Confessions of a Street Walker – part 11

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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I try to be observant when I am out walking especially when I am in a previously unexplored area. I was out for a walk the other day and came across a mystery.
One that stopped me in my tracks.
I might say it left me speechless but anyone who knows me – knows that speechlessness does not often happen to me.
This is what I saw in the ditch.

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Now, this puzzled me. What an odd formation of ice. How did it get that shape? What were those odd pointy marks on the top right of the ice?

I had to walk a bit further to finally figure out that the culvert had a build up of ice and, with a bit of a thaw, the ice escaped the culvert and slid downstream in the ditch with the sole purpose of perplexing me.

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So, mystery solved.

The second mystery was equally perplexing. I wish I had taken a picture but I didn’t and since a picture is worth a thousand words we will see how many I will need to explain this to you.

After a significant snowfall, I noticed that there were strips of snow stuck to a long fence.

Snow on the fence

It was similar to the fence in the photograph above except the snow was a solid horizontal stripe covering about two feet off the ground to about four feet off the ground. The rest of the fence was bare.

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UPDATE: WRITING THIS UPDATE AFTER THE SNOWMAGEDON OF NOVEMBER 11, 2019 AND FOUND THE KIND OF STRIPE OF SNOW THAT I WAS REFERRING TO. LIKE THIS:20191113_150752*** *** ***

This perplexed me. How in the heck did that snow get there?

Why was it so much higher than the rest of the snow all around it? Were kids throwing snowballs at the fence in an amazingly accurate manner to create a solid strip of snow?  I pictured hordes of children lining up just to stick the snow to the fence just to mystify me. Why would the bottom and tops halves of the fence have no snow and the middle had snow solidly affixed to it? I confess that this had me wondering for days before I found out the answer.

When my hubby and I were going past the fence, I expressed my state of perplexity to my practical, commonsensical husband. He told me that the stripes were the result of large snowblowers blowing the snow at the fence.

Duh!

Another mystery solved. It should not have confused me as much and as long as it did but I confess I am not always the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

 

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 10

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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If you’ve ever seen me walking and catch me laughing to myself it’s probably because someone is whispering in my ear. I often listen to podcasts while I am out walking the streets. I could listen to music but I haven’t figured out a good free music app yet.

There are times and places to listen to the eternity of stuff that there is out there waiting for us. I also think that too many people spend too much time on their devices and I confess that I must also include myself in that declaration. Sometimes communication with real people with real ideas can be lost to some earbuds and that can be a little sad.

That said, the three podcasts that I have currently queued are:

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Radiolab – Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich take me places I would not likely find on my own and I always feel smarter after listening.

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TedTalks – From economics to science to history to the future. It’s all told in easy to understand ways. I appreciate the content and the variety which challenges my mind.

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Penn’s Sunday School – This podcast is from the talkative half of Penn & Teller – a terrific magic act based out of Las Vegas. I’m a big fan of Penn. I have a number of his books and his essays are particularly thoughtful. I have listened to each episode and Penn, Michael Goudeau and Matt Donnelly are especially good storytellers. Penn is an atheist and I’ve learned how to be a better Christian (well… person) from their conversations. The language can get quite salty (translation: there is plenty of swearing) but, for me, it’s worth my time to listen to their ideas even if they oppose mine.

Listening to these podcasts is sort of like listening to a really smart friend.

So while I spend time listening while I walk – I also spend time talking…to God.

How is that for a walking partner? The Creator of the Universe and I have some pretty great conversations (albeit they will be considered by most as one-sided).

I pray for myself and the people I know. I pray about things I am thankful for and things that trouble my soul. I believe that He hears my prayers. I often pray for the homes I walk past or the neighbourhoods that I walk in. That thought fills me with a sense of community and a sort of contentment. It’s not really about letting God know what’s happening on this blue dot in this space and time – He already knows but it sure does feel good to talk to Him. But then again, I don’t have to be walking to do that.

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Confessions of a Street Walker – part 9

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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This walking project has me walking outside in all kinds of weather. I have had hot-sweating-from-pores-I-never-knew-I-had walks and I have had cold-snot-freezing-in-my-nose walks.

I have been rained on. I have been snowed on.
I have been hailed, sleeted and blown upon.

Our wacky Canadian weather can mean that I’m sometimes not dressed appropriately for a walk outside but that doesn’t stop me. What does stop me is ice and slippery snow. Hamilton had it’s first significant ‘snow event’ over the weekend and most of us are still digging out. This puts quite the kibosh on walking for me as I’m not a fan of walking when I can’t even find the sidewalk. I know that later this week I won’t be able to take some long walks so that, pretty much, left today. So just how will I be able to walk the 10 miles I have committed myself to walk this week?

Early this morning I got my hubby to drop me off at Limeridge Mall and I joined, once again, those intrepid folks who call themselves ‘mall walkers’.

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For a time, years ago, I used to walk with Tina Kennedy at the mall three times a week. The mall doors opened at 7am and we would join the mall walkers on their way past Sears and down to the Bay and sometimes circles around the food court. Around and around we would go.

Back then, they would be shorter walks so that I could be back to make sure the kids got on the school bus. They were able to get themselves ready but I liked to be home to watch them get on the orangy-yellow bus that would give me my daily freedom and quiet.

Today I didn’t get to mark off a newly walked-upon-street but I did get a ten-mile walk done even if it did take me more than three hours.

My MapMyWalk app did have problems with following my steps because this was not the route I followed at the mall.

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I was reminded today how enjoyable mall walking was. Water fountain nearby. Washrooms close. Stores were not open yet so there was no temptation to shop. Out of the elements. Friendly folks.

20190121_111150A couple of the friendly folks – Hollis and Heather.

But I confess that those elements have grown on me. Fresh air. A gentle breeze. Sunshininess. New things to look at. I am looking forward to spring already and January is not even over yet. * sigh *

 

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 8

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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Maybe you know what chuffa is … or maybe you don’t.

From The Urban Dictionary: chuffa

noun – the erroneous bull**** of a script for a movie. Bruce Willis coined the phrase and uses it when shooting films when he gets rid of the unwanted dialogue or actions.

Kevin Smith: “Bruce Willis was looking at the script for scenes 4 & 8 and goes, ‘Chuffa. Chuffa’ and starts ripping out page after page. …
I’m shocked and I ask ‘what’s Chuffa?’
And Bruce says, ‘Chuffa’s chuffa.’
So I go, ‘okay, I really don’t know what “chuffa” is. What is it’?
Then he says, ‘It’s “Oh, what a nice picture. What a cute dog. Where’s the ****ing bomb?” It’s that bull**** that slows down the entire movie.’

Now in writing terms, I think that chuffa just might mean some bits of writing that might not quite fit in anywhere. It isn’t a whole section of the story or it might not be moving the story along. They are just little bits that, if put in with the rest of it all, just might mess things up. But sometimes, you grow fond of the chuffa.

* * *

When I was asked if my husband is supportive of all of my walking I have to answer yes. Although he has said that he also likes to see me walking around the house…

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….pushing a vacuum.

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My relative…who could remain nameless, but won’t…brother-in-law Harry has been jogging for many years. When his family moved to a new community he was shocked to hear a rumor that a suspected naked man had been spotted running through the neighbourhood. He was even more shocked to realize that, since his jogging garb that summer consisted of beige shorts and a beige t-shirt, it was possible that he was the fully clothed – unidentified naked jogger.

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* * *

I confess that, sometimes, chuffa is my favourite part.


	

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 7

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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Walking runs in my family.

My grandmother walked and my mother walks. My brother Jeff walks. So does my brother Doug but he is an avid cyclist rather than a walker. My sister Jennifer even took up running and was in a number of races. Other members of my family are bi-pedal enthusiasts. My Aunt Edie can probably out walk me – in distance and in speed.

All of this walking does take up quite a bit of time, especially at the pace that I usually maintain which, when compared to animals, the not-so-speedy tortoise comes to mind. Years ago I got on a treadmill to check out my pace. I knew that runners had broken the 4-minute mile and so I thought that I would be at least double that. After running as fast as I could for one mile I was a tad disappointed to find out that I was over 16 minutes. So we have established that my fastest is not that fast after all.

When I started my walking project I did think that maybe I should try to increase my pace. I would get to my destination sooner and running sounded cooler than just walking. So one morning during my walk I saw a woman walking on the other side of the road in the same direction that I was heading. Her shoes did not look as sensible as mine and she was carrying a large purse. In my head challenged her to a race.

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I picked up my feet and off I went. Huffing and puffing, I jogged a little way down the street. It was not pretty but I did it. When I got to the next cross street checked to see how far she was behind me. Oh dear, she was actually ahead of me. I must confess that she had walked faster than I had run. Oy

I might not be fast but I am tenacious.

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 6

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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So you might ask what kind of special equipment I used for my walking project. The good thing about walking as a form of exercise is that it is relatively easy on the wallet. A good pair of walking shoes is best and, of course, weather appropriate clothing. I do have a denim-ish jacket with deep pockets that takes me through most of our Ontario weather. Into those pockets go:

  • my car keys
  • a water bottle
  • my fully charged cell phone with earphones
  • an empty Ziploc bag if it looks at all that it is going to rain so I can put my phone and keys into the aforementioned Ziploc bag
  • some spare change
  • Kleenex tissues
  • sunshades for my glasses
  • if it is a complicated route that has bits of streets here and there to fill in I take along a printed map

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I wore out a pair of shoes within the first two years, so now I rotate between four pairs of shoes that have various degrees of ‘air-conditioning’. If I manage to venture out when it is snowy or icy I wear boots but they aren’t as comfortable as my runners.

I tend to hold on to my shoes for too long. First, they wear out just above my big toes. Once the toe starts appearing, you would think that the shoes should be quickly tossed out.  But it takes a while for me to get my shoes comfortably worn-in and then I walk them into the ground. I do the same with my non-‘walking’ shoes.

Last November we went to a swanky gala. I got myself spiffed up (as much as I can be spiffed up) but had a difficult time selecting shoes for the evening. It was quite chilly but I thought I could still get away with some open-toe sandals that hadn’t yet been put away with the summer shoes.  They were dressy and comfortable.

After the evening was over, we were on our way back to the car and, as I walked, I started to feel that the shoes weren’t that comfortable any more. In the dark parking lot, I couldn’t see a problem but I felt one. I decided to toss them out once I got home.

Good decision because this is what the shoes looked like by the time I got home.

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With plenty of ‘air-conditioning’ they were a shoe-in for the garbage bag.

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 5

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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During my wanderings of every street in Hamilton I have stumbled across some intriguing houses.

Some were grand and others were more humble.

Some were surrounded by flowers, gardens and trees with other homes feeling the sting of  neglect.

I love the variety of architecture where I live. The downtown area is even more varied.  It makes my walks so much more interesting.

The ones that I find most intriguing are abandoned houses. I have had the opportunity to go inside some of the most abandoned of houses with my photographer friend Hank. He loves to  explore the secrets that these relics of the past contain and I have tagged along a couple of times.

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But there are so many abandoned places that you are not allowed to explore. No trespassing signs guard the best ones. Hamilton has it’s share of abandoned places that time has not been kind to.

20170228_093333The back yard of a home off of Upper James.  I will confess that I was itching to go into this one before it is gone.

20170416_134833Out in the country.  A brambly yard. Locked up tight.

20170522_105555Near the edge of the escarpment. Vandals got to this one.

20161102_123142Too late. This one on my street was coming down.

I wish that I had been allowed to go inside to have a peek at what it looked like but we do not always get that chance. As Hank says, “take only pictures – leave only footprints.”

 

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 4

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.walking-feet-clipart-qsdkpvj

I call myself a walker of streets but it’s probably more accurate to state that I am a walker of sidewalks. Almost all of our city sidewalks are pretty great but some of them are pitiful and in some areas, sidewalks do not exist at all. Most of the new cul-de-sacs or courts don’t have sidewalks. There is one street that defies any pedestrian sense. Nebo Road – between Stonechurch and Rymal has no sidewalks but neither is there a shoulder nor a bike lane. If you wish to walk down Nebo there are some sections where you must walk in traffic. There is a bus route which goes through there so I am puzzled to think where people are supposed to walk when they are let out at the bus stop. When I knew I was going to be walking there with potential traffic I chose to walk very early on a summer long weekend when I expected the roads to not be busy. Still, one has to be diligent and a little daring to attempt to walk that street.

Some streets I was not permitted to walk down. Our QEW and our LINC do not allow pedestrian traffic. The Queen Street Access is too perilous to attempt and I believe it would be reckless to even try. The Sherman Access had the same dangers but I was able to walk it when there was an extended construction closure that allowed me to venture down with no danger. I also managed to walk up a good bit of the Red Hill Expressway when it was closed to vehicle traffic for a marathon. So I am one of the few people who might get excited when one of the mountain accesses is closed down for construction.

There are also a number of Hamilton streets which are part of a business. Especially down by the lake there are streets which turn into private property and signs that threaten big trouble if anyone dares cross. I tried to walk on Dominion Street but the guard at the gate refused me entry and I was not about to hop any fence.

Once, when I was wandering around the McMaster University campus near the west parking lot, my walking became a bit of an adventure. According to Google Maps there was a trail that I could take and come out onto Cootes Drive which was part of the Hamilton/Dundas border. I took the trail until I ended up at the edge of a wooded area. The only clue that there was a trail was the sign that told me that there was no winter maintenance on the trail ahead – a trail which I couldn’t see, oh well. I decided to follow the little Google Maps squiggle anyway. The next sign was ‘This Might Be A Bad Idea. Go Back, Dummy.’ OK, it didn’t say that but it probably should have. There was no longer any sort of path and since this walk was in September the squiggly line took me into what felt like a squishy marsh bed. Hmm, had I ever heard of quicksand in the area?

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I confess that I pictured my lone shoe as the only clue left after the bog swallowed me alive. Thankfully the soggy ground stayed only soggy and not swallowy. The reeds were taller than my head and I guessed that poison ivy just might be in the area. So up went my arms, over my head, as I dance-stepped my way through the bog. Rustling reeds sounded remarkably like wild animals that I was sure were salivating over the plump meal that had just wandered into their neighbourhood. I really think that there should have been a ‘We Told You This Was A Bad Idea. You Numbskull You’ sign. By the time I came to the road I felt like I had returned from a jungle exposition and that I had barely survived. But I did survive to walk many more walks.

My walking adventures, imagined and otherwise, have left an indelible spot on my heart.

Confessions of a Street Walker – Part 3

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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So one might ask – Just how does one become a street walker? Well, the prerequisite is that one can walk and then one only needs to find streets. I happen to have the ability to walk and I happened to find some streets just outside of my front door. I eventually set out on an adventure to walk all of the streets of my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

You might think that I needed some sort of athletic skill to achieve this feat with my feet. But, perhaps not, because I confess that I certainly do not possess any athletic skills to speak of.

Team sports were not my ‘thing’ and I’m simply not very coordinated. During my school  years, in regards to sports, I was not the kid who was picked first.  When playing baseball I always went as far into the outfield as I could go and prayed that the baseball would not come anywhere near me. If, perchance, someone would connect with the ball and it soared into the air in my direction, I would thrust my open glove up into the air and I would close my eyes and, again, I would start with the praying.

Basketball was no better. I once stood under the net to catch the ball that was swooshing through the hoop. Poised underneath I was going to catch that ball and commence dribbling. The problem was that the ball slipped through my outstretched fingers and I caught the ball with my face. A bloody nose was the only dribbling that I accomplished that day.

This lack of athletic skill continued into my adulthood. A number of family members play Ultimate Frisbee and I went down to watch a game. Before it started it was determined that one of the girls on my brother’s team was going to be late. They could play with a player short or he suggested that I pretend to play until their player arrived. The other team wouldn’t know that I couldn’t throw or catch a frisbee. It was worth a try. Our team members were told that they were not, under any circumstances, to throw the frisbee to me. I lined up with the rest of them and my job was to get into the end zone so that one of their players would be forced to guard me. I suppose I did OK because the player did follow me to the end zone but when the frisbee flew overhead – I ducked. The other team  quickly determined that I was no threat whatsoever and mostly ignored me as I ran around in circles until my replacement showed up.

So it has been determined that I am not really any good at team sports, but I am not really any better on my own. I tried the treadmill, which was harder than it looked. The gym was not too busy and I was doing OK. I had a nice speed going and starting to feel like I was getting in a groove.

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I thought that I could let my mind wander a bit and very suddenly that treadmill, rather violently, spit me off it’s back end where my shocked self was amazingly able to stay on my feet. With my wildly wobbly knocking knees, I tried to walk away like I had just figured out the best way to dismount oneself from a treadmill.

Despite my lack of athletic skills, or maybe because of it, I did fall in love with walking.  I  continue to look forward to tying up my shoelaces and getting out onto the sidewalks of my wonderful city. Maybe you will see me out there. If you do, give a wave.

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 2

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My walking journey began in September of 2014. I started out on a Labour Day Monday and decided to go for a walk. The trouble was that I was not prepared in any way to haul my carcass down the sidewalks of my Hamilton neighbourhood. I wore the wrong shoes. I didn’t have socks on.  I had not taken any water. By the time I was half way around the block I thought seriously of throwing in the towel on the whole project but I still had to get home. So, on I plodded. I was thirsty and I was sweating and I could feel the blisters forming as I trudged my way home. The whole episode was miserable and all I had done was walk around the block.
After that I still got out for a walk every couple of days but walking and I were not going to be friends.

For the first two or three weeks I hated walking and then everything changed. I had been walking down Acadia Drive – almost home. There was a  car that was pulling out of the driveway of a house up ahead and it pulled up along side me.
The woman in the car rolled her window down and called out, “keep it up, you’re doing great.” Well that was nice to hear. How great was that?
As I came up to the house that she had left I spoke to the woman who had been waving goodbye from her driveway. I told her that the woman in the car had been encouraging and that I really appreciated that.
She said something along the lines of, “I am a walker too and we all need encouragement.”
I replied, “but you don’t understand, I am not a walker and this is really hard for me.”
With her finger wagging at me, she smiled as she said, “well keep it up, you look terrific, you can do this.”
The next morning when I woke up I realised that I was a walker.
As I set out walking with my new attitude, I walked with no particular route in mind and I was slowly discovering that my neighbourhood was worth getting to know on foot. I started keeping track of each street that I walked down and broadened my travels as I marked off each street that I covered.
It was a number of months afterwards that I set myself the goal of walking every street on the Hamilton Mountain and my walking took me past Acadia Drive many times after that. I wanted an opportunity to thank the two women who were so encouraging. The problem was that I could not recall which house it was. It was probably one of three or four possibilities. But I confess that I could not imagine myself knocking on strangers doors looking for this woman. I assumed that I would never get the chance to thank her.

Then, after a couple of years, I finished walking on all of the streets on the Hamilton Mountain and my walking routes started encompassing the whole city and they rarely took me past Acadia Drive. One November day in 2016 I happened to be heading home down Acadia. Wouldn’t you know it,  I saw two ladies leaving one of the possible houses and they were getting into a car.
Now, do I dare ask? What on earth do I say to them?
“Hey, so did you say something to someone two years ago when she was walking past your house?” Well that would be weird. I gave it a try anyways.
I asked her if she was a walker and I tried to explain to her how I remembered a conversation of over two years ago.
The woman said that yes she was a walker.
It took very little conversation for it to become very apparent to me that she was the one.
I had found her. 
I found the woman who’s encouraging words helped me become a walker.
Words that had a huge impact on my life. I got the chance to thank her.
Not just cool. Way cool.
Thanks Barb

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