As I sit here on the second tier of a four tiered retaining wall on 203rd Street in Maple Ridge, I am pondering.
It is St. Patrick’s Day. It doesn’t feel like it. It feels like just another day in the life of a COVID avoider. Reset in new ways — no gatherings, no in-person celebrations; nothing special; nothing new. I am, however, doing my bit by wearing something green just in case. Just in case of what, I am not sure, but maybe for someone who sees me walk by who might be Irish? All we can do is wave.
A wave! It is amazing how powerful a wave can be. I don’t think we realized that before COVID hit. Much like a smile used to do — we don’t get a lot of those anymore because of masks so we can only imagine smiles. We also don’t hug or kiss cheeks anymore either; but, somehow a wave has become a good replacement for all of those losses. I wave a lot and those who don’t reciprocate were probably miserable people before anyway — there’s no changing those types I guess.
Looking around I actually see a lot of green — the grass, the trees, bushes, shrubs — glossy and matte. All very beautiful. The weird weather patterns have kept most of the greens looking spry; only a few look a little drawn. Much like people these days.
It’s quiet where I live and where I walk or cycle. Almost eerie as we all remain obedient and calm while the COVID storm subsides, but continues to pester us.
Winter yards are being readied for Spring growth; people are out doing their best to enjoy some normalcy, during tough times, weird times, different times. They are planting fresh seeds, seedlings or bedding plants, and getting excited about refreshing life for themselves and for those around them.
I just walked by a chicken farm along Powell Avenue. The farmer waved. She has seen me before, many times, and we always wave. We are too far away from each other to talk. Talking does not seem to be necessary. We are happy with the waves. Our waves include smiles. Such nice gifts. She tends to her chickens and roosters, and I usually wait for the cock-a-doodle-doo before I continue on.
As I look up ahead on this long country road, I see another neighbourhood treasure — the dwarf horses attached to a carriage carrying a person holding reins and another standing on a side compartment looking stern and attentive to something, but I am not sure what. Stopping them to ask questions just does not seem right. They are very serious people and just seem to want to carry on.
They do both wave and smile, as they continue on clearly enjoying carrying forward how life used to be — carefree and simple. Doing the best with what they had back then worked well. As I watch them trot ever so slowly by, I realize that we just have to do the best we can with what we’ve got happening now.
Carefree and simple worked years, decades and centuries ago. Today it is more like ‘careful’ and ‘simple’. Our lives have definitely been simplified and we have had to fully embrace ‘careful’ in this our new reality. The miniature horses and their trainers trot on carefully and clearly still appreciate the simple life. Seeing them, brings me feelings of optimism during this time of so much uncertainty.
While cycling around town the other day, I heard my inner self say how great this life has been this past year. I had to stop and rewind that sound bite and listen again. Yes, that is what she said. I instantly wondered if the devil had found his way into my make-up! About as quickly as that thought surfaced, I knew he hadn’t. My inner voice was actually right — it always is. My life is new and refreshed, and I am feeling better than ever on all counts.
Despite all of the shock and sadness; adjustments and amendments; worries and wants; losses and gains, brought on by the COVID pandemic, my life has turned out pretty darn well. I feel comfortable in my new cocoon and proud to have taken the reins to be my own chief architect. I initially felt the horrors of COVID were creating an “every person for themselves mentality” and I needed to take control. I called it my control of self or self control, in order to both survive and move forward at the same time. I knew I did not want to fail and I did not want my life to be put completely on hold. I had to deal with the cards I had been dealt and not fall to pieces.
My new habits and routines have became commonplace and they keep me energized and calm. I communicate on line with friends and family who are fanned out globally. I have started to read biographical books. I have written many stories and poems. I create a weekly newsletter highlighting three points about one interesting subject. The objective is to inform and to encourage discussion; the feedback has been great and that motivates me to continue.
I have allowed myself to get challenged by Margaret Atwood — her thinking, her teachings, her novels and her poetry. Trying to figure out her multi-layered messaging metaphors can be very trying and stressful, but definitely intellectually challenging. This was the perfect time to take on that challenge. I enjoy critiquing her work and the best success in doing so was to take her poetry book on neighbourhood walks with me, stop to read a line, walk and think; read another line, walk and think; read a whole stanza, walk and think; and, then get to that four tiered retaining wall to write my logical analysis. Intense analysis is such a fulfilling and different component to my life. It has opened my eyes to so much more like looking beyond the surface of anything. Things definitely are not as they sometimes seem. People are not who they sometimes present themselves to be.
For this past year, almost every day I walk six kilometres, sometimes alone and sometimes with someone who stays 2 metres away. I cycle a lot on nice weather days; go to Aquafit and AquaYoga a few times a week. I bake a bit and cook a lot. I have takeout dinner once every two weeks and a delicious Brunch at Humble Roots in Maple Ridge once every other of the two weeks. I play Scrabble with 12 people from across the continent and crib with three locals every day, or almost every day, for 3 hours a day. I watch two TV programs daily, and occasionally a few others.
All of the above replaced a lot of things I used to do and a few people I used to spend time with, but the funny thing is that I cannot remember what most of those things were. Some of the people turned out to be insincere (imposters or impersonators), gossiping socialites or just plainly people not suited for my time or attention. Obviously they did not really matter because I am not mourning those losses. I do miss in-person time with family and actual friends, plus my joy of travelling the world. All three are waiting patiently, as am I.
When the COVID intrusion subsides, I don’t think this new life of mine will change much — at least that is how I feel right now. I cannot see myself turning back to refocus and reconstruct again. Yes, we have been on a long road, with peaks and bounds, but we have come a long way, made a lot of headway and I actually love most of what is.
I do realize it has not been the same for everyone; nothing ever is. I, too, have mourned the deaths, the harshness of the public health orders, the financial strains, business stresses and the anxieties. I feel for all of those people and I wish I could take their reins and magically make things better for them. The only help I can give them is to socially distance, wear my filtered mask and sanitize my hands before entering and exiting a building, room, taxi, bus or train. I do my bit to support small businesses and encourage others to do the same.
Through it all, I have found my new channel of peace through the madness while staying put right here in my own West Maple Ridge neighbourhood. Without COVID times, I would never have realized that for me the grass is greener on this side, and that’s how I will continue to go forward. Caring and careful; astute, authentic and aware; honest and humble; mindful and motivated; but, also strong and simple, listening to my inner self, and in control of my self and my life choices.
This new life is a significant variation of what once was; but, so far, holding those reins has been much better for me both emotionally and physically. Soon that will be true socially as well.
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