A rainy Saturday morning

 

I woke in anticipation of my walk.  My shortened morning routine, enabling an early departure, meant that I just had time for a quick look at my phone.  At least one walking friend was planning to come, despite the iffy weather.  Transit was slow and I hoped I wouldn’t be late.

Leaving the subway I recognized the stride of another TPW member in rain clothes and hurried to catch up with her.  We walked into the cemetery together and another walker got out of her car to join us.  Two others arrived and it was time to start out.

Only those who belong to a walking group could understand the pleasure of striding beside someone as you talk over your lives.  Rain, snow, heat, wind – they add spice to what is essentially a self-care activity.  Exercise is just a side benefit.  The real benefit is exploration of one’s life through the reflection of sympathetic feedback from someone who has heard one’s life story over years of side by side talk.

Thanks to all the TPW members who have taken a turn walking beside me!

Lovely Sounds, Awful Sounds

I like listening to people speak. I had the great pleasure of walking this morning with one of TPW’s delightful members who enjoys the simple greenness of gardens. We walked at a pace just right for looking at trees and shrubs. S. pointed out how you don’t need colourful flowers to make a garden beautiful. And she is so right. The cemetery was at its summer best, and I got to listen to my friend tell me about her life. COVID has made many of us miss this important sound. It is so nice to hear voices other than just those in the media and those of people we live with.

Except sometimes. As we were heading out of the cemetery grounds a bicyclist came from behind us and told us to get “off the f***’n road.” We had not heard his bell and he was not pleased. I think we all could have lived without hearing that voice. But shortly thereafter, another man passed us saying “Pardon me, I am passing on your left.” His politeness felt like a hug after the earlier experience.

The morning was not yet over. As C. and I were returning from coffee, several police cars with their lights flashing were racing north on Yonge Street. One pulled up just past the entrance to the cemetery and another at the gate where a small group of young people was gathered. One young woman was sobbing. She told the officer that a man who had a swastika on his body had yelled “Hey, Jew” at her. She was, in fact, Jewish but did not know how this man had known.

Ugly speech is not illegal in Canada. Hate speech is a very complex, vague and overly broad charge which can only be laid with the consent of the Attorney General. And it never solves any problems. I am Jewish too. It is awful to have a man like this frightening people – any people. My friend C. walked me to my car and told me to be safe.  The young woman’s friends were comforting her and expressing their anger about the man who had shouted at her. I believe that kind, warm, and caring gestures, voices, and words mean far more and have a longer lasting effect than ugliness and anger. We can choose how we use our voices. Our TPW friends choose well.

The extraordinary ordinary…

On Saturday, as we were all saying our good-byes after our post-walk coffee and tea, I was moved by what would have been, in the before-times, a very ordinary act. I will tell you more in a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

With the restrictions easing, we had one of the biggest turnouts in a long while. Over a dozen walkers from west, east and in-between came together for what turned out to be a lovely walk with the cemetery bright and shiny green from the recent rains. I started out grumpy from a restless night but, as always happens, was cheered up by the walking, the talking and sharing my mood with an equally grumpy soul-mate.

We congregated at our newly-found picnic area in the lane, chatted, sipped and snacked on someone’s generously shared Timbits.  We were rising and beginning our ‘ have a good weekends’ when two of the gang gave each other a big, warm,  spontaneous hug.  Nothing extraordinary, just fully-vaccinated friends hugging.  I almost wept.

We have kidded around about a full group hug when we are all in the clear but I am going to hold us to it! TPW Hug Day is a’coming.

Next week is another Pan Am Trail adventure. Check the website for details and come join us even if you aren’t training for Banff. It is in and out so can accommodate various distances.

Welcome: the Two Dose Summer!

I love poetry.  I’ve loved  It right from childhood (now who doesn’t remember the giggle fest of “Eletelephony”?) so it’s not a later in life acquired taste.  It’s a bred in the bones, deeply resonating, visceral connection with the language of poetry.   My father used to recite “The Lion and Albert” at parties so perhaps I inherited the poetry gene.  I also love science fiction, having fallen under the spell of  “The Foundation Trilogy”  as a teenager (in which I encountered the word “jihad” for the very first time).

So perhaps it is natural that I will quote this from Ursula K Le Guin: “And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning.  It is the truth.”  Below are two poems about entering a new world – which for us is the summer of 2021.

Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, / more than the neighbour’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate / sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me.

When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, / leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, / the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over / whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, /  the hurt, the empty.

Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf / unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

(Ada Limón      Fireflycreativewriting.com)

Autobiography of Eve

Wearing nothing but snakeskin / boots, I blazed a footpath, the first / radical road out of that old kingdom / toward a new unknown. / When I came to those great flaming gates / of burning gold, / I stood alone in terror at the threshold between Paradise and Earth. / There I heard a mysterious echo: / my own voice /  singing to me from across the forbidden / side. I shook awake – / at once alive in a blaze of green fire. / Let it be known: I did not fall from grace. / I leapt / to freedom.

(Ansel Elkins)

P.S.  Just imagine it, Eve wearing snakeskin boots!  You go girl!

 

A Year Later

 

Last year in June I wrote about covid and the waterfront 10K and whether there’d be one this year.  Of course, there hasn’t been.  I was quite optimistic because:

  • 10 Covid vacines were being tested on humans at that time.  And here we are a year later with almost 70% of eligible people in Canada with their first dose and about 20% with their second.  As testy as I sometimes am about inefficiencies, that is pretty remarkable.

 

  • The Canadian government had a tracking app ready for deployment. I’ve had that app on my phone since it came out and it’s never contacted me.  Is that because I was careful or because the app didn’t provide the contact tracing capability we’d hoped?

 

  • Rates were coming down. I assumed distancing was working.  Of course, the autumn and winter showed that infection rates were much worse than I ever expected.  And yet, here we are on the other side and rates are coming down quite rapidly once again.

So I’m back in the land of sunshine and rainbows,  looking forward to a pleasant, if somewhat cautious, summer.

Sunlight on the water

It has been a long 15 months. We have all felt it in different ways, but few of us are unscathed by the pandemic and by the ways it has changed our lives. While I have enjoyed many moments of solitude, I confess that I am longing to see smiling, unmasked faces – people talking about the joy and the sorrow in their lives. My family has put up with my many moods. We try to support one another, knowing that we can’t say what we are really hoping for – something entirely different!

In the meantime, there was sunlight today and it glanced off the lake, drawing me and a few odd dogs into swim. The non-swimming dogs were happily bouncing along the footpaths near the lake, weaving in between bicycles and pedestrians. The farmers’ market in the Eastern Humber Bay Shores parking lot was open – fresh Ontario strawberries! And best of all, I feel I will be welcomed back to the TPW fold once I feel I will no longer pose a threat to my fellow walkers. But a word of warning: If we walk by the water and I disappear into the waves, please don’t worry – just join me!

Adventuring with caution…

 

Saturday was the beginning of training on the PanAm Trail in preparation for the Banff race (thank you P for coming up with the idea, mapping our routes and the above post-walk photo). It turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far and a little more of an adventure than we bargained  for. One of our group felt unwell towards the end (actually I think more than one of us felt the effects of the heat, me included). Fortunately, she was with someone but it reminded us all of the need to adhere to some safety precautions particularly for longer walks. Here is what we suggest:

  • Someone with a phone will volunteer to be the ‘sweep’ for each walk, making sure that everyone arrives at the end. The sweep will have the cell number of others in the group to call/text if there is need. If possible, everyone should carry a working phone, just in case.
  • Always try and walk with a buddy (although perhaps M can charge ahead as all the rest of us serve as his sweeps!).
  • Carry water – the heat can really do you in and there isn’t necessarily any water available on route, particularly with the pandemic.  Also, for long walks, take either electrolyte drinks or supplements or something appropriate to nibble on. In a pinch you can get back some of the salt you lose by licking the back of your hands or arms.
  • If you leave the route before meeting up with others at the end, please advise someone so the others don’t worry.

Most importantly, enjoy the experience of exploring new areas and seeing new sights – like this wonderful sign courtesy of S (please don’t all leap to respond at the same time!).

Thanks mom!!

What to write? What to write? My turn comes up and I’m always unprepared … it does seem to be a life habit for me.

I knew I didn’t want to talk about that 5-letter word that has been uttered with such vehemence for far too long. No, not the T-word from south of the border, although if I never heard that word again it would be too soon. I mean the C-word that seems to creep into every conversation no matter how that discussion starts. If there is one thing worse than suffering through the malaise of this lockdown it’s the constant re-hashing of the whole affair (you see, it’s even crept into this blog – pooh!)

And then I thought about the real excitement this May has brought to us. Our spring weather seems to have changed almost as often as the premiere’s pronouncements. Remember that heat wave in April? And that led into a rather cool early May. Nature didn’t seem to mind as everything seemed to start budding and blooming early, and exploded into a myriad of colours. Purples popped, yellows yowled, reds raged, the blue sky blazed and greens gratified!! And the temperature seesawed through the month, from blazing heat to a late month burst of cold (I heard a rumour that there was snow). Yes there were some cloudy days, but not too many to spoil the month … and yes, we did need every drop. If you’ve been down to the lakeshore lately  you’ll see the lake is sorely missing any significant snowfall from this past winter.

So I say thank you Mother Nature for doing your darnedest to get us through to better times!

How Did This Happen?

Can we talk?  Between you and me, I have a confession.  I think I am getting older.  In fact, I don’t just think,  I have actual evidence of it.

Number 1:  is the day I tried to put my socks on and I couldn’t reach my feet.  What on earth happened during the night?  Did my arms suddenly shrink?  I could always reach my feet before this.

Number 2:  is the time I went to get on my bicycle and I couldn’t get my leg up and over the seat.  What on earth happened here?   I’ve been riding a bicycle since I was seven years old.

But Number 3 was the worst indignity of all:  as I bent down to pick something up from the floor, I grunted.  Oh no, not that too!  I remember my elderly parents grunting every time they bent over.

Clearly emergency remedial  action needed to be taken!  But what?  I diagnosed the symptoms –  surely stiffening muscles were obviously at fault.  I sprang (well, maybe “sprang” is not quite the right word) into action.  I made up a series of stretching exercises to do first thing in the morning to loosen my back so I could reach my feet again and then  added some hip stretches so I could hop (okay, maybe “hop” isn’t quite the right word either) onto my bike.   Suffice to say so far so good, both strategies are working.   But what to do about the grunting?  Now I understand why my mother-in-law simply kicked offending items out of the way as she walked through a room.  No bending and grunting for her.   But how practical is that?  I needed another solution.  By trial and error, I discovered that  if one takes a deep breath in while bending down, it will do the trick.  Not a peep can escape when one is  breathing  in.  Victory!

Resistance is not futile; at least not for the next little while and  I figure I’ve got some time before further action will need to be taken.  And there you have my happy story, dear reader;  a modest proposal for remedy and  a conviction to remain an upright and walking warrior with my TPW friends  until the end (hopefully) of my days.

P.S.  Hot Tip – Dr Fauci was interviewed by Jane Brody (both are eighty years old) about how to remain healthy as one ages.  Dr F no longer runs marathons but he power walks 3-4 miles every evening.  Sounds like us…

This is not a cheerful post

 

I so much want to write something cheerful!  I just had my grandkids here for the weekend and we had a wonderful time (mostly.) My friends have been in touch and I have had lovely , warm conversations.  I even met a friend (masked and distanced) for a walk and talk.  Yet I can’t seem to pull my bootstraps sufficiently taut to get my mood elevated.

I feel let down.  I really don’t hold anybody responsible.  The news is full of who is to blame and I know not all decisions made have been wise.  But we are in unprecedented times.  There is no roadmap.  What I do intensely dislike is the search for someone to blame.  Politicians, in their desperation not to be held accountable, throw blame around at others endlessly.  It wears me out.

If I feel like this, I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to work on the front lines, giving all you have to defeat the real enemy, the virus, while these same politicians ignore your advice while they thank you for your sacrifice.