It is hard to believe that just a month ago, close to 30 of us were socializing at my house, pressed close to each other with lots of hugs and enthusiastic close up conversations. It seems like another world.
This morning, with our beloved cemetery closed, I went out walking on my own. In prep, I washed my hands, slathered on the hand goo, made sure I had wipes and a handmade mask in my pocket, put on gloves and off I went. I used the stairs, not the elevator, dutifully observing the blocked off space around the doorperson’s desk, opened the door with my shoulder and hit the street.
I carefully eyeballed any approaching pedestrian to figure out how to maintain at least 6 ft between me and them. It created some interesting dance like moves as we weaved and dodged around each other. Most people were very polite and more friendly than in the olden days pre-pandemic – lots of smiles, hellos and good mornings. Several people paused as I hurriedly, took a snap of the first spring daffodil I have seen. Of course there were exceptions – the runner who thought she deserved the middle of the path while I clung to the marshy edges and the group of people who hadn’t heard of single file.
We needed some groceries so I ended my walk at our local No Frills but there was a long lineup so I took a chance and added two blocks to my walk and went to the Longos. No lineup, in and out in a jiff.
At home, I repeated my washing routine and then wiped down the groceries. Felt like I had been on a major expedition fraught with danger and I was glad to be back home, even if I am getting a little stir-crazy.
What a strange new world this is. Keep the faith my wonderful Walkers.
I didn’t walk with the group on Saturday morning; I am being abundantly cautious as my daughter is staying with me while she waits for her partner to clear self-isolation. They have three more days of separation before she can return to their apartment and I didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize their reunion. What strange and difficult times we are in! And yet I think of my mother living in London during the blitz; enduring 56 days and nights of continuous bombing. Perhaps this pandemic will be the 21st century’s world war, only this time against an invisible adversary. We will be changed by this experience and the world will be a different place when our lives return to some semblance of normalcy. And return they will for I am an eternal optimist, I always have been. But to get from here, in the thick of uncertainty, to there, when we may reconnect with all that has meaning to us (like all of us walking together again!) , I am reminded of my first half marathon when I paced myself with another more experienced walker. At the 17km mark when I thought I couldn’t take another step she said to me, “this is when we have to dig deep”. So dig deep my friends and when we do, we will get to the finish line.
I like these words from a poem called The Weighing by Jane Hirshfield:
So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.
The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.
Last year, this time, I’d have been writing about the first day of spring. This year, I’m on my fifth day of isolation. Last weekend I had my granddaughters here and I sat with them at their house on Monday. As the pandemic situation became more clear, I decided to go into self-isolation, primarily because I wouldn’t want a health-care worker to have to decide who gets the ventilator – me and a younger person. My version of isolation does include walks along the lake each day. I have also been to the drug store to pick up some medication (and a bag of cat food I saw there.)
So far, it hasn’t been bad. My social life is not face to face but it’s still active. Several hours a day are spent having coffee over voice or video, and responding to messages on facebook, whatsapp, facetime, and plain old text and email. I’ve been gratified to see how all of these media are filled with good wishes for those who are keeping the rest of us safe. And I get regular comforting messages from the supermarkets I use, assuring me I’ll always be able to eat (and buy toilet paper.)
My regular yoga instructor has posted classes on youtube. I have found a grocery delivery that has the odd kind of kefir I like. My cats are just going to have to learn to eat the cat food I can get. I am finally reducing the size of my book pile. I’m being more faithful in journalling.
I may not feel so upbeat in a month but, for now, this isn’t too bad!
Well it’s a leap year so our intrepid TPW’ers honoured February 29 by our weekly winter walk in the cemetery. Around 20 us gathered in the nasty cold but fortunately the sun helped us warm up along with the exercise, conversation and lack of wind in the cemetery. For many of us this is our 4th leap year – what a lovely thought after such a difficult week on so many fronts.
February also saw another Family Day. A day to reflect on the meaning of ‘family’ and its role in our lives and well-being. In our current environment, the definition of family is fluid. By any definition, TPW is a large, extended family always there to share, debate, even challenge – but always support – and comfort. That support often feels like a large and warm blanket (heated of course….) and as individuals we can wrap ourselves in that blanket at times of need. The comfort arrives easily and timely – whether we are dealing with injury, illness, loss or grief – or just trying to manage and keep smiling as we navigate our complicated lives. Let’s not forget that despite the cold, wind, icy roads and just getting out of bed on those mornings where our bodies and minds scream to just stay in bed, we mostly don’t. Our sense and pleasure of community pushes us out the door (how many layers??) and reinforces our privileged role as members of this unique family. And like most families, we are blessed with rituals, shared meals, old and new memories and much laughter and joy – especially in the everyday pleasures of daily life – and walking.
Here’s to the next leap year!
A reminder of our annual business meeting next Saturday, March 7 after our walk. Please see email from DD for details and to RSVP.
On the morning of Friday, Feb 21, I was lying on a beach chair in the sun, steps from the Caribbean sea, drying out from a swim in the warm salty water, thinking this was paradise. On the morning of Saturday, Feb 22, I was blearily walking in the cemetery with the other TPW’s in the cold but sunny Toronto weather, thinking about (among other things) how many different ways of walking there are. There is walking in hiking boots up and down (and sometimes through) very challenging, tropical terrain, or walking deliciously barefoot on warm soft beach sand as the surf gently splashes one’s toes, or walking gingerly in running shoes over patches of ice or snow through Mount Pleasant cemetery. Variety is the spice of life, I say, so as much as I was regretful to leave the warm bright sun of the West Indies (a place I highly recommend visiting in the middle of winter), I am so grateful to be home once again with my TPW friends walking in whatever weather conditions our beautiful country of Canada gives us.
There is no federally established Family Day. This holiday was first observed in Alberta in 1990. Family Day was meant to reflect the values of family and home that were important to the pioneers who founded Alberta, and to give workers the opportunity to spend more time with their families. Twenty-seven years later, it was introduced in Saskatchewan.
On October 12, 2007, Dalton McGuinty established Family Day on the third Monday in February, to be first observed on February 18, 2008. Its creation raised Ontario’s number of statutory holidays to nine per year. It was met with mixed reaction. Business claimed the cost was prohibitive. Jack Layton said, “Families are working harder each year, and one study showed that the average working family in Canada is working 250 hours longer each and every year. That’s why families are feeling really stressed and they need time together.” He called for a national holiday but that has never happened.
On May 28, 2012, the BC government announced that Family Day would be observed on the second Monday in February each year, starting February 11, 2013. New Brunswick joined in 2018. Manitoba celebrates Louis Riel Day in February since 2008; Prince Edward Island celebrates Islander Day since 2010. Since 2015 Nova Scotia Heritage Day has celebrated a different heritage event in February each year.
All of which means that, while all the stores will be closed, your mail will be delivered.
REMINDER: On March 7 we are meeting (after walking) for our “annual meeting.” There will be food! See the events section of the website for details. Don’t forget to note your calendar and start collecting gear to be swapped and donated.
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.