Do you ever notice how conversation often turns to death and dying while we walk on Saturdays in the winter? Could it have something to do with walking in a cemetery?
I recently learned about a death and dying museum which is in the works, and also about regular gatherings at so called death cafes where people go to discuss things they don’t usually talk about with family or friends. The topics range from death doulas, assisted dying, the stresses of having a terminally ill parent or family member, to funerals and the effect of burial on the environment.
Over the years, while walking with friends, I have been party to or heard conversations on all of these topics and more. Our conversations have made me feel accepted, relieved, and even happy afterwards. I would venture to say that TPW has acted as a kind of mobile group therapy session for many of us. Who knew that walking in a cemetery would have so many rewards!
On leaving the cocoon of my home on Sat. morning, I was conscious of putting on what I think of as my ‘urban armour’. I sat as far as possible from others on the subway and avoided eye contact. As I approached the gate of the cemetery, I could feel my protective shell dropping away and, by the time I saw my friends, felt myself opening up to the smiles, the pats, the cheery greetings. I was very aware of the joy of belonging to a group of warm, welcoming people. Hooray Toronto Power Walkers – you are the best cure for the February blues!
A reminder to all to put Saturday, March 7th in your calendars for our winter business brunch meeting. We will talk about races, sign up for the new year, donate gear, eat, drink and be merry. If anyone has a book they want to exchange please bring one (with the provisio that, if no one takes it, you take it back).
I must confess; I did not walk on Saturday morning. I was already dubious about it when I saw the weather forecast the evening before and my doubt was confirmed at 7:00 am when I stepped out of my house for a brief weather check. I beat a hasty retreat. I was definitely not going to deliberately walk outside in cold, dripping winter rain! I wasn’t always this way; I used to love being out in the rain when I was younger, puddle jumping, rescuing sidewalk worms, listening to the rain as it fell around me, and smelling that wet and earthy air. My world was being washed clean and all would be bright and green afterwards.
Well, that all changed after I participated in a three hour race held during a torrential rain storm. You know the kind, when it feels like buckets of water are being poured on your head. For Three Hours Non Stop…It took a week for my running shoes to completely dry and I have never felt kindly about being out in the rain ever since. And at least that had been warm rain but on Saturday? That was cold winter rain! I would much rather have snow.
So I did what any self-respecting rain phobic person does; I retreated to my bed with coffee and newspaper in hand. I salute the courageous ones who ventured out regardless, clearly you are made of sterner stuff (perhaps waterproof?) than I am. Your fair weather friend will see you again when it stops raining.
P.S. Kudos to the brave souls who braved the deluge.
Every year I make the same resolution – to continue to walk 12 kilometres every Saturday throughout the winter. I haven’t quite made it in any year but will continue to try. This weekend I had a commitment to care for my granddaughters for the weekend from early Saturday afternoon till Sunday afternoon. So I wasn’t able to commit the time for another loop on Saturday morning. After breakfast it was my intention to add another few kilometres by walking to the market to pick up groceries on my way home. But I was thwarted by the weather. As we ate breakfast, I noticed a lot of snow flying sideways by the window. Stepping outside, I slipped on the doorsill. I realized that the sleek streets, the wind and the epic snowfall would make the walk too challenging. So another week of only 6 kilometres. Next week!
What an unusual Saturday for January. Warm and rainy. And from the weather forecast, I was half expecting to see the squirrels, rabbits, coyotes and deer to be lining up two-by-two looking for a big wooden ship and some guy named Noah. What I wasn’t expecting was a good turnout of walkers for our walk, more than 10. It started out with no rain and some mentioning they had seen the sun. It even looked like it might brighten up a little. Alas, it was not meant to last. We did get wet. It started as a gentle few drops and slowly progressed to a steady rain. We also got in a good Saturday walk before the heavens actually did open up. It was great to be out with my TPW friends early on a Saturday morning. That is the constant in all this strange weather. The friendship and comradery we find in TPW.
The day looked a bit grim when I first ventured out but first impressions can be deceiving. It was oddly mild for January and the grey skies sprinkled light, fluffy snow that settled on the cemetery’s trees like bridal lace. We walked through beauty.
By the time we finished, the snow was slipping off the trees. Such wonder is often fleeting, meant to be enjoyed in the moment. I was glad to have shared it with friends.
Heads up that our 2020 winter business meeting (and social) will be on Saturday, March 7 after walking. Please put it in your calendar.
We were, I thought, a surprisingly large group of walkers on Saturday given that we are in the middle of the holidays and people have every excuse to indulge in the art of sleeping in. However, there were the keeners who arrived at 7:30 am and the rest of us (we the sloths?) who arrived at 8:30 am, all joining together to walk around the cemetery on a warmish (certainly for December) but overcast day. It was so good to see so many familiar faces (and some new ones) and to be able to wish everyone well, including our man of the bicycle accident. Furthermore, some courageous souls race walked in the Resolution Run on Sunday morning, bless them. I, dear reader, remained in my bed, warm and dry.
As we parted on Saturday morning, a chorus of “See you next year” was heard and so we have come to the end of 2019 and our last Saturday walk of the year. Endings are always bittersweet, it’s been quite a tumultuous year, containing both joy and grief and we look forward to beginning a new one. I hope that 2020 will be a kind year to each and every one of us.
Happy New Year everyone!
I read this week that food plays an important role in keeping people healthy. You raise your eyebrow and say, “You needed to read that?” But actually the article was about mental health. Sharing meals, especially ritual meals, is an important part of maintaining our identity as we age. Saturday morning breakfast has become that kind of ritual for me.
The ritual involves the first people to arrive at the restaurant after our walk trying to figure out how many places we will need. They call out the names of those they know will be coming and, with the help of the restaurant staff, pull tables together. No-one is to sit alone. Then, as people arrive, they move along the bench to include latecomers. Coffee is served and orders are placed, some eating the same thing every week, others studying the menu for novelty. There is sharing of hash browns and bacon. The food is the background to wide-ranging conversations – political (what has he done this week?), sociological (new social norms we are noticing), practical (where to find a good plumber) and stories of life’s adventures, big and small. We don’t stay long; we are busy people. We rise from the table, refreshed in body and spirit. We have renewed our bond.
This Saturday we had a large crowd of 20 walkers, probably because of the dry, not terribly cold, weather. Over a dozen of us joined “our” table after the walk. One of our talented members produced boxes of home-made baking and chocolates to share. She’s been doing this every year for a long time. Imagine beautiful truffles with a shiny coat of dark chocolate or white chocolate with limoncello or petit shortbread pinwheels. Another spectacular ritual!
The weather could not have been more miserable when seven TPW members arrived at the cemetery. Freezing glop was falling on our supposedly waterproof coats, pants and shoes, as we struck out to walk the 6.3 km. The two most intrepid walkers set off quickly, only to disappear from view. We sincerely hope they did not become breakfast for the soggy coyote the rest of us encountered as we shared our sorrows and recent tragedies with the apposite weather.
The other five turned around at the tunnel and headed through the icy puddles to hot drinks and breakfast. We generously shared our dripping clothes and squelching shoe noises with the restaurant staff, who treated us with remarkable kindness. Only one server slipped in a melting TPW pool, but since he wasn’t carrying anything edible, we forgave him.
As you can see from the attached photo, the bonds of friendship and the shared smiles broke through the gloom. And the long hot showers when we got home were not half bad either.