Monday, March 11, 2013

Big Announcement!!!

Cre8ivewritur has joined up with a friend to create Walkin' It Off. All blog posts can now be found at

Join us as we document our countdown to our upcoming Big Walk ... Check out our Big Announcement at:

Thank you for following my walking and please continue to join us. See you at Walkin' It Off!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Do I Walk?

Why do I walk?

Why do any of us walk? The easy answer is this: we walk to get from one place to another of course, but when you really think about it there is more to walking than just movement. Or is there?
With our walking there is an undercurrent that guides our thoughts, thoughts so omnipresent that they seem to circle us, gathering us in their arms and carrying us forward with the syncopation of each step and with each swing of our arm.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson

Sometimes my mind meanders and my feet just follow. Sometimes my feet start moving which then puts into motion the wheels that churn out my thoughts. Either way it is ironic that my feet which normally connect me to the ground also connect to that grand and powerful circuitry that is my daydreams. 

When I walk the breeze flows over me taking with it the ills of the day, washing me clean and clearing my mind.

I like the pace of walking. I like the easy nature of putting one foot in front of another, one thought before another. It is a rythym I can keep up to.
I like being outside. I like walking to the tune of the birds and positioning myself to face the sun. I absorb the glorious warmth that radiates down towards me and by the time I return home I am then able to radiate that warmth back out for the benefit of my husband and children.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson
Why do I walk?
My life moves as fast internally as it does externally and in order to  keep my system synchronized I walk. Either way there is flow. To walk is to balance my energies against the tides of daily life. There is a sense of freedom in stretching one's legs. There is a sense of freedom knowing that the skies can press upon the earth with the girth of grey matter but you can still move. Walking creates breath and breath, soft and sweet seeps into our soul through the wounds that stillness creates.
I walk to stir my soul against that stillness.
How else can there be life?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Season of Walking

Deep Snow, Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson
Winter is slowly coming to an end. The birds are re-populating the trees and the variable temperatures give rise to cool misty mornings. Ice drips from the eaves and the snowbanks are edging away from the sides of the roads.As I march towards Spring I have a lot to reflect on. The winter season was not an easy one.I paraphrase the Idiot Abroad when I say that deep snow is not meant to be walked through! Living in Canada however, we have no choice. I strapped my feet into skis, snowshoes, and snowboards. I trudged through a blizzard, walked through conservation areas and through my neighbourhood. You could say I have covered a lot of ground.
This coming week will see me turn thirty-nine which will set in motion the count-down to the ever looming fortieth birthday which in North American culture is a milestone as birthdays go. I am meandering towards mid-life and as such I figure I have to reflect on not only the walking I am doing; the geography, the beauty in the small things, the journey, but also the inspiration, the motivation; the quest.
With the rivulets of spring runoff my thoughts will flow. I will walk faster and longer. I will speak to the moods that move me and the seasons that affect my change of pace.
What inner workings keep me in motion? What are the mechanics of my walking?

Lantern Wasteland,  Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson
This past Fall and Winter I have walked with friends and with my dog. Mostly I have walked alone. Alone with my thoughts. Oftentimes walking in order to clear my head. I have a little friend who walks with me to keep me thinking. I have a friend who walks with me in spirit from half a world away.I am going to add to that list and walk more with my family.

My walking Buddha. Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson

Walking into this new season I plan to challenge myself.
I am off to a good start but with a little over a year left to prepare for a big journey I need to step it up. Literally.
So stay tuned and walk with me as I face something called the Frontenac Challenge; as I prepare to walk from one town to another; as I challenge myself by walking on different types of terrain. I will be walking through thoughts previously uncharted. I will be walkin' it off in more ways than one.
Walk with me. It won't be in five feet of snow, but it will be a challenge well worth the effort.

Where will you be walking in this season of your life?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Walking: A Day Off!

Have I have mentioned before that I am currently working on a big project?
It is going to involve quite a bit of walking. Planning for the project means some shuffling of blog posts past and present so while I move some of my previous posts from other sites around bear with me and enjoy some of my older writing! This week I present to you a post from the summer of 2011.
A day off from walking...(and a moment off from the winter!)

The story of St. Lawrence.

I lay on the bow of the boat listening to the Stones against the backdrop of kids leaping into the river and waves lapping against the shore. The sun was hot and strong; the air hotter and stronger. Any ambition, any motivation to take a hike floated away with the currents.My first day of vacation and all I wanted to do was to spend time with my family. I had spent the afternoon watching my dog chase waves and bark at the boats. I ate fresh raspberries and my mother's homemade chocolate chip cookies. I congratulated my son on the fish he caught and scrambled to get out of the water when he released said fish a little too close to me. At the same time a limp fillet of dead fish flesh floated by thus hastening my migration to the boat. The movement of the boat lulled me into the depths of sensation. The humid air carried the scent of the river and of the trees that crawled over the islands. The water carried the sounds of the boats some humming, some sputtering and others with sails flapping as they passed. The breeze was gentle and soft like a fine silk scarf playing about my hair. I felt languid and tasted sleep. Sweet soft afternoon.

One of the thousands of islands that dot the St. Lawrence River in Canada. 


The next day saw me lying on a sandy beach sipping the rays of sun that beat down around me. Sand buried tanned bodies, sand spilled into the crevices of our blankets, towels and chairs and sand crunched between our molars. More fresh raspberries deposited seeds into our sandy mouths and watermelon washed us clean. Sandwiches crafted with care and bags of chips and Doritos also filled the bellies of the hungry masses of children who have accompanied us on our trip. This day saw the air fill with footballs and Frisbees. Picnic tables sat under the poplar
trees at the top of sand dunes. Great families congregated and young lovers embraced. People pranced like porpoises in the gleaming water.
By the end of the day the sun had siphoned energy from our bodies and we limply filed like ants in a column to the parking lots. The cars welcomed us like bread to a toaster. And we all slept that night like logs in an overgrown forest. Cool and tired beneath thin sheets.
No. No walking for me this weekend.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Walking: Of Solace and Birdsong.

Where does the merry-go-round of life take you?

It has been a long tough winter. The ups of clear skies tempered with the downs of freezing blizzards and grey clouds has made this mild day the perfect day to sit still. I wanted to take advantage of the coaxing air to slip into the woods unseen by anyone save for the breeze whose whispers fall from the tops of the pine trees. I wanted anonymity from those save for the gentle snowflakes that sighed each time one tapped my shoulder or rested on my eyelash. The only sounds I looked for today was of birdsong. Winter in Canada means that bird sightings are rare, especially in urban areas but if you step lightly into the forest you may catch the warbles and chirps of the Royal red cardinals and the charming chickadees. I wanted to take off today and find the company of those birds, those birds who could reassure me that the sun still shone above the clouds. They know. They fly up there all of the time.

My merry-go-round has its ups and downs.

My memories danced last night with my dreams and plotted this morning with déjà-vu. The damp smell of the earth rose to greet me as I stepped outside. My ears strained to recall the sunrise songs and twilight lullabies of the birds on the edges of their nests. There was one place I knew I could satiate my soul today, a place that could best whisper to me the secrets of the coming Spring; the Little Cataraqui Conservation Area.

 The conservation area is an isolated patch of protected woodland that houses those birds who decided to winter in Canada. It is also an oasis of calm. From the moment I stepped onto the boardwalk and crossed the pond and landed on the trails I knew I was in for the walk that I needed.

How do you approach an amusement ride?

Aside from a good pair of shoes and some direction I bring with me intent. Today's intent was to find somewhere quiet where I could fully appreciate the silence of the natural world on a quiet weekday afternoon. I was intent on finding just the right accompaniment for my journey. Just the right amount of song to lift my spirits.I was intent on coming home with a smile.
I slipped down the path towards the chickadee feeding area and was immediately embraced by the trees. Having reached the inner sanctum,the wind was now bound by the thick lattice work of branches and muted. The only sounds as I stood still and watched was of the tic tic tic of the snow hitting the dried leaves and pine needles. I found a bench and sat.
 It was still.
 I heard not a peep or a peck nor a cheep nor a speck.
I knocked but no one was home.
 Finally I ventured further in to the underbelly of the underbrush. I stood again. Then I heard it. A little warble coming from far and high away.I gave a polite 'ahem' to signal my presence and lifted my hand which cupped a thousand tiny seeds in offering. In exchange for food the birds made songs. Soon word had spread throughout the forest and the chickadees arrived.
Having a conversation.
 The air was filled with the flapping of wings and the chatter of birdsong and conversation. The air whirled and stirred with their presence but the most beautiful sound of all was their song. Spring came alive for me at that moment. The sun came out and met my face. I relaxed. The birds happily met me half way to remind me that solace is nice, but isolation is too much.
My merry-go-round brought me full circle.

 Back to my dreams of finding solace in the woods, of finding space to dream, to sigh, to dance with my ideas until I have a plan for them.It is amazing what things a little birdie can tell you and what's even more amazing is their song which reminds us that, with some presence and sound, the world is still turning.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Walking: The Sounds of a Snow Day

Jack Frost was too busy to tap at my window the other night. I dare say the poor chap was probably hidden in an alcove somewhere clinging for his life as the winds were uproariously vicious; merciless. And it wasn't just the wind; it was the snow that flew with it. On average twenty to forty centimetres of snow landed in Southern Ontario. The storm left a swath of snowbanks dotting the landscape with little mountains.

My kids scaling the mountain of snow removed from the train station parking lot.
 Snow storms of such magnitude rarely occur here so what to do when the opportunity presents itself? Why, walk of course!
Now, I am not a fan of the cold. In fact I despise it. I like the humid tropical heat found in the south and the muggy evenings by the lake in the Canadian summer. Snow however, I like. Blizzards I like even more. So I grabbed my friend, who grabbed her camera, and we set out to explore the very heights of the city encased in this extraordinary natural event. The roads were slippery and thick with rutted snow. My wipers froze up requiring that I jump out and clear them every ten minutes. Trucks were trapped trying to turn corners and everywhere the sound of wheels turning and engines revving could be heard. Everywhere people were out helping their neighbours shovel and push cars out of deep snow. My friend noted the beauty in these situations that bring communities together.My wipers danced in tune to the music in the car. We made it though. We arrived to a barren landscape that was the parking lot at Fort Henry Hill.

If you look closely you can make out kite boarders in the distance.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson

The wind screamed at us and in the distance was the audible swoosh-swoosh of a kite as it swooped and sashayed in the sky, pulling snowboarders up and down the hill. I was determined to capture the essence of the day so my friend and I ploughed on around the fort to where we could see the city. Of course, the city was hiding under the cloud of snow. What should have been the cityscape and lake before me was only a swarm of snowflakes buzzing en mass like a giant white hive of albino bees.
There is no walking in the snow, only ploughing through.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson
Returning to the car we had to face the wind. We wrapped our scarves around our heads but the wind found its way in to snap at earlobes and to bite at our eyes. The only sound was the insular rhythm of our breathing and the flapping of our hoods.
Our second stop was closer to the lake. We walked around the dry docks where the summer cruise boats rest. They sat, sleeping, hibernating, huddled together with eyes closed daydreaming about the sunny days and warm blue-green waters.

What sounds does mother nature bring to you today?

Walking at the dry docks.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson

They sang themselves to sleep, surrounded by the lullaby of water trickling,bells and the sting of the mast lines as they slapped against steel. I was enthralled by the harmonic steel band songs coming from the seeming graveyard of boats.
Of course there are the inevitable sounds that come with a snow storm. The buzzing of snow throwers and snow blowers. The rumble and scraping of the snowplows and the stumbling crunch of sidewalk plows that bumble precariously down the streets. The whoops and hollers of the kids who are granted a snow day and of course, the hiss and screams of the kettles that keep us in supply of our tea and hot chocolate.

Me on the left walking, sidewalk plow on the left.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson

Pictures speak a thousand words so I leave you to contemplate the sounds of the snow and with a couple of pictures that my friend so graciously captured for me during our adventures. They scream 'winter'; a picture of me bracing against the blizzard and a picture of my companion backpack Buddha who has started to walk with me.

The snow stung my face while the wind stole my breath.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson
Buddha on a bench in a blizzard.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Robinson

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Walking: Moving To The Music.

There is a rhythm, a gait, a pace that we set to our walking. We carry ourselves like a song. Some days we drag ourselves around as though our world is accompanied by a slow moving second movement to that symphony that is our life. Some days it is the upbeat bop-around bouncing on our toes to the tune of J-Lo. Some days we walk with tears in our eyes and move as though life is truly entwined in the great drama that is an opera. Take a look at Dame Janet Baker singing the aria When I am Laid in Earth from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Watch how the slow, lament of a song matches her movements.

Our arms naturally swing with our step. Our hips sway, we bounce, we sink down then swell up again. Walking is like a piano concerto where our feet sets the time and the rest of our limbs fall into place at the appropriate moment. Our body works together with all the parts including the brain. The following clip shows in detail how our bodies move with music and how the different part naturally move in sync. The conductor in particular is the embodiment of the song. He may not be walking but it is clear he cannot stop his feet from moving.

It is interesting how our emotions influence our movement. We think then all of a sudden our thoughts travel to our feet and we are storming out the door in anger to take a walk. Walking is an escape from the world when it closes in on us. We naturally look for the open sky and physiologically we feel the need to get the blood pumping through our system.
Walking soothes our minds. I don't know where the thoughts go, but I have walked enough to know that upon returning from one of my marches or ambles I feel my head is clear.
Watch the following Foo Fighters video where Dave Grohl takes an interesting walk. You can see the change in gait depending on the how he is feeling.

We walk to expel from our spirits the thoughts that plague us. When we are angry or restless or under pressure we walk. The very act of walking to the tune of the nature that surrounds us has a tendency to calm us. Subconsciously the sounds of the birds, the wind through trees, the swish of traffic in the distance all serves as accompaniment to the song that walks with us.

What is the soundtrack to your life?

I take a walk. I walk everyday to whatever tune has been preset by my mood. If I want to change my mood I change the settings on my inner radio. I walk with soundtracks. When I am running late for work I walk to the Stones Sympathy for the devil or Barbara Streisand by Duck Sauce. When I have time to daydream I may walk to James Blunt or Pink Floyd, Ifnatree or Coldplay.

As I head out for a walk my spirit is a little fun today so I leave you with Nancy Sinatra.....what would a post be about walking and music and movement if I didn't leave you with a link to her These Boots Are Made For Walking?!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Walking: The Right Thing To Do.

Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario here in Canada.Toronto is a wonderful city to visit. It has Greek town and China town, it has theatre, museums and music. It has the CN Tower and is a great place to take in major league sports. It is also the seat of the Ontario provincial government. It is thus that I had democracy on my mind when I travelled to Toronto on Saturday to walk.
Buses on Jarvis street....only two out of hundreds.
We clambered off our buses, rows and rows of them lined Jarvis street. Immediately we caught sight of huge numbers of people making their way to Allan Gardens, a park where we were to congregate before starting our march for democratic rights.
My husband Steve flying his union banner.
The cause? Mainly that the Liberal government had stripped teachers, union members, of their right to collective bargaining. For the past few months teachers have participated in rotating strikes. Their lives and the lives of millions of children have been disrupted and uncertain.

Education is a right and in Canada we are fortunate to enjoy that right so when the government ups and unilaterally changes the rules that pertain to these rights, we the people get angry. And when we get anyone who follows this blog knows.....we walk.

The call to march came as union leaders took the stage. Flags billowed above our heads and placards bobbed up and down with our chants. We stamped and danced with the drums and whistles. It wasn't long before the cold started clawing at my toes so I stamped and danced harder.

Me walking.
Numerous organizations handed out hats from the backs of trucks, scarves from boxes on picnic tables, tickets for free coffee and hot chocolate and the socialist papers, hawked at every corner. We were organized and ready. Full of adrenaline, we moved.
Media and their camera's weaved in and out of the crowd. We followed the sounds of the drums. I looked up to follow the sound of a helicopter as it hovered, surveying us; a giant snake of people winding through the streets of Toronto.

We walked in groups but together in solidarity for not only teacher's rights but Aboriginal rights, women's rights, worker's rights, poverty, children and democratic rights.

We passed mounted police on horses and bicycles. We passed curious onlookers and we passed Liberal delegates who ran frantically for refuge as our wall of people descended on Maple Leaf Gardens, our destination which was the site of the Liberal leadership convention.
A line of police on bicycles watching our progress.
Closing in on them one delegate offered to pinch my butt. I offered to report him to the police woman who was standing in front of us. Another delegate elbowed me as he threw out expletives, demanding we (insert expletive here) off and leave him alone. I understood his frustration, but I didn't understand the blow to my arm as I was simply standing in silence holding my placard high above my head, the same placard that a minute later prompted a warning from another police woman ( I love that there were so many female law enforcers present!) to not poke her with it.
Can you spot the elephant in the room?!

There were close to 30,000 of us. As we closed in on our destination I found myself pushed up against the barricades that divided the rights of the Liberals to pass safely and the rights of we the people to protest safely. Police carefully monitored the border. A man fraught with dispassionate anger screamed at the police and swore at the elderly and incapacitated delegates simply because they were Liberal. He finally collapsed into convulsions that just so happened to block the path in front of the barricade.
It was rough, but at the end of the day there were no reports of serious injury (physical) or of any arrests.
Three hours of walking, of cold fresh air and of spirited energies made our walk back to the buses as happy one. We came, we walked, we made our point.

Walking. Sometimes it is the thing to do when we are angry, confused or sad. Sometimes it is what we do to find the simple beauty in life.

Sometimes, it is simply the right thing to do.

For more on the protest follow the link.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Walking:The Miraculous Places You Can Go.

By Walt Whitman

Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach,
just in the edge of the
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with
any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--
mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women,
and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships,
with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

I may never walk through Narnia or Neverland but I can walk the same paths that inspired their authors. Walking in their footsteps brings to life the world around me. The landscapes that became the setting for their stories are all the more richer for me as I touch the walls, smell the grass and watch the waves roll onto beaches that are immortalized in books.

Whitman memorial. Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.

This past summer I sojourned into Bon Echo Provincial Park where Walt Whitman spent time writing and members of the Group of Seven found inspiration. It is an easy jaunt to this spot where I can take in the same sky, water and rocks that spoke to Whitman, the Seven as well as numerous other artists. Looking out from atop a rocky outcrop my eyes spanned the vista of clear sparkling water and tree tops lush and green. The world seemed quiet from this vantage point and I could see how such a view would put to Whitman's mind that idea of miracles.
I once walked through Lowell Massachusetts. The small town was just as I imagined it might be like when I read from Jack Kerouac's The Town and the City. Walking past the schools and industry that shaped his mind I thought that maybe in that one experience I was looking through his eyes.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
Part of the fun of walking is knowing that your feet can take you where others have walked before. I might never really have the chance to walk through a Dr. Seuss book, but I have walked through Seussland at Universal Studios and it was a dream come true. All the colours of the whosists and whatsits came to life along with The Cat in the Hat who hugged me and my children with affection.

I have walked through Elmira, New York where Mark Twain spent time and I saw that piece of American culture that is apple pie and football. Great boulevards on which grand whitewashed wood planked houses stand with their picket fences calling to me to remember Tom Sawyer and his whitewashing adventure.

I am fortunate to live in an historic city where I can walk past the spot that Charles Dickens slept during a visit and past the houses where the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald penned his letters.
The corner of Clarence and King streets in Kingston, Canada where Dickens once walked.
Wander through ancient Greek or Roman ruins and you can almost hear the thoughts of great philosophers and lawmakers who set the precedence for our society today.
Step foot in Ann Frank's house in Amsterdam and soak in the sombre reality that a little girl truly did exist.
Meander through Greenwich Village in New York City and know that you are walking the same streets as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dylan Thomas and a whole host of other writers and artists.

What paths have you wandered that have brought to life a book or a piece of art?

Last fall I wandered down Mulberry Street in New York City. It was another dream come true because of all the sights and sounds that to think...I saw there...with my very own eyes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Walking Away The Blues Under Grey Skies.

Look at this from one perspective and it is grey. Look again and see the colours.
Winter weather is a crap shoot in Canada. Living by the shores of the Great Lake Ontario we never know which weather systems are going to pass us to the North or will hit us with the exacerbation of the winds coming off the lake. Southeastern Ontario is prone to grey skies and lately a lot of rain. The atmosphere settles down on us like an army rationed wool blanket, pressing us into a winter funk. So many of us experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD as a result which is a depression related to a lack of sunshine and a shift in the weather.

Sinking into my bed last night I pulled the soft cotton sheets and my duvet up around my ears in order to drown out the sounds of the wind and of the cold rain spattering against my window. Hearing the same sounds in the morning makes it difficult to rise. On a bleary morning the room remains shrouded in a grey light of dawn despite the late hour and the only motivation I have is to crawl deeper under my bedcovers.
On a brighter day when I hear the birds singing, the morning splinters of sun curl around the sides of my blind, softly drawing me from my slumber and warming my room. I sit up slowly and rub my eyes and smile; for a smile mirrors the presence of the sun. I was surprised this day to find the sun filling the morning sky but according to the forecast I will awaken tomorrow to more sounds of rain pummelling my house and my spirit; threatening my smile.

Having a damp grey sky hang over you is like wearing a wet grey woolen dress. It is no fun. A sliver of cold slips into the marrow of your bones creating a chill that is impossible to shake. The day resembles twilight and tricks your mind into thinking that it is time for bed. The grey limestone and concrete cityscape are drab. Your spirit is encapsulated by the dreary landscape making you prone to frowning at the snowbanks which are dotted with the dirt brown water that splashes up from the salty streets.Then the snow turns to brown slush and the sidewalks are inundated with pools of brown runoff.

We are tired. So tired. You feel like you can't see straight when there is an absence of light. There is the perpetual feeling that the world is slowing down so why look forward to anything?
Every year I get sucked into this dreadful state of being but this year I intend to fight back; to look for the seams of silver thread that line the blanket of grey.
With this in mind I walked. I walked under the blue sky and I walked under the grey sky.

Good morning mister sunshine, You brighten up my day.....
                                                                            ~Bee Gees

           The view from my backyard on a sunny day.
The view from my backyard on a bleak day.                     

I get shivers looking at these two pictures. My mood shifts with my eyes, brightening when I look to the left and dimming when I look to the right.

                                        Oh mister sun, sun, mister golden sun,
                                        Please shine down on me.
                                       Oh mister sun, sun, mister golden sun,
                                       Hiding behind the tree.


  The picture on the left was taken during a walk on a sunny day. The picture on the left was taken on a grey day. 

My first walk was pleasant. The air was light and I could hear the trickle of water streaming from rooftops and alongside the roads as the sun melted the snow.

Note the glint of sunshine off of the barbecue.
The sun was blinding but it warmed my face and filled me with vitamin D. Enough to raise the serotonin levels in my brain which in turn gives me the power to raise my happiness level for a few days.  I recently read Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness in which he promotes the power of positive psychology. In basic layman's terms I translated his words to understand that I could find happiness by adjusting my attitude to my environment; work with what I have. What do I have? I have the firm belief that there is beauty in everything.

There is a certain clarity that the sun brings; light in the sky and light in the mind. It is easy to find happiness when there is a great luminescent body to light your way.
I thought, certainly there has to be beauty on the bleak days too. Knowing what I do about myself I decided to focus on the good that small things bring. I decided to find the beauty in a grey day.

How do you find beauty on a grey day?

It is ironic that to chase the blues away I was looking for colour.

One positive note about living amidst a grey pallet is that any colour that does exist tends to stand out. Walking under the pallor of a sombre sky I begin looking for anything to brighten my day. I was going to make it a pleasant day. I walked by Canadian Tire and noticed the red in their signs. The colour really stood out against the dreariness of the day. The flash of red, blue, green and silver cars driving by made the cityscape come alive. Red brick houses which fade under the summer sun now stood out.

At first glance the picture is drab but on closer inspection you will notice the mossy greens on the tree.
I then looked for colour in the natural world. From a different, more upbeat perspective the dirty snow becomes pepper speckled. What used to be dead brown leaves left hanging on half naked trees are now bright touches of colour against the drab landscape. Shades of green touch everything. The few birds left create colour in the sky as they fly by.
Look at the world as though it is a painting and you will find the hints of yellow, orange and blues that support the surface of the landscape. Once you train your mind to see the world in this way it becomes easier to embrace the blues and the greys.

If you choose to look on the bright side then there is hope. The winter blues become a synonym for shades of clean snow and clear ice on a frozen lake.

The skies will always be blue above the grey clouds. We just need to remind ourselves of that when we take the long walk through winter.

I leave you with a burst of colour to lighten you winter.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Walking In The Snow: One Canadian's Route to Culture.

Winter sun on a clear day.
The winter sun is shy this morning prefering to stretch out and yawn its way into the day. It makes shadows of the tree limbs before rising slowly to peek over the tips of tree tops. The rays fan out and the world begins to sparkle. Icicles dangle precipitiously from my rooftop and my yard shines brilliantly with millions of crystals that make up the snow. Yes. Snow has finally fallen and I must now face the prospect of walking in it.
Snow drifts reach the windows of a nearby school.

What is a Canadian winter without alternative methods of propelling ourselves forward? In the north they make regular use of sled dogs and snowmobiles. In the woods snowshoes are needed in order to pass over deep snow. I once used skates to get from point A to point B on a frozen Winnipeg street.
This week saw me meet winter head on, face first and butt down. I spent the week strapping my feet into four alternative methods of movement over the snow.

Adventure #1: Sleds and snowboards.

My first attempt at snowboarding.
The hill was small but the snow was packed in layers over the slumbering grasses. People of all ages were settling onto sleds and pushing away from the top of the hill in order to speed down.
There were whoops of joy and tears of pain as the sleds tossed bodies this way and that. The hill had lumps and bumps that bruised our bums but laughter and smiles soothed away the smarts.
My son and his friend were breaking in a new snowboard. The more I watched them the more I wanted to try. I grew up downhill skiing but had never tried snowboarding. My son grudgingly passed me his bright red Burton and watched with a wary eye my attempts to strap in. I managed, only falling over a couple of times. My husband was on call to help me up then I was on my way, staggering sideways along the hill rather than swooping gracefully in twists and turns. I was thrilled though. The wind was with me whipping fluries in circles around me as I fell and fell again until I finally reached the bottom of the hill. Hardly discouraged I laughed at myself and at the looks on my son and his friends faces, especially when I asked them to help me up.
Strapping two feet to a single board and flying down (or in my case down, then across, then down) the hillside was an adventure but I was ready for a rest. I gave myself a day then headed for the ski slopes.

Back on skiis after only fifteen years!

Adventure #2: Downhill Skiing

Getting back on skiis after fifteen years is easy; it is truly like riding a bike...downhill...on snow...with poles....ok, so it isn't anything like riding a bike, but it does come back to you pretty quickly!
We went to Calabogie Peaks located near Renfrew Ontario. This is the hill I grew up on. I took skiing lessons here from an early age and spent many weekends here on school ski trips and with family and friends.
 Again, I struggled with the equipment. Much has changed since I last skiied and I was using rentals this day. Ski boots are very different than snow boots. They are thick solid masses of plastic and metal designed to keep you strapped on to two skinny sticks that propel you down mountains. Downhill skiing can get you from one place to another quickly but the thrill is in flying past trees and around bends that threaten to end abrubtly until you turn the corner and realize that the path continues until you approach the homestretch at which point you let it all go and glide without hesitation to the grounds circling the lodges and ski lifts.
Unlike the snowboard I was able to make use of both legs but skiing is nothing like walking so my next adventure was to try snowshoes.

Adventure #3: Snowshoes

Couple Snowshoeing in Canada 1907. Picture is from the Government of Ontario Archives and is public domain.

A couple of days later I awoke to a sky that was an ominous grey colour.The drab clouds hung discordant against the backdrop of yellow and olive greens nestled into the makeup of the trees along the horizon.

Sallow colours of a swamp against the gray winter sky.
A chickadee peeks at me from his perch in a pine tree.
It took me a moment to figure out how to strap the oval shaped titanium framed shoes on to my boots but once I was past the wooden steps and out the door I was filled with the spirit of adventure. The frame of the shoe is shaped so as to distribute the weight of the walker so they do no sink into deep snow. The snowshoe facilitates walking in the winter so it is no wonder that once I hit the trail I fell in love! The day remained overcast and mild but precipitation held off. I walked with a friend. We tried walking fast, slow, on the path, off the path and into the woods. We took turns leading and following. I took my friend through a deep area of snow and up an embankment. We noted how our muscles felt and decided that snowshoeing was a great workout. It was also a pleasant walk in the woods. The trees were filled with chickadees who followed us along the trail. We stopped to look out at a pond and watched cattails bend with the wind. Snowshoes are efficient but slower paced and I relished the opportunity to once more be walking among the flora and fauna that nature shares with us.
Walking with snowshoes.

Adventure #4: Cross-Country Skiing.

A lesson in cross-country skiing saw me slide my feet into softer bootie like gear and prepare for gliding on sleek skiis over the countryside, which in this case was the trails at the Little Cataraqui Conservation Area.
Cross country skiing requires a completely different kind of boot.

Well, I was preparing but my adventure turned into something quite different than expected.
I was so excited to be wearing comfortable equipment. The sport has a graceful quality about it which makes it look easy to do but during my lesson at the end of my adventurous week I was to learn that I had left the most difficult experience for last.
I had joined a group of wide-eyed outdoor enthusiasts who all had experience downhill skiing, hiking and skating. We were ready to hit the trails thinking that it would only be a matter of getting a feel for the equipment. We were wrong.
We were led into a large warehouse of a garage where we were then directed to take off our outdoor clothes and to sit on the scattering of office chairs held together with duct tape and dust.
Our instructor was a kind, optimistic woman who immediately informed us that we would have a lot to learn before getting comfortable on the skiis. We went through quick lessons on the proper clothing (wear acrylic and no hat), how to fall (to the side), how to get up (roll to your front), how to hold the ski pole (hand up and inside the strap) and finally the parts of the equipment. I admit I started to get bored until I realized that every skill I was learning could come in handy on my walks. Maybe I should invest in a headband and goodness knows when I hit the hills of the Camino I will need to know how to best use my walking stick.
We finally got to test our knowledge outside in the snow. Sure enough I fell. Backwards. On my butt. Mistake number one. The next few times I fell I did so to the side and felt my pride redeemed. Somewhat.
We practiced double poleing, diagonal strides and the snowplow. We worked on form and technique until our hour and a half was up. Today my muscles ache and I am bruised despite not having even touched a tip to the trails! I will return however. I did start to get a feel for it and it is a graceful sport once you get going.

This week I was reminded that there are no obstacles, only opportunities.

At any point this week I could have quit. I could have used the snow as an excuse to stay indoors wrapped up in my Bay blanket drinking my Timmy's and wearing my woolen Roots pyjamas and socks and reading my Robert Service poems but instead I made the choice to put myself out there and embrace the Canadian winter and all of the opportunities it offers. I walked/travelled many paths but the best path of all led to the heart of my Canadian culture. Like the Canadians who came before me I felt this week to be of hearty stock. I will keep walking this winter, no matter how high or deep the snow gets.

What do you learn from your winter traditions and culture?