THE END OF AN ERA (By Danielle)

The Queen is dead. Long Live the King!  Doesn’t that have a deeply antiquated, almost Shakespearean, sound to it? Yet this is 2022 and many of us are feeling strong emotions at what is the end of a long era of history. Queen Elizabeth II was the longest reigning monarch in British history (Canadian history too, of course.) Few of us knew any other Head of State in our lifetimes. We thought she might live forever. Even though she was 96 years old, we were surprised by what seemed like her sudden death.

The range of expression in the media and among friends has been huge. Some of us cried; some planned trips to London to be there for the royal funeral. Some worried about what King Charles III and his consort Queen Camilla might bring to their new role. Others found hope that this might mean the end of imperialism and colonialism. Quite a bit of anger was expressed by indigenous commentators whose coverage of the mass murders the same week in Saskatchewan was brushed aside by this news from Britain

Still others were just weird: One person was quoted as saying “How can they make a man Queen? This is carrying wokeism TOO far!” Then there was the issue of our currency. Would the Queen’s likeness be substituted by that of the new King – and will the banknotes then look like covers from Mad Magazine? Many worried about what will happen to the Queen’s corgies. More wondered if Canada will get a holiday on the day of the Queen’s funeral.

Suffice it to say, whatever your reaction to the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the succession to the throne, there will be no shortage of topics for conversation on our walks together, no matter how far we go nor how long we take to get there.

Courage

I used to think that courage was a matter of doing scary stuff like bungee jumping or surfing fifty-foot waves. It isn’t. Those things are just some people’s idea of fun.

Courage, as I have learned from my amazing TPW friends, is turning to life, and living it. Several of our friends have found themselves without the partners they had planned to be with forever. With enormous bravery, they have left the comfort of homes they lived in for many years and moved into new and very different spaces. They have made all the awful decisions on their own (what do I do with ugly electric light fixtures? How do I reduce the amount of furniture I am used to having? How do I stay in my current home, but turn it into a place I can live in the way I want to live?)

Some have found the courage to join new and unusual groups of people (Like L. who is a member of a gang of night-riding bicyclists who ride and dance until the wee hours!)

Some have stayed beside ill or ageing friends or family members until the very end, or until they know what comes next. They have had the courage to be there.

On this beautiful day in August, when the sun is shining and the weather is glorious, I send my heartfelt thanks to all the members of TPW who have taught me so much about real courage and who are continuing to be there for each other – and for me.

A FITNESS TEAM? A SOCIAL CLUB? A SUPPORT GROUP? YUP!

 

I confess that I love the Toronto Power Walkers in all its guises. There are days when we are training for an event and get together to walk the distance at truly remarkable speeds. There are days when we enjoy talking with our walking partners and then sitting happily with a coffee discussing the latest news. And then there are the days when we really need a warm and caring group to listen to our troubles and help us make important decisions about what comes next in our lives.

TPW is all of that and more. Each walker is a unique individual with needs that vary from day to day. And each of us can count on the others to be there for us whatever the needs might be at any particular moment. A birthday? Put on the silly hat and let people sing to you. A family illness or loss? Someone knows what you are going through and will listen uncritically and patiently.  Need the name of a plumber or renovator? Someone will help you find what you need. And if you just want to enjoy the beauty of the day?  So do many others, no matter how fast or slowly they may be walking.

We don’t need to be anything other than who we are, in the mood or state we happen to be in. What a fortunate and special group of people we walkers are. When we get together next week at CS’s house for the annual pool party, let’s take a moment to celebrate just being us.

 

 

Where To Walk?

What a beautiful morning to be outside – wherever you ended up in the city. Some of us headed for High Park, even though there were dire warnings that the traffic would be dreadful, and there would be no way to drive into the park. As intrepid as ever, a good bunch of us got to the park before discovering that the traffic on Lake Shore Blvd was, in fact, a bicycle race. Those are scary vehicles!

The police kept us safe, not letting us across the road until most of the bikes and various official vehicles had passed. Thankfully, no one was mowed down — just a bit miffed. Aren’t pedestrians more important than things with wheels?

High Park seems to think so. While some of us were not too happy that we could not drive into the park, others were enjoying the carless roadways and the now-audible bird song. Something for everyone.

While walking, we talked about all the lovely places the group found to ramble
during the COVID lockdown. Should we revisit some of them in the weeks to
come? Should we alternate between the cemetery and High Park on Saturdays? We may need to take a poll, but in the end, each walker will decide where to walk. The one thing we know for sure is that we will enjoy one another’s company and the beauty of our verdant city.

Important Information re Parking at the Cemetery AND NEW TIMES!

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!

T.S. Eliot Was Right

 

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.

Ice Ice Baby

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.

By Danielle,

One misty moisty morning

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.

Our Lake

 

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.

I Stop For Birds

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.

Danielle