I 'tsk, tsk' at the
litter strewn about the grass at the side of the trail. Indignantly, I note
that there's a garbage can right there. How lazy can one get? Debris from
drinks and snacks purchased at grocery store. Then, I remind myself that I don't
want to be one of those old people who sits in judgment on the world. Am I
perfection incarnate? My son once precluded family news with "Don't be
judgmental, mom". I try.
I'm walking the Hamilton-Brantford rail
trail. What a great idea to convert rail lines into recreational trails. I
start at the back of the grocery store, finishing just past the Hamilton
Golf and Country Club. The trail is paved and snow is removed by the City,
making it usable in all weather. Thank you, Hamilton.
My eyes sift through winter-ravaged flora
edging the path. Teasel is standing strong, backlit by the sun, it looks like
black candelabra. Up close, it is a soft brown. Pioneers used the stiff spikes
on the seed pods to comb debris out of fleece before spinning it into yarn. I
am impressed by the ingenuity of our ancestors. With age, I often wonder about
the origins of words and inventions. Too much time. Not enough time.
The procession of walkers and bikers is of
endless interest to me. Students zip by on bikes, heading to and from McMaster.
The blue rental bikes are popular. I wonder which students are prepared for
today's class. Which ones are taking their education seriously? Do they know
how lucky they are?
A young woman clad in colourful spandex
passes me. She pumps her bent arms like pistons...left arm punches forward,
then right. Her pace is steady, measured. Reflexively, I whip myself for a
lifetime of self-neglect. I still don't take care of myself even though my
expiry date is approaching. Will this weakness be a painful regret at the end?
Probably, there will be more important issues to resolve as I ride into the
Head down, a young man doggedly propels
the wheels of his chair forward with his arms. I mentally salute his courage. I
doubt he cares about my opinion. He is doing what he has to do to live a normal
life. I think about the days when the disabled were housebound. That must have
In front of me is a massive pile of feces.
There's too much for it to be dog poop, even for a Mountain Pyrenees. It looks
like horse droppings but who would ride a horse around here? Surely not the
police. They'd have a bag attached to the horse's bottom. I file the poop away
as one of life's mysteries.
Once I reach the QEW overpass, I'm almost
half way. Leaning on the railing, I wonder where everyone is going - work,
deliveries, visits, a woman in labour, a funeral. Ah, funerals! A topic close
to my heart. Funny, that. Some funerals have long, snaking cortèges. How does
one person merit that many mourners? Personally, my mourners will fit into one
limousine. Maybe two.
When I started doing this trail several
weeks ago, I used to turn around at the QEW. I felt I couldn't go further. But
I wasn't reaching my Fitbit goal. My daughter suggested I go to the end of the
trail. So I did. I pushed myself long after my energy was depleted. It was
excruciating. I felt like I was climbing Kilimanjaro while carrying my
equipment on my back. Now, it's just hard.
So, I'm reaching my daily goal of seven
kilometers a day. But, now the bar is higher. My Fitbit reports include others
who have joined my account. I am being significantly out-walked by my
eighty-one-year-old brother, Dan, in Montreal;
sixty-year-old Sal, in B.C., is the Road Runner. I have to up my game.
I sit on one of three benches along the
trail to rest and do head rolls. It helps relieve the burning pain in a
shoulder muscle. A railway yard sits in front of me. I'm at the caboose end of
a train which has its engine running. An American flag is painted on the side.
A sense of wanderlust wells up like when I was young. I envy the people who are
about to travel maybe thousands of miles through cities, mountains and forests.
Finally, I reach the sign that says
'Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail'. It is balm to my eyes. Now, I can turn back.
Fitbit registers my pulse at 175. I wonder at which point the heart explodes.
My stop watch indicates twenty-five minutes and eleven seconds, a substantial
improvement over my initial trips when I dragged myself along the trail.
So I begin the return journey. I hear a
cracking sound. A man is playing a solo round of golf in balmy January weather.
Must be good for the soul. Further on, there's a beautiful cat nestling among
the spent weeds. He's black with a white chest and nose. Stone-still and
placid, he has no concern for trail traffic. Some unwitting rodent will become
An angry voice becomes louder behind me.
Turning, I see he's alone and walking rapidly towards me. With no one else in
sight, I'm a bit apprehensive. But, I am not on his radar. He is admonishing
someone who has wronged him. Dark tights are overlaid with cotton boxer shorts.
His thin jacket is inadequate for the weather. Rubber clogs shod his feet.
Everything is filthy. I would like to give him warmer clothes.
Finally, I arrive at the grocery store parking lot. Angry Man is standing among the boulders to the side of the trail's
entrance, still discoursing with his imaginary transgressor. I plod towards the
giant building like someone who has been marooned on a deserted island.
My reward - coffee and bagel. I write my
daily journal entry with things like 'Trump inaugurated! God help us all'.
Nothing scintillating going on in my life. I spot a former writing teacher from
Mohawk, Jeff Griffiths. He's having coffee with a friend. He won't remember me
so I don't approach. At the coffee urns, the Angry Man is filling his cup. To
my surprise, he blends in with the other customers. No yelling. He is aware and
capable of adhering to social boundaries.
There's a flutter of activity around me.
Outside, a policeman is maneuvering his midnight-black horse through a narrow
gate into grocery store's patio. The horse comes right up to my window. I reach for
my cell and take a mug shot of the poop bandit!
Spent and worn, I pick up 1,500 more steps
walking home. What am I getting out of this? Besides the physical benefits of
more energy, my brain is being flooded with endorphin's. I'm more positive, cheerful.
I smile more. Enough years have been spent on stress, worry and
self-recrimination. Why not enjoy what time is left? I chuckle at my
competitive streak with myself and others. That's new. I wonder if it's been
there all along. I wonder if it comes from being a twin - a direct comparison
from cradle to grave.