I’ve never bothered with Meditation. Not the sitting cross-legged-staring-into-the-distance-with-my-fingertips-touching kind, anyway. Does one have to be completely still to meditate? I think not.
As for yoga, stretching and twisting into awkward positions just isn’t my thing. But I have tried. I kept falling over and then pulled my right hamstring. Took months to heal.
Power walking through the streets every day for an hour is my break from reality. That’s seven days a week, all seasons. The only time I walk inside is in summer when the humidity and heat drive me to an air conditioned mall. In winter, crampons over my running shoes give me stability and confidence. Been doing this for decades, I’m a dedicated street walker.
I start each day by going through St. Jude’s Cemetery. That little side trip adds eight hundred steps to my fit-bit count. It also connects me to my son, Matthew, who has been there for six years. I check to see if his latest floral arrangement needs water or pruning. The flowers are always yellow, his favourite colour. A few neighbours have moved in since Matthew’s arrival and our row is nearly complete, but no one nearly as young as he is lying nearby.
I continue on my route through town, thinking about my perfect granddaughters or editing my latest story, which will never be good enough. Over the years, I’ve met many dedicated walkers who have added colour and dimension to my daily experience and influenced my thoughts. Some I see many times a week, others have disappeared from my life, and mostly, I don’t know why. But they are in my thoughts.
Passing the same people day after day, it becomes natural to nod and wish each other a good morning or stop for a brief conversation about the weather, particularly in winter. The wind over the bridge nearly blows you into others and the slick sidewalk forces you to slow down. Some people stop for a brief chat. I never miss an opportunity to listen, and ponder their words after we’ve ended our conversation. It never surprises me to learn a little bit about their lives. We pass each other every day; the sidewalk is our meeting place.
John is my oldest street friend. He’s also much older than I. Many years ago, when his dog was alive, we started wishing each other a pleasant ‘good morning’ and sometimes we chatted for a moment or two. I assumed John’s walks would end when the dog died, but, like me, he’s dedicated. He’s out no matter what the weather. His purpose now is picking up cans, papers and other trash people carelessly toss away, and put it where it belongs. John has great one-liners. One day last winter after weeks of minus twenty degree weather, he said, ‘How do you like global warming?’
The Asian grandpa, as I call him, is another friend. I passed him on my way into town each morning and called ‘hello’ as I went by. He’d raise his arm in a salute. I’d pass him again on my way home as he slowly continued in the same direction to wherever his turn around point was. Again, he’d raise his arm in a salute. That elderly walked miles every day, slowly, his head bent. I haven’t seen him for two years now. Maybe he moved away. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.
I saw Charles years ago, long before he noticed me. He reminded me of Matthew; same cerebral palsy gait. And like Matthew, Charles is handsome. Some days, he wears a hat that makes him look like Harrison Ford. After we started speaking to each other I told him of the resemblance and he laughed. Mostly I do the talking when Charles and I meet on the street. His speech is hard to understand and I know he’s aware of this. Last fall I talked about Donald Trump. ‘I hate the guy,’ said Charles. Those words came out loud and clear.
Before Charles and I became friends, I spoke to another young man, Geoffrey, who used a wheelchair. He could spin that thing around, darting in and out of shop doors held open by one of his many street friends. He disappeared from the scene three years ago. A mutual acquaintance told me he’d died.
Then there’s Charlotte. She rides in comfort and style in a covered stroller. She and I have known each other for about three years now. She just turned seven. The first time I saw Charlotte, she had her legs over her head like a Cirque de Soleil acrobat. I introduced myself and her caregiver, Susan, responded with their names. Each time I see them now I stop and talk. Although Charlotte is blind she smiles when I speak to her. When we first met, she couldn’t yet sit on her own but now she’s starting to walk. Last week she held a cell phone to her ear. ‘Send me a text,’ I said. She laughed.
Pete and Peter have both passed on now. Pete, my neighbour and good friend, died two years ago. Many mornings when I left the house, he was out with his dog. We’d walk to the end of the street together. Pete had a big life. As a thoracic surgeon, he worked all over the world. Although retired for over twenty years, he studied and kept current with the latest procedures. I loved listening to his experiences in various countries around the world and was fascinated by his account of global events as he saw them at the time. We often remarked about how little the world has changed even though medical science has marched on.
Peter died just last week. I’d been passing him on the street for more than ten years. During our brief conversations, we discovered a connection. His wife had volunteered at the nursery school where Matthew attended over forty-five years ago. Small community, Oakville.
After my daily march, I always feel restored. And like all exercise fanatics, I make sure to do some stretches, Achilles, hamstrings, back. And here’s where yoga comes in – I stand on one foot for sixty seconds, then the other while I stretch my quadriceps. I call it the ‘Savvy Seventy-Four Year Old’ pose. And I guess concentrating on objects in front of me to maintain my balance could be called meditation.
Then I’m ready to tackle whatever comes next. Usually, writing for hours, something I’d never be able to enjoy without my form of yoga and meditation.