Mar 31, 2009

I’ve just recently come back from one of those vacations that are heavenly for us folks who have the winter blahs. Here’s a shot of what the coast looks like on a breezy day.

But of course I had to let reality creep in. I took a walk on the beach, but not at the resort. Down the coast and around the turn. We were able to walk for about 30 kms (but only went 5). We saw a stretch of beach they call the Seashell cemetery. A spot where the waves pound so hard the conch shells wash up and eventually disintegrate. Beautiful to see but think of the power of that water. Last year when we were there (on the same beach) there was a fisherman and his family who lived in a traditional home. Concrete slab, wooden structure, gardens…the usual family home on the coast. Then along came a hurricane. No more house, no more concrete pad, no more trees, no more boat. Hard to be a fisherman with no boat. He is now living well back from the site in a plastic hut. Poles strung from the trees, with plastic tarp over the frame, and it was a cold winter this year. Which leads me to think about how lucky we are here in my area. Yes we have a two day storm raging around us, but when it is over, my house will still be here, I’ll still have supplies to purchase and life will go on.

Mar 30, 2009

They’re tearing down a church in the Hydrostone. Do you want to walk by it?

“They’re tearing down St. Joseph’s Church in the Hydrostone. It will make for some interesting photos! Do you want to go for a walk to see it?”

Who wouldn’t, really? I mean, it’s got the makings of a great day out: coffee, friends, history, not to mention a bit of walking and a hint of destruction. For someone who lives near but not in that area, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw among the twisted metal, broken concrete, and splintered wood. While I walk a lot in Halifax I haven’t happen to come by this area for some time during my walks.

Of course, I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t excited by the photographic opportunities in the scene I saw, but truth be told I also was saddened by the historical losses I witnessed.

This church has a story to tell. St. Joseph’s Church is situated in Halifax’s North End at the corner of Russell Street and Gottingen Street, which is in the vicinity of Halifax’s Hydrostone area. That location alone meant that the church would have been destroyed by the Halifax Explosion.

But there was more to this church. So, with some investigation, I came to learn that on Thursday 6 December 1917 – the year the Halifax Explosion occurred – more than 400 parishioners of this church were killed, representing about half of the parish at that time. Still, determined to rebuild, the area’s parishioners and residents began reconstructing the church, first as a basement church in the 1920s and later with the final construction of the upper structure in 1960s.

Declining attendance finally led to St. Joseph’s Church’s closure last summer. You never know what you’ll learn about this city when you get a phone call to go for a walk. You may see interesting sites, but you may also see history fade.

Weather detour

I typically walk to and from work everyday. One could even say that being active is part of my everyday life. I am fortunate to live in a community that is well-lit and includes sidewalks, and I try to take advantage of it through active transportation as well as running.

However, life isn't always about smelling the roses, and it's not always easy to do the right thing (maybe that's why life is about perseverance, but that's a topic for a different blog!). Despite being well aware of the benefits I receive from walking - from contributing to my health and the environment to connecting with friends and helping me work through issues - it's not always easy to do the 'right' thing.
So, here's the truth. I didn't walk to work today. I live a 12-15 min walk to work, and I took my car. I know. Not cool. However, I just couldn't face the rain today. The weather made me want to reach for a book to read, not my walking shoes.

My question to you and for myself: How do we fight the weather? Even with all of the awesome reasons to walk, the great places to walk and the resources to support walking decisions, how do we overcome the weather? Weather is one of the most common barriers to walking - my morning story is an example of that. What are weather-walking strategies to turn the detour into a much needed change of plan?

Mar 23, 2009

Walking Feeds the Imagination

I’m interested in the doors I see during my walks.

I find them interesting not only because they tell interesting stories of care and neglect, but also because they hide historical secrets either innocuous or serious. For example, take this door, which I photographed recently one Saturday afternoon during a walkabout of the Halifax Citadel. The paint on the door – faded, blistered, and peeled – reveals character and history. Who knows, maybe the faded initials are the result of an enamored worker; the pockmarked imperfections the result of a misplaced hammer; and the rusted metal the result of a harsh winter.

I don’t know the initials, the pockmarks, and the metal that make up the door, but I can try to imagine those who built it and fixed it and it could go like this: a Parks Canada employee applied a layer of paint to a door years ago placed there by a Canadian Forces corporal a century ago. The two individuals separated by time are connected by the object. For the employee, the door is old. For the corporal, the door was new. The employee a student of preservation; the corporal a student of engineering. The employee a young student working to pay for school; the engineer a young corporal working to protect the fortress. The employee, soon after, graduated school and left; the engineer, soon after, was transferred overseas and killed.

Doors are important because they hide secrets not just behind them but also about them. This door is important because for three separate days it occupied the attention of three separate individuals: the photographer, the employee, and the engineer.

I can’t tell you how much this city has to offer to those with active imaginations. Clearly, it does. However, to let that happen for you, you need to get close to them, study them. And to do that you need to get out of your vehicle and out of your house. By valuing the historical spaces around us, we can begin to appreciate them, honour them, and preserve them, to say nothing about letting our minds wonder about them.

Mar 20, 2009

One year with pedometer

It was a year ago this morning that I first clipped on my Walkabout pedometer. 365 times since then when I've noted my daily step count. Probably thousands of times I've been reassured to hear it quietly clicking away at my hip as I went about my daily business. It's funny how the pedometer changed my habits; I became happy to take detours, happy to have the bus drop me off a distance from where I wanted to go, and *almost* happy to be the one to have to pick up groceries. Almost.

There's something funny about human nature - well, mine anyhow - that the simple act of measuring progress is such a powerful motivator. I wanted to walk more, sure, but once the website was graphing my progress, I really wanted to nudge that red line higher. In fact, once I formed an online group with friends and family, I took unseemly joy from long walks because I knew this could make me "win" today. It was only gradually that I (re)discovered that walking was fun for other reasons. And on the raniest or coldest days, it was only the competition that kept me walking at all. Is this a bad thing?

Along the way, of course, I made other discoveries, some more profound than the power of competition and self-measurement. I'll blog about those another day. Today I want to rejoice in my personal accomplishment over the past year.

I walked the distance to Regina.

Next year's goal?

Mar 18, 2009

Walking took me places I never imagined.

Guest post:

Eight years of University came to a halting end and left me feeling that despite the knowledge I had squeezed into my now rather expensive brain, I had yet to really explore the world. So with 3 months before starting a yearlong internship and no friends who could afford to travel or had time to do so, I made up my mind to do it myself.

Now, I assume that most people would have prepared for such an adventure. I, however, decided to prepare by packing a backpack the night before leaving for Heathrow and buying a Lonely Planet Europe on a Budget book. In retrospect, I assume that before leaving on a 3 month solo journey, most people would also learn how to use a map. I did not.

Although I had always been active, played varsity sports and any pick-up game that happened in the summers, walking had never been a passion of mine. Upon arriving in Europe alone and on a very tight budget, my feelings quickly began to change. With no plan of attack for exploring this continent, I looked for cheap buses, trains and airplanes to take me to each exciting new city. For three months I planned 2 days in advance and bounced around Europe. I would arrive in a new city with my trusty Lonely Planet city map and would walk to the chosen hostel. Mastering map reading had happened out of sheer necessity in only a few short days and I found that the beauty of walking to each hostel was that by the time I had found it, I had also oriented to the city and was ready to discover it. I would drop off my backpack and then have an exciting, exotic, fascinating city at my fingertips to explore however I chose to do so. I would walk around markets, churches, memorials, parks and, to my mother’s horror, anywhere else that I could find.

I spent the summer on my feet and in the sun, exploring everything and anything I could from Dublin to Croatia and everywhere in between. I rarely rested except for travel time and people watching after picking up fresh fruit, bread, cheese and often wine from a local market. By the time I reached Spain, the walking had done so much for my mind, my spirit, and my body that despite my Canadian modesty, even the topless beaches of Valencia were mine to embrace, I suppose this time to my boyfriend’s horror.

Walking around Europe this summer took me places I never could have imagined: bumping into the Queen while walking to climb Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland; wandering the grounds and history of Versailles outside of Paris, France; the smell of chocolate in a back alley of Brussels, Belgium; wandering through War Memorials in Berlin, Germany; haggling over fake Prada purses outside a church in Milan, Italy; or catching the most breathtaking sunset I could have ever imagined while walking home in Zadar, Croatia.

These are the places that walking took me.

Mar 12, 2009

Walking Takes You – To Foreign – Places

For me, the excitement typically starts months before at the bookstore with the purchase of two travel books: one for the traditionalist, one for the adventurous.

My walking pace quickens as I eagerly set home knowing hours of reading up and jotting down await me once I crack the spine on my new travel guides to learn about this year’s vacation spot and what I should see. Once that's done, I open the more adventurous of the two books to find locations that aren’t listed in the first book so I can add the 10 best off-the-beaten track locations to my list. I find the best way to explore a foreign city is to pass by things slowly, never quickly; always on foot, never by vehicle.

Walking provides me with the opportunity to find hidden, twisted alleyways where I may come upon a pub filled with locals who will strike up a conversion with me and give me more insight into what else I can walk to and what else I can discover.

Walking provides me with the opportunity to search out the steep, spiraling staircases away for the maddening crowds where step by step – and seemingly hours later – I’ll emerge at the top of a castle tower overlooking the city where I'll then cast my mind back to when kings and queens ruled and castles were attacked and defended.

Walking provides me with the opportunity to take extraordinary photographs of the ordinary or ordinary photographs of the extraordinary like broken trucks or old branches.

Those that know me know I’m passionate about photography; I’m passionate about travel; and I’m passionate about walking. I walk not just for physical activity, but also so that I know I can handle walk ing for hours . Doing so, I have been able to see foreign cities in more meaningful ways.

Winter is over

Well, the storm forecast for last night was a shadow of what we expected…and that’s because winter is over. Finished, Kaput. Now you ask I am out of my mind? Not really. This week the signs are all there. A pussy willow came into blossom at the end of the street. ( I wish I had my camera but this is what they look like)

The deer are coming out of the woods to gather around the warm pavement. ( Keep your eyes peeled)

The kids are trying to leave the snow gear at home when they go to school.

All signs.

And March break is coming…so the snow will be soggy, the ice soft, and the mud…. well…muddy. And the kids will have a ball. Slushbogganing, puddle hopping on ice, all the fun stuff.
So we know we can handle anything that comes our way from here on in.

Mar 9, 2009

Walking takes you to places, photographing them allows you to remember them!

Walking takes you to places that you might normally find yourself in, but should you go, you will see the world differently, you will see yourself differently. As a tourist in your own country it’s easy to forget what a national park smells like in the morning after a torrential five-hour rainstorm.

But should you have spent the night trying to stay dry in a small tent refusing to pack up and leave in that same torrential five-hour rainstorm and should you force yourself to get up out of your sleeping bag you know there is photo waiting to be taken.

When you go – for “if” is not an option – you will find yourself standing alone amongst the vivid, green and brown woods reconnecting with nature, reconnecting with yourself.

As a tourist in a foreign country it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and the bustle of the streets. But should you have spent the afternoon walking around those city streets and should you force yourself to look up at world-renowned skyscrapers and meander through famous landmarks you know there is photo waiting to be taken.

When you go – for “if” is still not an option – you will find yourself standing alone amongst the multi-coloured, wind-snapped flags or stoic, somber buildings remembering this moment, remembering these details.

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, the use of walking is to regulate one’s imagination by introducing reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

Mar 5, 2009


This site might give you the inspiration yu need to get moving. Or it might just scare you to death!

Mar 3, 2009

What about other funny reactions?

After reading Jojorunner's blog about the inspiration of her furry friend, I started missing my old dog and thinking that cats really don't have the same love of snow that dogs do. If you don't believe me check out this site.
The other little creatures I hang out with usually love the snow, but the rain changed that a bit this morning. One well clad little gal in a big pink backpack tried to navigate the icy yard. To speed up the process she stepped into the snow bank where she could get some traction but ended up sinking up to her knees in soft wet snow. Now you know what happened next. Her boot got vacuum sealed in the bank, she pulled out her foot sans boot , and in the process fell over on her back. Of course the backpack ,being bigger than she, caused her to turtle in the air... all feet and hands and not getting up. Now a good grandmother would not have laughed, but I never claimed to be good at it, only to have fun at it. Luckily physics was with us and we managed to break the vacuum, retrieve the boot, restore the pride, and send her off on her way. (The good grandmother angel on my shoulder prevented me from getting the camera before rescue attempts were made , or was that fear of retaliation when I am decrepit and she is a teenager?)Anyway,we are all glad for the warmer temps., sad about the loss of snow, and hopeful that the lake will freeze up again before the next snow.

Mar 2, 2009

One reason to walk/run: dog sightings

So my first lesson today is to keep my camera handy when out and about to capture the moment. Instead, I'm trying to re-create the moment which is not nearly as fun or authentic. Nonetheless, here goes.

I was in the park over the weekend doing that 'walking really fast motion' otherwise known as running, and - to my absolute pleasure - there were many others taking part in similar outdoor activities, but with their dogs. Now, for context, here is a bit of personal information - I love puppies and adult dogs. I do not own a dog but I desperately want one. This is part of the reason I love seeing dogs and upon doing so, secretly will them to come over to me so I can pet them. In fact, part of the reason I run in the park is so I can live vicariously through dog owners walking with their four-legged best friend. Plus, being introduced to a dog is a great excuse to take a break from running or walking.

Now, back to the park. I was running on Saturday and a puppy named "Jessica" was off leash and decided to take up the challenge of running with me. I would have happily continued with my new running mate, however her owner - who was very apologetic at the running disruption - probably wouldn't have been okay with this. But this is not the first time a furry friend has provided an inspiring moment. Last fall, I was training with my running partner and a mid-sized dog tried to over take him on the hill. It was the funniest sight to see from behind - my friend passed the dog and the dog took off in an attempt to catch him; both of them started sprinting up the hill, and I think (despite what my partner may recall) the dog would have won that race had it not been for the owner calling for him to come back.

Motivation is a funny thing - it comes in many forms and it can also be easy to lose. But having a running / walking partner can help focus and harness that motivation, especially during times of doubt, busyness or even when life just gets in the way. The beauty of this is that it doesn't have to always be a person. Dogs make great friends and they can also help keep you mindful of the need for outdoor walks or runs. Now that's pretty inspiring.

What motivates you?

For interest sake, check out this video I found on YouTube. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, my goal is to capture my walking experience in photo or on video to share with you. Until then, I will thank those who are mindful to share such moments with others and use this video to capture some of the nostalgia from my park-walking weekend.

ps. If you smiled or even chuckled then I've succeeded in sharing the 'happy feeling' that can come from walking or running in the park. It's not the distance - it's what you discover along the way. Imagine what adventures are to be found from taking the first step.