Tag Archives: walking

New Walk

Emily Murphy

These photos were taken on two separate days, one bluer than the other. My iPhone camera died for some inexplicable reason half way through my first official river valley walk home in the new ‘hood last week. I think it was just too damn cold. Today, I walked the same route and my camera was warm and compliant.

A frozen April river

I have to say, it’s not a great commute but it’s a commute, on foot, and that’s what matters. The problem is that it’s mostly in traffic. Down Saskatchewan Drive, over the Groat Bridge, up Victoria trail and then a set of stairs to 121st. It takes 40 minutes and less than 10,000 steps. This, I think, will be a walk I take in the winter and when I need a good, but not a great walk home. Once the river valley trails melt, I’ll take the woods. I also need a new pair of running shoes. I used a really old pair today because I threw out my shoes from two years ago that developed toe holes and were basically unwearable (or so my toes tell me). I usually try to get a new pair of running shoes every year, but I just didn’t last year.

I am not sure I feel settled. I haven’t landed yet in my new place, if that makes any sense. It feels like a home, and a nice home, but not my home. I don’t know why. I think I need to walk around more, get acquainted with the access points to the river valley. I kinda know them, but further east (Strathcona) and further west (in Glenora), not Oliver. I think it will come. I hope it will come.

A view from Oliver

The weather in April and most of March has been horrendous. Until today. It was above zero for the first time since the beginning of the month. I haven’t walked much, or really, at all. This weekend, I think the book dust from the boxes set off some sort of reaction and I was woozy all day Sunday. I walked to the grocery store, and the blue sky and warmth-averse sunshine felt great, but I had to make it short. This is worrisome. Am I just dead dog tired of packing and unpacking boxes (yes); am I really allergic to dust (probably not); or am I having some sort of psychological reaction to my acquisitive book habits that seem less of a good thing now that I’m having to sort, shelve, recycle and possibly re-home them? I feel overwhelmed, and strangely antagonistic to my horde.

But I digress.

I feel much better today. I hope this is the beginning of…or the return of…a new walking phase in my life. And possibly fewer books.

5C/4:53-5:40ish

Oliver!

Shoescape from my very first blog post in April, 2010

Well, I finally launched myself out of my sister’s basement (hoisted might be a better word) and moved back into a walkable neighbourhood. It took six years, most of them very happy but largely unwalkable (from a commuter standpoint). I’m not going to belly gaze too much on that one. I already know I’m prone to inertia when it comes to major life changes, and the location in south Edmonton with my family – furry and non-furry alike – was just comfortable enough, and my career, at times, too precarious to make any sudden moves.

And so, six years later…

Instead of moving back into my familiar haunt in Old Strathcona, however, I’ve opted for downtown, in Oliver. It’s even more walkable, but alas, it is not two blocks from my beloved Mill Creek Ravine or ten minutes from my (also beloved) Whitemud Ravine. But, what it lacks in immediate ravine access it more than makes up for in walkability to work, amenities and the river valley. I just moved in last week, so between a spare room half-filled with boxes (mostly books), and building new bookcases for said books, I’ve not had much time to explore the ‘hood, although I am vaguely familiar with it.

I walked home once last week, and it was great. Not through the river valley, but across the High Level Bridge and then along the path that snakes around the edge of downtown above the river. It took about 45 minutes. Eventually, I will take the various river valley routes home, but it’s just been too busy. I don’t feel that relaxed at the moment. Far from it. There’s always a thousand things to do, in the evening, at work, and especially at home. I need a week off to get everything sorted.

It’s strange to be on my own again, which sounds crazy coming from a person who has done just that for most of my adult life. I am only about a 20 minute walk (or five minute drive) from Tom, and my sisters are short(ish) drives away, but when I come home, it’s just me. No Molly. No Maggie, or Stella, or Wanda. I might have to cat up. It’s awfully quiet.

I am looking forward to some actual leisure time that’s not about opening boxes or frowning at the visible consequences of my acquisitive book habits. Wandering in the neighbourhood. Walking instead of driving to stores. Walking to Tom’s. Walking in the river valley. Discovering new routes and pathways. Being in nature every day. Watching the river. Watching the seasons. Ending my work days in the woods, not underground waiting for the train.

Of course, there have been hundreds of walks since I moved in with my sister, and many of them have been in the company of either Maggie, or Stella, which has been a wonderful gift. I’ve learned the intricacies and intimacies of Whitemud Ravine, a total joy. And even with Tom, I’ve “discovered” the beautiful trails in and around Glenora. What I haven’t done, and what I’ve missed terribly, is my commute at the end of the day, on foot. It’s taken a big toll on my life, mentally and physically. Yeah, I periodically managed to find a way, but nothing sustainable over six years.

Oliver is my doorway back into the thing that dramatically changed my life for the better almost 25 years ago. Walking.

Walking home.

Goodbye my friend

Maggie in green

Hello want to go for a walk

Hello want to go for a walk?

Maggie wasn’t even my dog.

At the end of summer in 2011, I moved into my sister’s basement for what I thought would be about a year while they were on sabbatical – ostensibly to help with my two nieces, who were 18 and 20 at the time, and their dog Maggie. I have always been a dog person and I loved Maggie. I had been their designated dog sitter for years, and thankfully, my sister and brother-in-law traveled a lot. Every post-Christmas ski trip. Every summer holiday. A weekend here and there.

Maggie and I, in the woods.

She was a champion walker and my best dog pal. My snack buddy. My frequent bed partner. My mood lifter. On Tuesday, she passed away. Fourteen and a half years old. An old dog, yes, and very arthritic, but up until her last week, happy to frolic in the park behind the house; eager to eat rabbit shit and smell every pee hole in the snow. To the very end, a dedicated blanket messer-upper and family room ‘tapper’ (she liked to go around the room and tap the surface of things with her paw). The best part of my day was when I was walked up the street after work and my sister would open the door and Maggie would come running down the driveway. Always joyful. She was a joyful dog.

Maggie smiling

She had been in decline for a couple of years. Early in her life, she was full of energy, or as Sharon described it, full of the hybrid vigour that comes with being a mutt. I remember once, when she was still quite young, I was dog sitting during a couple of weeks of incredibly hot and humid weather. I got up at 5:00 to walk her for an hour in the cool of the ravine, and then left her in the house all day while I went to work, and then walked her again for another hour or more later in the evening. She needed it. I’m not sure I did (especially at 5:00 in the morning). We both loved to go for walks. We could walk for hours.

Maggie in Whitemud Creek

About three years ago, she began to hesitate, slowly at first. Sometimes she refused to go up a hill. Some days she would walk more slowly than usual. Sometimes she’d just stop. Our walks gradually became shorter, more destination oriented. We would drive her to Terwillegar off-leash because she loved the river, or the creek, or any pool or bog or puddle. She had a habit of sitting down in the water, no matter how dirty or shallow or icy. It always made us laugh, and I think she knew that.

Any water will do

Any water will do

I had been a solo walker for many years. I was used to walking at a fast pace, with few or no stops. Walking with Maggie over the years, but especially these last five years, I learned to walk more slowly. To stop and listen and drink in the landscape while she nosed about in the bush. I even wrote a post once about her snout. Such an admirable snout.

Her favourite bed

Her favourite bed

One of my favourite memories of Maggie did not involve walking but sitting on the stairs of the deck. She would sit beside me and I’d put my arm around her. She’d lean in a bit, her hot fur weight against me. I could smell her doggy scent, hear her light panting. Occasionally she’d look around and give me a quick lick on the face. I was truly present in those moments. Just sitting there, with her. We did that a lot. Not my dog but yet so deeply bonded. To be in the company of a dog, especially a dog like her, is really something.

In the last couple of years of her life, she was prescribed many medications: for her fading eyesight and her aging heart and her arthritis, creeping inexorably down her back and legs. Cubes of glucosamine, or as the kids called it, her medicinal jujubes. I was in charge (or at least, I took charge) of administering these concoctions. “Shooting” her and “pilling” her, multiple times a day. Making sure she ate something with her pills. Making sure her water bowl was full. Even now, five days since she’s been gone, I can’t stop looking over where her dish should be, anxious that she doesn’t have any water.

Maggie blue sky

Last week Maggie was having more trouble than usual getting up. She was wobbly and sometimes she fell, and once she fell off my bed. She seemed to be listing to one side, her right side, and she just didn’t seem herself. She stopped eating her kibble, and few of her snacks. Milk bones were left untouched on the floor. She was also drooling, which was unlike her. Maggie was a barker and a licker, not a drooler. But also the most gentle dog that I’ve ever known.

She did not have a mean bone in her body.

Maggie Bonk

Maggie snowface

The day she passed, Kate called me at work. Maggie had fallen and could not get up. When I arrived home half an hour later, Maggie was on the floor in the hallway wrapped in a blanket, wagging her tail and lifting her head. She tried really hard to get up. I told her it was OK. We put her bed into the back of the car and drove her to the vet. My other sister Joanne joined us there. (Sharon, her beloved mum, was in Scottsdale and her dad in Australia.) I ran my fingers through her fur and kissed her and told her I loved her. On the table she leaned very hard into me. All three of us were crying. The vet and the assistants were all very kind. They knew Maggie and loved her too. The vet even kissed her, which I will always remember. He said, this is the day. She had suffered a stroke, probably several, and had another one in the doctor’s office after they had taken her away to give her a sedative. He brought us into the room with her and she was calm. Her eyes were closed. We were there when he administered the final drug and she passed away. It was hard and peaceful.

Maggie in the fall

I am thankful that so many of our walks have been recorded in this blog. All the photographs and wonderful memories. Maggie had a long and happy life for a dog, somewhere in the vicinity of 80-90 human years. I knew her days were coming to an end, we all did, but that didn’t prepare any of us for what feels like a sudden absence. This week hasn’t been easy. I see her everywhere. All of my routines have been disrupted. I miss her snoring. I miss her happy barks when one of her pack members arrived home. I miss her helicopter tail. I miss the tap of her paws on tile. I feel badly for Sharon and Vic, who just happened to be away on the day. I am glad, however, that it wasn’t in the middle of the night. We were there with her, and for her, and her suffering was short.

Maggie in snow

A weird thing happened. When our family dog Happy died in 1983, Cyndi Lauper’s song Time After Time, a hit on radio at the time, became inextricably tied to the memory of her death. To this day, the song, and in particular the lyrics, always makes me think of Happy, lagging behind on walks, peaceful and slow in old age. I was not as close to Happy as I was to Maggie, but I did love her. When we got home on Tuesday from the vet, steeped in grief, I went downstairs to my bathroom and turned on the radio. It was playing Time After Time.

Sometimes you picture me
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said
Then you say, go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time

Maggie in the field