Thoughts on Memory

I prepared for a warm, rainy morning on Saturday.  I dressed lightly with a raincoat and a hat with a visor to keep the rain off my face.  I was ready a few minutes early so I loaded up all of the recycling and struggled with the door lock as my arms were full and took the elevator to the ground floor to drop it off in the garbage room..  I went outdoors and looked for the timing of next streetcar on my phone.  It was close and I was pleased that I’d likely be a bit early arriving at the cemetery.  I got on and sat down, well-spaced away from other people and read the news on my phone.  I got up to get off at the intersection where I catch the subway north and that’s when I realized I WAS NOT WEARING A MASK!  And I didn’t have one with me.

Horrified, I apologized to all the people on the streetcar as I got off.  I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you find yourself at a party in your underwear.  I sent a message to the other walkers that I needed to walk home and get a mask and thus, would miss our walk.  All the way home I asked myself, “How could this happen?”  At 73, I am always looking for signs that my mind is failing.  I decided this was one.

But serendipitously the CBC show, “Quirks and Quarks” ran 2 segments that pertained to my concerns. Dr. Scott Small, author of  Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, explained why forgetting is necessary for brain health.  And for an aging brain,  research on mice using fecal transplants from young to old mice reversed age-related inflammation in the body and the brains of older mice, and changed the chemistry of their brain’s hippocampus — the region involved in learning and memory — to resemble that of younger mice. The transplant also led to improvements in the older mice’s memory, learning and anxiety levels, all of which are affected negatively with age.   There is hope!

And in the meantime, I’ve relocated my masks closer to the door.

Soon It’s Going to Rain

I admit it. I was hoping for rain. I know I don’t need a reason to stay inside because I have been doing it for close to two years now. But, having a rainy day to give me the excuse to finish the book I am reading is delightful.

Full honours go the intrepid (and damp) walkers who, unlike me, opened their doors, stuck their noses out, and did not go back inside to dry them off. I know how lovely a fall rain can be. I also know the joy of sharing the adventure with stalwart friends. I am grateful for these pleasures, just not today.

I am a person who loves to swim, even in cold water, so you would think I should not mind the rain. But what can I say? I prefer to choose which bits of me get wet and in which order it happens. Today, I chose to take a long shower in warm water and drink hot coffee. Maybe tomorrow I will put my wet suit on and hit the lake.

Happy Thanksgiving to all TPW walkers, the wet and the dry. May you all enjoy good food, good company, and a peaceful weekend.

Last Unofficial Day of Summer?

I took advantage of the beautiful weather today, in what seemed to be the last day of summer, notwithstanding what the calendar said.

Fall is usually when we move from walking at High Park, typically our Spring/Summer home, to Mt Pleasant Cemetery where we walk Fall/Winter. As with many activities over the past 18 months, adjustments were made for COVID, and we hardly walked from High Park along Lake Ontario on Saturdays this summer or last, because it was so crowded. I missed the lake!

To my pleasant surprise, the waterfront trail was not busy today;  the lake looked like a mirror, and the boardwalk was relatively clear.  I took mental photos of the lake, not wanting to break my stride.  We walked through High Park; up the hill and around the top of the park, and back down cherry blossom hill  (memories of summer hill training in my mind) to the Queensway. High Park was calm too – blissfully clear of the usual kamikaze cyclists.

Despite the warm weather, Mother Nature was sure to remind us that Fall was on its way, with a few maple trees beginning to change color.

I said goodbye to the lake until next Spring. I’m ready for Fall now and look forward to the red, orange and gold foliage in Mt Pleasant Cemetery.

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.

Making a Tough Decision

Edgar Guest wrote:

How much grit do you think you’ve got?

Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?

Have you ever tested yourself to know

How far with yourself your will can go?

If you want to know if you have grit,

Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

 

This week folks in the TPW made the tough decision not to go to an out of town race next week in an area with a severe covid outbreak.  They had trained all spring and summer, hills and length, to be ready for their first half marathon in over a year and a half of covid restrictions.  All were fully vaccinated and were unlikely to contract the virus but the risk of carrying the disease to the unvaccinated remained. The decision was very hard and it involved cancelling flights and hotels at the last minute.  I’m so proud of these walkers who put the health of others above their own joy.

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.

 

Intrepid Trekkers Battle Heat and Humidity

 

Saturday’s Pan Am Trail walk took 8 of us out to the east end of the city to explore the Highland Creek area of Morningside Park.  Although the heat and humidity was probably higher than any of us would have liked, the pretty creek and the forest of mature trees around us, including some lovely weeping willows, made the walk more enjoyable than was anticipated.  The paved trail was 5 km out and back, followed by another trail of 2.25 km out and back, for a total of 14.5 km.  The highlight came just near the first 5 km mark when we rounded a bend in the path, to be totally surprised by the shores of Lake Ontario in front of us – something none of us had expected.   At the traditional coffee break at the end of the walk Fiona shared with us a supply of fabulous sweet cherry tomatoes from her allotment garden –  a lovely way to wrap up the morning.

A PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL DAY

What a beautiful day! The humidity finally lifted making many of feel alive once more. Who doesn’t want to walk when the air is clear and the sun is gently shining? I haven’t felt this free in quite a while.

It made me realize how much the weather can affect our moods and behaviour. I have become a slave to my weather app. Will it be too hot to be outside for long? Will we get soaked if we go out too early? Will I risk a fall if it becomes icy or the snow starts to melt?

I do not remember caring this much about the weather – or the climate — as a younger person. Perhaps that is because the extremes did not seem actually dangerous. If it was too hot (I knew no one with air conditioning), you went to the movies. Remember the signs that looked like ice melting? “It is Cool in Here!” they proudly stated. And it was.

Coming in from a long walk in the cold felt so comforting. The warmth was a gift. It almost made the frost-bitten toes seem worthwhile.

I love open water swimming, but I always check on the E-coli count at each Toronto beach before I head out. Will I get sick if I don’t pay attention?

Now I wonder if ignorance IS bliss. Climate change tells us that we may not have been paying enough attention to the signs around us. But weather is only weather. Let’s try to enjoy all of it. What doesn’t kill us…

In praise of long, hot walks…

 

Okay, so my alternative would be to curse them but that wouldn’t be lady-like, would it! So following are some good things I can say:

 

  • They generally start off well. We are fresh, we are with friends, we all agree on the direction and it isn’t raining – hooray!
  • They are often in nice places (when they aren’t through industrial parks) with lots of greenery and bird tweets.
  • They provide an opportunity to cover many topics of conversation – or the same topic several times with different people.
  • By the end, you are covered in a coating of salt which makes an excellent exfoliant.
  • They do, finally, end and then you have really earned your treats at Starbucks, not to mention a delicious shower and a nap.

Oh, and one more thing, they do provide you with the confidence that you will be able to complete that 21K you are aiming for so I guess that means they are a good thing, eh! Next week 20K (sigh).

Oz

With the recent, grand re-opening of almost everything recently, people started showing up in droves around the city. It brought to mind the song, “Come out, come out, wherever you are …” from Wizard of Oz. I’m sure you can all see in your mind’s eye the Munchkins slowly peeking their heads out before emerging and going into the joyful, “Ding! Dong! the COVID’s dead!” … er, witch! But that’s what it feels like. I know it’s far too early to be singing about COVID being over,  but there seems to be something in the air that the worst is over now. It was lovely to see people getting closer together and (dare I say it) almost hugging on our walk on Saturday morning.

And the four friends linking arms and heading for the wizard makes me think of all of us as we support each other through these trying times (I’ve always had an affinity for the Scarecrow, myself). Helping each other to ward off the perils, “Anti-vaxxers, and tigers and bears, OH MY!” Trying to stay out of the clutches of that evil, green faced virus! If the witch’s guard is the original virus moving across the land, then the flying monkeys must be the delta variant. If we stick together, we can get through this.

And so my TPW friends … wait for it … I know that all of you know what’s coming next ….

Follow the Yellow Brick Road!