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, Ithinkaboutdying.
Aboutdisease, starvation, violence, terrorism, war, the end of the world.
I walked the lakeshore from my place to Sunnyside and back Saturday morning, about 9k. I was alone so had lots of time to ruminate. What came up were so many memories linking the shore to my time with TPW!
I walked this lakefront from western beaches to eastern beaches and back again when I was training for my first (and only) marathon twelve years ago with Jean’s Marines and for lots of “halves.”. And my very first race, the Harry Rosen was in High Park thirteen years ago – I still love that shirt. (Seven agonizing kilometres with hills!) I recall the first time I walked “to the bathroom and back” in under 60 minutes.
Since TPW was formed from the Jean’s Marines’ walking group, we’ve walked the lake shore every summer. I’ve watched people tackle distance and time. But more importantly, I’ve had companionship. I remember hundreds of breakfasts at the Grenadier, summer brunches on the patio at Sunnyside, picnics at the farmer’s market, roti at Caribana. I’ve been there when malicious pavement has reared up to cause eyes, noses, elbows and knees to bruise, bleed and break. I’ve watched people get more physically fit and listened and learned as they worked through problems in their lives. I’ve mused over cloud formations and human relations with fellow walkers.
I missed that fellowship this summer. I hope we’ll be back in May.
This is an apology for my tendency to slow down the pace of my fellow TPW members. I can’t help it. I have a deep need to stop to admire the world around me, even, or perhaps more especially, when the world around me is on pause.
It feels important to figure out which bird is making that odd noise – or is it a squirrel having a fuss? Is that a hawk at the top of the tree? What kind of hawk? And what has it caught in its talons? Did I think the hooded merganser was a bufflehead? I had better not make that mistake again!
I know that my dear friends are working on improving their speed and keeping their heart rates up, but can I just stop long enough to admire that Baltimore oriole? I tried to keep walking while admiring but ended up looking very closely at the ground. Sorry about that. Please join me if you wish to play the “what bird?” game — or walk around me if I am in your path. I will not be insulted if you zip past me while I am looking up. I can’t help it. I stop for birds.
The beautiful weather this week has been an unexpected gift from Mother Nature, making Saturday’s walk a special treat. It was even warm enough to enjoy our coffee and tea, accompanied by delicious cookies (thank you N!) at our very own outdoor gathering spot (thank you B).
And then, on my return home, I was welcomed with another extraordinary gift – the Biden/Harris ticket prevailed (hooray)! I could hardly believe how relieved I felt. I know our giant neighbour and traditional friend has a long way to go (I do not envy the job that has to be done) but at least there is now some cautious hope back.
It does make me realize how fragile democracies are and reminds me how vigilant we all need to be to make sure ours remains strong and vibrant. And, oddly enough, that brings me full circle back to our group. I think it all starts with being good to each other, making room for everyone’s voice, practicing respectful listening – basically, doing onto others as you would have them do onto you (and, of course, voting).
Let’s all raise a toast to new beginnings globally and continue fostering our own small democratic group locally!
Yes, it was quite cold Saturday morning as we huddled (in an appropriately socially distanced fashion) together before the walk. The sky was crystal blue, though, making for a lovely day for a walk. Of course, as we walked along, warmth (and feeling) crept back into our extremities. I didn’t see any non-squirrel wildlife this week – last week I saw two coyotes. The real surprise for me was how the trees had shed so many of their leaves in such a short time. As I shoof-shoofed through the leaves it reminded me of childhood and the joy of fallen leaves. It was also a great reminder that later on we would have to “fall back” and change our clocks for standard time. If there are any of you out there that keep showing up an hour early to appointments, it’s time to change your time pieces.
I’m late getting this blog posted – no, I did not forget to change my clock. I toyed with writing about Halloween, or the lockdown, or the mess down south, but in the end I decided not. I’ve written about the little joys I experience every Saturday when I get out to walk. I think I’ll hang onto that ray of sunshine until we meet again next Saturday. I wonder what rays of sunshine will happen then?
What a wonderful day we had last Saturday as we gathered together, for the first time in a long time, to walk in the ScotiaBank virtual race. Our teams met in front of the Hotel X at 8:30 in the morning but before we left for the waterfront starting point, the walker we were fundraising for spoke to us. It was so moving to hear her speak of what she has learned about her illness and for her to share that understanding with us. For her to find meaning in a terrible experience and educate us with information and knowledge. For us to know that the money we raised will go a small way to help scientists discover more about this little understood disease. It was such an inspiring and beautiful way to start the day.
As we began the race, some people walking east, others west, the weather was cool and rough with great gusts of wind blowing across the lake, sending white capped waves crashing across the breakwater, but it was warm in the sun and all the colours of fall swirled madly around us. Off we went, challenging each other to keep up the pace and warming up quickly. And afterwards, as walkers returned in twos and threes to our starting point, we joined each other sitting on the grass in the sunshine and enjoyed each other’s company in the aftermath of a race well done. Best of all (I say) were the delicious homemade treats and the friendship that we shared amongst each other – thank you all so much for that.
I live with earworms. Most (maybe all) days, there is a soundtrack to my day. Lately, I seem to enjoy part of the day with “Falling Leaves,” for obvious reasons. My earworms insist on specific artists for each song. Part of the time “Falling Leaves” will be by the Ray Conniff Singers but there’s a particular part of the song that is always sung by Nat King Cole.
I watched The Flower Drum Song last night so “I Enjoy Being A Girl” was playing here and there.
And just before I sat down to write this post, my high school fight song played a few rounds.
I am amused that the songs are often from my early life. And also that I’m never sure of all the words so only a few lines are complete most times. My brain spends a lot of time in the background trying to work out the vague lyrics from the rest of the song.
Clearly, Covid is getting to me – perhaps too much time alone?
The best part of today was seeing a half dozen TPW’s walking on the lake front. You all looked fit and hearty! I am hoping to be able to get back at it in November. Oh Dear! There’s Aerosmith with “Walk This Way.”
Another beautiful Saturday: warm, sunny, and perfect for walking and enjoying the colours of autumn. Or was it? We awoke to news of very large numbers of COVID-19 cases in our city and warnings that we should stay out of harm’s way. Is it still safe to walk with up to 25 people so long as we are outdoors and staying at least two meters apart? Some of us think so and some of us are not sure. Some of us, for our own reasons, are concerned that we are risking our health and some of us fear we may be risking the health of others. Others believe our fear is overblown and that for everyone’s mental health, we should simply go about our business in ways that are cautious but not panic-stricken.
I think I may believe all the above – but at different times and in different places. And because it is Thanksgiving, a feast our family has not chosen to celebrate this year, I would like to express my deep and abiding thanks to all of the TPW walkers who accept everyone’s feelings and decisions on what is the right choice. No one is made to feel afraid or ashamed by the choices they have made to stay at home, to walk alone, in small groups, or all together. As my friend Robert Priest has said. “We are one another’s angels.”
I love the fall – despite the fact that it is the harbinger of winter. The cemetery on Saturday was ablaze with eye-warming reds and yellows. Made me think of poetry and so I went looking and found this lovely little poem by Emily Dickinson.
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.
This Tuesday is the last one for hill-training (10 times up and down that ever steeper hill) and, the week after, many of us are doing the Scotia virtual relay – after which we will have some lovely new ‘trinkets’ to wear around our necks.
Stay safe and sane, wear your masks, wash those hands and maintain distance as you walk your distance!
Did you notice how sweet and juicy the peaches were this year? They tended to be small but so intense. And the tomatoes? Plump and full of redness, just waiting to be sauced. (I have discovered an old Italian recipe in which sauce and pasta cook together in one pot. It’s genius!). And the corn that was sweet and crisp, dripping with buttery salt, and the newly ripened apples, so hard and shiny, delicious with cheese? And don’t forget the pears, my personal favourite, so soft they drip when you slice them open and let their fragrance spill out? I love this time of year best of all. It’s Autumn – the period from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice.
It’s the time when the trees begin to flame orange or yellow or red and the damp earth smells rich and complex with fallen leaves. Up high, the birds swirl together in dark clouds as they prepare to leave us and cooler air circulates at night, reminding me to get out my feather duvet so I can snuggle under its the warmth. Sweaters and gloves must be removed from their summer hiding places in order to withstand the crisp chill of morning air. Soup bubbles intensely as it simmers for hours on the kitchen stove. All our senses are engaged. We are in the lingering transition of summer to winter…
And I recall my all time favourite quote which is by Northrop Frye, that great Canadian literary figure; he once wrote: “Heaven is this earth, to the awakened imagination”. And so it is.