What a beautiful week! All the flowering trees are showing off their blooms and the birds are hanging around, waiting to be admired. For the record, the redbuds, apple blossoms, and a Cooper’s hawk made me slow down even more than usual today in the cemetery.
Speaking of the cemetery, we have been asked by one of the security folks to refrain from parking along the roadway to the left of the entrance gate. He asks that we park along smaller roadways and perhaps not all in the same place. Some walkers are going to check out the area near the heroic monument (the Stavro memorial) at the Mt. Pleasant Entrance to the cemetery. We will park on the smaller roads near the fierce animals and then walk to the usual Yonge Street gate. This will also help us add more distance to our Saturday and Thursday walks.
And speaking of walks, it was quite warm today, reminding us that we usually start walking earlier during the summer months. As of June 4th, we will begin our Saturday walks at 8:30 AM. Thursday and Tuesday times to be discussed separately. Now get out there and admire the beauty we are so privileged to have around us in this city!
April has been a cruel month – and we are not even two weeks into it. In fact, this week alone brought the horrors of war in Ukraine, the resurgence of the pandemic, the apparent rise of the far-right in the U.S. and Europe, deaths of three people I knew, a family member suffering shingles for the eight time, another family member targeted by anti-Semitic classmates — and my car was rear-ended.
And yet, the flowers in my garden are beginning to bloom, the first Black woman will become a justice on the U.S, Supreme Court, people I know have been kind and caring, reaching out to one another; strangers have helped us in difficult circumstances, and we have all celebrated the accomplishments of our amazing half-marathon walkers. Cakes and treats were baked, stories were shared, and there was laughter. There is always laughter.
Together we will get through April. We will celebrate our holidays and our achievements, and most importantly, we will continue to laugh together at all the world’s absurdities.
There was a surprising number of brave or bonkers people standing in the weak sunshine when I arrived at the cemetery yesterday. Some were rarin’ to go – with or without cleats – to brave the icy path. And some of us thought coffee sounded like a much better choice. After all, broken bones can really ruin a day. But then we ran up against the Abilene Paradox.
What is that? It is a situation where each individual is less than enthused about a group decision, but all go along with it because no one wants to be a spoilsport. Is the risk of falling more important than the risk of being seen as non-cooperative? For the most tragic example of this paradox, see how decisions were made during the 1986 NASA Challenger launch.
However, it does not always end tragically. The brave, bold, and bonkers TPW walkers all set off along the path, some using the now universal sign for black ice: Flapping arms up and down wildly while attempting to stay upright, a warning to those behind.
I am very happy to report that no harm was done. We all finished our walks at different distances, each deciding her or his own tolerance for ice. For some of us, even during a pandemic, coffee with a friendly walker is by far the best group decision in a dangerous time.
One misty moisty morning
When cloudy was the weather
I met a group of women
All dressed in brilliant colours
What a weird and wonderful day! We drove through deep puddles and threatening skies. We chided one another into ignoring the night’s pounding rain and arrived at the cemetery just as the mist was creeping among the tombstones. It was spooky.
But, as each of us disembarked from our vehicles or walked through the iron gates, we were directed by one of our number to stand in rainbow order. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet – plus white and turquoise and purple!
Then we were rearranged to look like a handful of jellybeans (or a full menorah of Chanukkah candles). What a wonderful way to chase away the fog.
As we walked, the morning grew warmer and warmer. The raincoats were unzipped, and the gloves and scarves were shed. It was difficult to remember that we were approaching mid-December.
Yes, we are experiencing weather shifts, and surely indications of climate change, as well. We spoke of the previous night’s terrible tornadoes that ripped apart whole towns in the US. We continue to heed pandemic warnings and find out what we need to do to protect ourselves and our families. But there is also great comfort in knowing that while the winds in our own city begin to whip up and the air becomes strangely unseasonable, we can take the time to enjoy colour, light, and the warmth of one another’s company.
I had a bad day this week. I should not complain, but it was one of those days that seemed to have no reason in it. I did not do anything. I thought that having no goal would be helpful, but it wasn’t. Serious languishing was the order of the day. Not even my colourful garden was able to draw me outside. Enough, I thought, the following morning: I pried myself out of bed and walked down to the lake. I am so fortunate to be able to walk to the water from my home. There is always something worth knowing about on the water.
Someone in a canoe was placing brooding platforms for the red-necked grebes. Someone else was feeding swans. The stand-up paddle-boarders had figured out how to get around the newly formed sandbar at the Humber River Bridge. And the clear water…
I studied the wind and the waves to decide whether it was safe enough for a swim in my wetsuit. I knew it would be cold, but how cold? I drove to Cherry Beach, the best swimming beach in the city, where I found three or four other similarly lake-enchanted people in wetsuits. They were far from shore, all at a very safe COVID distance from one another. The current was strong and I had to fight pretty hard to get to my turn-around spot. But, after a half-hour swim, the languor was gone. The water was a balmy 10 degrees C; warm enough to put my face in without freezing my brain. While it may not afford the excitement of trip to a tropical island, this is OUR lake, and it can deliver the respite and even the joy we all so badly need right now.
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.
I don’t know if everyone is feeling as confused as I am these days. I need to decide how to feel each morning when I get up. Do I feel happy because a family member got out of hospital or, do I feel upset because I couldn’t be with them when they were brought into emergency? Does my good friend feel happy because she has a new grandchild? Or does she feel sad because she could not be with her daughter when the child was born?
Are we happy because these late summer mornings are so fresh and lovely or, are we sad because this very strange summer is coming to and end? Are we delighted to see our energetic and smiling friends or, are we sad because we can’t get up close for a hug? We are happy to be healthy and afraid that we or our friends and family members may not stay that way. We want to be safe and we want to forget we are living in a pandemic. There are many more questions than answers. Are we missing out? Should we be grateful for our blessings and privileges? I think the answer to these and many more questions is yes. We all need permission to feel many emotions all at once. We are kind to one another. Let’s remember to be kind to ourselves as well.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I have become obsessed and overwhelmed by numbers lately.
I regularly look at the numbers of cases, positive tests and deaths by COVID-19. Every morning I look at the e-coli count at all the Toronto beaches. (Can I find a safe place to swim today?) I look at the water temperature at various beaches (yes, I can swim at 11 degrees); the air temperature; the humidex; the percentage likelihood of thunderstorms; the numbers of people permitted in a “bubble;” the number of people who can gather in a socially distanced group; the number of layers a fabric mask should have; how much gas is left in the car; how many people are in the queue for the local shop; how many kids will be permitted in a classroom after Labour Day; unemployment numbers; etc., etc.
It is exhausting. Some call it doom-scrolling. Some call it being reasonably careful. Whatever it is called, I think it’s time for a break from numbers. Today, I am going to focus on colours. I will look in my garden at the blooming roses, the bright butterflies, and, (why not) the lovely fabrics of people’s masks. There is a bright side!
Are you losing count of days like I am? I can no longer remember what day of the week, or even what month it is. This physical distancing thing is beginning to get a little old. Mind you, I understand the need and I appreciate the benefits. I too would like to survive this pandemic unscathed. But may I complain a little please?
My husband, whom I love dearly, walks like a sea cucumber. I fully expect to turn around and find a puddle of him where I just walked (perhaps 5 minutes ago?) And he now brings a shillelagh with him when we walk. I am not quite sure why. It may be to help measure the appropriate physical distance between people, it may be to poke around in other people’s gardens to see what is coming up, or it may be to warn me that I am walking too fast for him. Now you know why I joined TPW. No one EVER walks too fast or too slowly! However we walk, there will be at least one other person keeping the same pace.
And I miss hearing about everyone’s life. What are you reading? What have you baked? Is anyone else concerned about the dreaded COVID 15 (lbs.) that I seem to be gaining. How are our knees? Are you tired of Zoom events yet? What is the silliest thing that happened to you this week?
Maybe by the next time we reach the second Saturday of the month, I will figure out the date, but for now, kindly forgive this late entry, sing something silly while you wash your hands and think about how lucky we are to have one another. I send everyone a very clean virtual hug.