(Part 3 in a series of reflections based on striking out from home in each of the four directions.)
As my friend T. smartly pointed out to me yesterday, to truly walk eastward I would have to wait for winter and the river to freeze over. So I have to cheat a little.
Ever so slightly to the south the bike paths loop up to the pedestrian walkway on the St. Vital Bridge. The walk across the bridge itself is protected from the freeway traffic by a waist-high concrete barrier, and if I pause halfway I am treated to a spectacular view up the river.
At the eastern end of the bridge I have options. I can keep heading eastward along the Bishop Grandin Greenway. I can head southward down River Road, which follows the curve in the river when it too meanders eastward for a while. Or I can turn northward and follow the riverbank through the cemetery and into St. Vital Park.
I have to confess that I haven’t done a lot of walking on the east side of the river yet. Because it takes a bit of hiking just to get over the bridge, these are longer walks, and I need to build up a bit more endurance first.
Because what I may not have mentioned yet is that I’m walking on a two-month-old artificial hip.
For the past few years my deteriorating hip joint has curtailed my walking, and I realize now how much that impacted my overall well-being. I walk to think and reflect. I walk to de-stress and decompress. I walk to bring order to chaos and make sense out of the nonsense in my life. So when I can’t walk I feel it in more ways than just the stiffness in my legs.
A lifetime of arthritis means I also need to walk for the sake of the stiffness in my legs.
Walking for the sake of walking is a healing force in my life, and I have missed it greatly these past few years. It feels good to be back. I can manage about 40-45 minutes at a stretch now—almost 3km. Each day I try to stretch my walk a little farther. Each time I walk a few steps farther I make a new discovery.
Like when I ventured over the bridge the first time and stumbled on the “Family Memorial” section of the cemetery. That means kids. Row upon row of tiny graves, many of them with only one date on them. It was a shock at first, and then I thought that if I had to visit one of those baby graves, I would be glad that I could walk away for a few paces and look out over the river.
Or like the raspberries I spotted in the park. They were cleverly avoiding harvest by hiding in the protective arms of a mass of thistles along the riverbank.
Or the time I tried to visit the duck pond and found that, despite the pond having been drained for maintenance, a flock of ducks was stubbornly floating in the residual mud puddle.
And because I am blessed to live in a place with four distinct seasons, the potential discoveries are constantly changing. I have never been bored on a walk, even if it was a path I had walked a thousand times before.
Even less so when I have the chance to venture down a new trail.