Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The simple pleasures of a walk

The last stragglers among the deciduous trees in Lindsay were fully dressed in glorious leafs last week, the first week of May. In the sparkling morning sun that followed the rain, my two-hour walk was 720 minutes of simple pleasures.

Our little maple tree and the bed of yellow, purple, salmon and white tulips that encircle it offer the first eye candy from the front door. The tree is four years old and something of a mistake. Lang Court is a one-block cul-de-sac of well-manicured lawns and modest homes, none more than six years old. Four years ago the city planted trees in front of each house that wanted one. We chose a “red maple,” expecting scarlet leafs in spring. The leafs are green, but turn red in the Fall. That was one mistake. It also turns out to be a “soft maple,” sometimes called a Manitoba maple. Soft maple trees grow faster than the hard maples but don’t live as long. Ours will outlast us, however. Soft maples also do not yield maple syrup. Even I am sometimes a bigger sap.

Lang Court is separated from Angeline Street by a grass boulevard, now more yellow than green, with bright-eyed dandelions that grow everywhere in profusion since the treatment of lawns with weed killers was prohibited. Now that they are no longer poisoned by weed killers, are dandelions good to eat in salads or brew for dandelion tea as our early settlers did? Is dandelion wine healthy? Dandelions are said to be loaded with nutrition and vitamins and make a good detoxifier. Would that make dandelion wine a good hair-of-the-dog cure?

It is a half-hour walk to the Victoria Rail Trail, across two small parks and a profusion of street colours: scarlet and green maple trees, pink blossoms of big ornamental cherry trees, lavender lilac bushes, white apple blossoms. Short Roselyn Court is guarded on both sides by flanks of scarlet maples that billow outward and reach 25 or 30 feet toward the sky.

At Victoria Drive I am almost at the railway trail. It is a divided street, with a curbed grass median down the middle. Trains once rumbled down the median where the grass and dandelions now grow.

From Victoria Drive there is a brief, narrow walkway between houses to the first now-paved former railway bed, and perhaps 200 yards beyond that is Victoria Junction, the start of the Victoria Railway line before it was extended along Victoria Drive to downtown Lindsay. A new kiosk, with two illustrated information panels now commendably commemorates Victoria Junction. One side depicts the railway history of Lindsay, once an important junction for five different railroads, whose beds are now trails for walkers, bicyclists, snowmobilers and ATV riders. The other side depicts flora and fauna and the story of Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), a leading wildlife artist, naturalist and a best-selling author of his era, who grew up and began his career in Lindsay. No self-respect resident of Lindsay should miss this kiosk.

From Victoria Junction, the first two of the 90 kilometres on the Victoria Rail Trail to Haliburton are paved. The trees are not as big and showy as those on the streets of Lindsay. There are maples, cedars. birch, pine, choke cherries, a few small, neglected apple trees, probably crab apples, and more.

The trail, too, has its short section of lilac bushes. They tower tall and unkempt over the trail, and if their blooms are a little sparse they are no less splendid. Farther on, lines of maples form an archway. The new leafs are pale and delicate, filtering the sunshine to splash a golden light along the trail.

On my way back, I stop to talk briefly with a senior who has parked his motorized wheelchair beside an apple tree while he photographs close-ups of the blossoms with a single-lens reflex digital camera and a telephoto lens. “People go along the trail and they don’t see a thing,” he tells me.

Right. People like an old geezer practicing his power walking while he trains for a marathon.

“What are you doing?” a younger senior—young than I, at least—asked one day. I explained. “Are you well?” he asked, solicitously. His wife even circled her fingers around her ear in the motion denoting a loco. I certainly wouldn’t be working out this vigorously if I were not well.

On my customary one- to two-hour walks I try to walk at the quickest pace that I can comfortably sustain, with quicker bursts of about 10 minutes. I do sometimes stop for a few seconds to see the things that my friend says everyone misses. I say hello to all the walkers and riders I meet, usually without breaking stride. If I can walk and talk, I’m probably not pushing too hard.

I also say hello to the many dogs out taking their owners for walks. Many dogs ignore my greetings. A few come up, smiling and wagging their tails. I enjoy petting them. It was Joan who taught me to never approach a dog who doesn’t know you. Let the dog come up to you. If you make the approach, that might frighten the dog, and make him unfriendly. Trailer walkers seems to all have friendly dogs. I have yet to meet one that barked, growled or snarled in a threatening manner.

A young lady with a large pup on a leash joins the trail from a rough meadow. I say hello to each. The dog says, “woof,” and starts to bound down the trail. The woman is pulled off her feet, landing on her knees and hands, and breaking her hold on the leash. The dog then sits and looks at her, admiring its neat trick. She is on her feet faster that I can offer assistance. She assures me she is not hurt, and she does not look to be. We both apologize, I for perhaps having caused the dog to behave like a puppy, and she because it was not yet trained. We left on friendly terms.

My final encounter is with four young mothers out for morning runs with their babies. The babies ride in covered tricycle baby carriages, pushed along as the mothers run. As we pass, the mothers are all smiles. And why not?

All walks should offer such pleasures. They usually do.

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