Monday, August 30, 2010

I meet the nicest people when walking.

On my walks this year I have met the nicest people. Most walker, hikers and bikers (the pedal-power type of bikers) are. They are a special class of people.
     Some I have met on the rail trails that I walk, and others on Lindsay sidewalks before I reach the trails.
      Last week I met Wayne Klein and Chelsea. Chelsea is a tiny, white, woolly lapdog.
     Most dog walkers carry a plastic bag to scoop the poop. It’s the right thing to do, and conspicuous park and trail signs urge dog walkers to do just that. Wayne doesn’t carry just a single plastic bag, he carries a handful of them. “When I see people who don’t scoop, I offer them a bag,” Wayne says. “Sometimes I’ll even do the scoop for those who don’t.”
     What a civic-minded, great thing to do. I’m inspired. We no longer have a dog, but I’m motivated to carry a few plastic bags when I go walking. I look forward to the first opportunity to put one to good use. “Excuse me, Mam,’ would you like this plastic bag to scoop the poop?” It will be interesting to see the reaction.
     Chelsea, too, is inspiring. She is getting old now, but when she was younger, she and Wayne would visit Ross Memorial Hospital and the Victoria Manor Home for the Aged, where Chelsea won and warmed the hearts of seniors. Especially Alzheimer’s patients.
     One old timer, sitting motionless in a chair, his arms dangling by his side, hardly looked alive, Wayne recalled. “But I noticed,” said Wayne, “that his eyes followed Chelsea. Then he flicked his fingers, motioning for Chelsea to come. He petted Chelsea when she came, and he grinned from ear to ear.” A lady was radiant when she held Chelsea in her lap.
     Others also inspire. The first couple of kilometres of the rail trail that stretches south from Lindsay for 30 kilometres to Bethany hugs the Scogog River and is paved. An attractive lady parked her bicycle. She had a big plastic bag and she was picking up pop cans and other garbage that thoughtless people had strewn beside the trail. “I can’t get it all,” she tells me, “but I do what I can.”
     I’m not sure whether I was inspired or shamed into following her example: we should all be such good citizens.
     The following week I met five senior ladies on the Victoria Rail Trail that stretches 90 kilometres north from Lindsay to Haliburton. This trail, too, is paved for the first couple of kilometres. The ladies were pushing large shopping carts, laden with garbage they picked up along the trail. They do it every year, they tell me.
     Brenda is another lady, a neighbour about three blocks from our house, whom I met while walking. We fell into conversation because of our lawnmowers. She and I are, as far as I know, the only people in the neighbourhood who cut their lawns with manual pushmowers. We compare notes. Whether the grass should be cut short or long, where to get our mowers sharpened. Brenda is ecstatic in praise of her pushmower. It doesn’t pollute the atmosphere, it doesn’t add to global warming, it’s almost silent (only a slight swish-swish as the revolving blades kiss the steel where the grass is cut), it cuts the grass just as well as a powermower, and it provides a little healthy exercise. The world would be a better place if far more people followed Brenda’s example. Brenda is also one of the first sponsors of my October hike from Bethany to Haliburton, with a contribution to Ross Memorial Hospital. We could use more of that example, too.
     One day I met a couple of young guys—one looked to be in his late teens, the other, early twenties—who intended to hike along the Victoria Rail Trail from Fenelon Falls to Kinmount. I met them as I was finishing my walk; they were just setting out. They had enormous packsacks; apparently they planned to camp. They were resting, the younger one lying on his back, inspecting the sky. They had walked no more than three kilometres. “How much farther to Kinmount?” the kid asked, plaintively. “Another 30 kilometres.” I tried to encourage them by suggesting they might wish to settle for the 15 kilometres to Burnt River. I wonder if they ever made it that far.

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