I go walking: East

(Part 3 in a series of reflections based on striking out from home in each of the four directions.)

Where I live, as seen looking across from the other side.
Where I live, as seen looking across from the other side.

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.

Raspberries with bodyguards

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.

I go walking: South

(Part 2 in a series of reflections based on striking out from home in each of the four directions.)

grassland signTo the south lie the paved bike trails of the Bishop Grandin Greenway. The majority of these pathways run east/west, parallel to the freeway, but I hook up with them briefly where they take me from the end of the dike, under the bridge, and towards the university campus.  Along the way, I pass by a stretch of riverbank that has been designated as a “Grassland Naturalization Area.” Like the paved trails, the sign is a reminder that I am able to enjoy my riverbank walks because of some careful and deliberate planning.

It takes me a little over ten minutes to get from my door to the golf course gate. The golf course that isn’t a golf course any more. The University of Manitoba has acquired the land, and is taking a slow, measured approach to developing it. The community has been promised that, for the first few years, the land will be left untouched to be used as a public park. The old golf course buildings stand abandoned, and a maze of trails criss-crosses the space, along the river, through the trees. Some of these trails have been “built” and represent the path that the golfers would have taken around the property, but the trails I like are the more recent ones that have been created by a silent consensus of feet and bicycle tires.

The land is sparsely populated by students using it as a short cut to the campus, walkers like me, birds, squirrels and deer. Yes deer, here in the middle of the city. The deer have held their ground in spite of two years of stadium construction just across the road.

UM signThe university has launched an international design competition for mixed-use development of the space. While there is always an element of controversy around any land development initiative, I have to say I like what I’ve seen so far. In particular, I like that their design objectives include keeping the riverbank as a public space. I had the opportunity to attend a presentation on the development initiative, and learned that, in preparing the detailed specifications for the design competition, one of the things the university did was plot the GPS coordinates of all the trees on the property. They will be looking for design concepts that maintain existing mature trees. I like that too.

I’m a little concerned about the deer, however. It’s hard to say at this point if there will be a place for them in the new planned community. But for now they are happy to claim this bit of paradise as home.  The young ones skitter past and duck into the weeds along the bank, but the older ones are apt to stand in the middle of the field and stare you down, as if to say “I don’t mind you here as long as you’re  just passing through, but don’t get any funny ideas…”

once upon a golf course...
once upon a golf course…