won’t list the unknowns! This is an amazing unintentional psychological experiment. What is predictable is that TPW members stay in touch with one another! Thanks to you all.
Someone – maybe in a seed catalogue – said that gardens are a belief in the future. Well, so are seed catalogues. I have been sitting in the same chair for what feels like months now and it has been pretty gloomy. Even walking on cold, drizzly and overcast days has not done enough to lift my rear end out of that seat. I even tried the polar bear swim on New Year’s Day. It was invigorating but didn’t look like a long term plan. I don’t think I can talk anyone into joining me until the ice has melted.
But gardens! I can look at seed catalogues and gardening websites for hours and think about how to make my postage stamp garden and flat roof into a whole farm. Well, not really. Even though I can buy seed to grow a 500 lb. pumpkin, I don’t think I will. Now arugula is another story. So are every sort of flower and vine that grow in my heat zone. I may even send to the Netherlands for lisianthus seeds – even though I likely don’t have enough sun to grow the beautiful blooms. As someone once said, “Which plants do gardeners want?” “ALL OF THEM!” “Where will we put them?” “WE HAVE NO IDEA!”
So much has been said about ‘the year that was’ that the only fitting thing I can think of to add is “Goodbye and good riddance!”
I know we still have a ways to go but here are three of the things I intend to do in 2021, as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Hug people (great big bear hugs, up close and personal)
- Eat at restaurants (really want to resume our Saturday breakfasts sitting shoulder to shoulder discussing everything under the sun)
- Travel for fun (please let the vaccine be widely distributed by the fall in time to do the Banff race!)
As bad as 2020 has been, I do give thanks for TPW which has helped keep me sane and moderately healthy. I am so amazed at and grateful for the group’s tenacity and adaptability. Who would have thought a year ago that we would be having outdoor picnics in the snow. So Canadian, eh?
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.