The Worm Turns…

The weather was a bit uncertain when we started out early in the morning; it was overcast with a sprinkling of rain.  But we are a determined lot, we walkers, and we headed out for our walk anyway.  I don’t mind a bit of rain, (just not torrents of it!) especially in the summer heat when the rain that falls is very refreshing and cool to the skin. 
When I was a child, I loved going out in the rain and rescuing earthworms that had stranded themselves on pavements.  I was fascinated by their wriggly paleness and would gently pick them up and place them back in the earth to slither away safely.
I was reminded of my interest in earthworms by Ursula Franklin, the remarkable scientist, who died very recently.  She was a proponent of “the earthworm theory of civic engagement?.  (Who knew that earthworms could be so profound? I must have known it as a child).  She said: “From earthworms we learn that before anything grows there has to be prepared soil.  When we talk about the endless process of bringing briefs and information to government, the only thing that can keep us going is the notion that it prepares the soil.  It may not change minds, but it will provide the arguments for a time when minds are changed.  Unless there is that prepared soil, no new thoughts and no new ways of dealing with problems will ever arise.?

So think about that the next time you step around a worm in the rain!

“A tree falls…”

We were a small group that met at 8am on Saturday. We thought this was because the majority arrived at 7am  in order to avoid the anticipated heat, but that wasn’t the case, apparently.  Even fewer had met at 7.  Now that summer is here, it’s a busy time for people, with lots of commitments for other things.

I was in a sober mood that morning because a young man had been killed in my local park the night before.  He was sitting under a tree with his wife when a branch broke off and fell on top of them, killing him and injuring her.  Death by tree – what an arbitrary, extraordinary and tragic event!  Who would imagine it? But there it was; life at its most unpredictable.  We walkers enjoy the trees wherever we walk; we love their shade, their blossoms, their variety and their majesty.  And so I remind everyone to enjoy these summer days, enjoy all your days, because we never do know when a tree will fall.

Walking with Hope…

It is (can you believe it?) finally Spring!
I subscribe to a weekly newsletter that I treasure for its thoughtfulness and inspiration and a few weeks ago, it introduced me to a writer named Rebecca Solnit who has written a book about walking and another book about hope.  Two things that I think are embodied in the notion of Spring.  Walking for me isn’t just about the physical, it’s also about the philosophical.  I see things differently when I walk as opposed to running, riding or driving; when walking, my inner and outer worlds are moving together in sync.  
Solnit says about walking:
 “Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.?
And then there’s the hope that the season of Spring brings with it; for sunlight and warmth, renewal and growth, for good possibilities.
Solnit says about hope:
“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.?

And so I walk gratefully with all of you in the spring sunshine, full of hopeful possibilities.

It Felt Like Spring!

I was born and raised in Montreal so I know a lot about cold weather (especially when wearing a mini-skirt in February while waiting for the school bus!).   And somehow, to me, temperatures in Fahrenheit always feel so much colder than they do in Celsius.  Given my past experience, I believe that I have fully paid my dues weather-wise.  So last Saturday, as the temperature hovered around -27 degrees C, I resolutely snuggled myself deeper into my comforter and stayed deliciously warm in bed.  It was lovely.  That said, my tuque goes off to all the walkers who did go out last Saturday and brave the cold.  You are a remarkable bunch.

Contrast last Saturday with this one, which had a high of 9 degrees C!  The morning was warm and sunny and spring-like as we met and then started to walk around the cemetery.  It was hard to believe only one week had passed, the difference in temperature was so great.  It actually made one feel optimistic about the coming of spring. To add to that good feeling, after once around the cemetery, some of us were fortunate enough to enjoy a few hours at the spa, a most luxurious way to spend a Saturday in February and highly recommended as restorative to both mind and body.  And it too, felt absolutely delicious.

Sturdy Legs!

I noticed in the newspaper recently yet another article about the benefits of walking but this one was particularly intriguing.  It focused on the strength in one’s legs and the research being done that indicated having “sturdy? legs was an excellent precursor to aging well.  The stronger one’s legs are the better the prognosis for good health as one becomes older.  Now if there is one thing (or rather two things!) that TPW’s have, it is sturdy legs!   Well proven by races, special training and weekly walks.

 We were out in force this Saturday, some starting at 7:30 am and others at 8:30 am and the weather was not so bad.  It was a bit damp and cool to begin with but the sky cleared as we walked and the sun began to appear, turning the day into something quite nice, especially for January.  It was no where near as nasty as Friday morning had been with a bone chilling wind blowing about.  I, for one, am very grateful for these intermittent warm spells.  It makes lengthy walking so much more pleasant.  Even the Robbie Burns race (I am told) was mild this year which was a blessing for those brave souls who participated.  Let’s look forward optimistically to next Saturday…

Halloween Morning in the Cemetery

It seemed perfectly fitting that our first walk back in Mount Pleasant cemetery would be on Halloween. (Did everyone notice the glorious sunrise, the red and pink streaked across the blue sky, on their way there?)

Quite a large group of us met at the gates, some at the beginning of their walk and others to walk their second round.  It was a beautiful morning, quite mild with no wind and I was amazed at how many leaves were still on the trees, in their full autumn colours.  The variety of colours was stunning.  I love the autumn (and not just because I was born in September), but because it serves to remind me of the beauty that can accompany change and letting go.  We are lucky to be alive.   And gratefully, we did not see any undead during our walk (at least I didn’t).  Though there was a devil, two witches and a clown sitting among us at breakfast!

Intrepid Walkers

What a bunch of intrepid walkers we are if I may say so myself!  
Those of us needing to go a long way on Saturday, met for a 7 am start time in order to beat the heat.  Unfortunately we did not beat the heat.  It was blisteringly hot and definitely challenging to our pace but we did the distance (and a little bit more, as it turned out).  The walk was a reminder that we should not walk alone but stay in pairs at least, or loop back if we become aware of anyone walking alone.  The heat and distance can be overwhelming at times.  The best part of course was the reward of eating at the Sunnyside café; it’s such a lovely setting overlooking the sand and water and felt quite like a vacation resort.  It was an excellent way to recover!
And in case we need any encouragement to keep up with our walking, I have more evidence to support it.  I subscribe to an excellent, evidence based, little magazine called “Nutrition Action”.  The latest issue has an article called “Walk This Way, Please”  7 Reasons to Lace Up Your Sneakers. The article is quite long so I’ll just give the paragraph headings below:
The seven reasons are:
1.  Build a bigger, sharper brain
2.  Live longer
3.  Ease your aching knees
4.  Improve your mood
5.  Lower your cancer risk
6.  Strengthen your heart
7.  Dodge diabetes

That’s not too bad!

I am a Vulvalini! Are you?

There were quite a few of us walking this past Saturday morning even though the weather threatened much needed rain which, thankfully, held off until later in the afternoon. We walked westward this time, along the waterfront to Humber Bay park, through the farmers’ market (fresh rhubarb for sale!) and beside the lake as far as the crossroads.  It’s such a pretty route to take, with no construction obstructing our way.  When we turned around, some of us detoured through the butterfly garden pathways.  

It was a warm and muggy morning and those of us who were carrying water were very grateful to have it with us. Which brings me to Mad Max, the movie, because, of course, part of its post apocalyptic vision is a land without water.  So for those of you who would never go to a Mad Max movie (and I do admit I have a special fondness for them), I want to point out that there is something that the TPW’s share with Mad Max, the movie, and that is being a tribe of women warriors.  The tribe of women in the movie is almost entirely made up of elders who are strong and fierce and independent, just like the TPW’s (well, maybe not so much the fierce part, but still).  However, the tribe of women warriors in the latest Mad Max movie are not called Toronto Power Walkers, they are called the Vulvalinis!  And so in addition to being a member of TPW, I hereby also declare myself to be a Vulvalini!

Winter wonderland

Fortunately for us, by the time Saturday arrived, the temperature had warmed up to around minus 7 which, compared to what the week had been like, was almost balmy (but not quite!). 
We were a small group in number, probably because it was snowing fairly steadily and others sensibly thought it was a perfect day to stay inside under blankets.  But a few hardy souls were out there walking, looking very colourful and cheerful in our bright jackets against the white and gray landscape.  There was no ice underfoot just soft powder snow dampening the sound of our steps. 

We made it once around with some early birds who started at 7:30 very impressively going around twice.  And speaking of birds, I swear I heard one chirping in a tree.  Possible?  I hope so.  Winter is beginning to seem very long to me and I, for one, will be very glad to see the end of this month, the coldest February on record.

Island Warmth

Island Warmth
Ten of us TPW’s made our way to the Bermuda Triangle this past weekend and what a wonderful experience it was.  Some of us flew to the island Thursday afternoon and as the airplane flew low over the island preparing to land, a passenger cried “there’s snow!!!”  (It had to have been one of the many Canadians on the flight).  But no, it wasn’t snow (thank goodness), we were looking down upon the many snow white roofs on the houses below us. The temperature was hovering around a balmy 20 degrees and it would be even warm enough to swim (well, for Canadians, it was warm enough to swim).
The biggest challenge, aside from the races, would turn out to be the island weather, as it changes drastically every 15 minutes, it seems.  We were prepared for possible rain but every race we were in just seemed to miss a downpour.Friday night held the one mile event, Saturday morning held the 10k and Sunday morning held the 1/2 marathon and every race was a mix of sun, cloud and wind but little, if any, rain.  We were so fortunate especially because rain fell all morning the next day.  And the courses themselves took us through the beautiful winding streets and towns that dot the island, curving closely by gorgeous sandy beaches and turquoise waters.  It is such a beautiful place.
After the races, we had a couple of days to explore other features of the island and roamed around the island by car, ferry, bus and foot, enjoying the sights.
Everyone we met helped to make us feel welcome, and for that generous hospitality, we are very thankful.  
Many thanks especially to Martha for hosting two pot luck dinners, and other small gatherings to eat leftovers, to her sister Suzanne who added local colour and provided rides around the island, and to Catherine for her help in shepherding around 5 more TPW, with help from her friend Toby and his car
A wonderful trip indeed.