The lighting is good in the West Campus park as we walk down to the duck pond. One street light close to the benches at the duck pond seems to work in reverse. As we approach it the light goes out. As we pass on by walking further down the hill the light comes back on. We wonder how the programming went wrong with that light.
Richard walks close to the pond and then calls me down there. I need to take his hand so that I don’t slip on the big rocks I have to craw over. “Look. People are walking out on the ice. They are crazy. If they fall through they will die. What an awful chance to take. Notice that there are animal tracks down by the pond as well. But the animals are programmed to know not walk out on the ice, so we only see their tracks here, skirting the edge of the water.”
We stop by a tree that has been decorated: Christmas balls, silver icicles, some sparkling garland wrapped around it, and a sign: Decorated by the Grade VI Class at Brentwood Alternative School. I wish I had brought my camera. Richard says, “Look we know how tall they are for they could only reach up this high.” The next day when I go by there alone, I notice that the Chinook has blown the sign out of the branches of the tree and it is on the ground. I reposition it and think of the Grade Sixers who had beautified the park.
This morning as we walked, Richard bent down low, pointing out a perfect rabbit foot track and saying, “This one almost looks like you could take an imprint of it and hang it on the zipper of a winter coat. Perfect in every way. We stop to observe the place where the rabbits have slept during the night. The snow has melted there and a little patch of brown grass is exposed. We also look at the scratch marks where the rabbit has stopped to dig down and get some grass to eat.
I have been told that there are voles under the snow when I have studied pamphlets about nature, but I haven’t seen evidence of that until today. The snow had melted above where they have their runs and those trails were now visible. Richard agrees that we are lucky to have seen that.
We have studied the snow looking for tracks until even I can identify the deer, the coyotes, the rabbits. And at the intersection Richard points out the frozen print from a human being. The street beggar has walked off of the sidewalk at the street ight and has walked the hypotenuse of a triangle to the railing at the meridian of the road which is where he does his begging. That path has frozen now and I cand see the imprint of his boot there in the ice.
I have blogged about the street on the north west corner of Crowchild Trail at 24th Avenue. I take care of the street light there. I take down posters of events long past and remove the For Sale signs and the “tutor for hire” posters with the tags where you can rip off his phone number and call him. But I don’t take those down until the semester is over.
The day after Christmas we stopped at the lamp post to pick up a ziplock back full of treasures: a toque, some toothpaste, some Kleenex. The bag was half full of goodies and written across the front of it was “Merry Christmas”. I am guessing someone had put it together for the guys who beg for money on that corner – they beg jusg around 4:30 pm when employees are pouring out from their office space. “I guess he just took out of the bag what he wanted and left the rest,” Richard remarked.
The street on that corner is ghe place where we pause to pick up garbage usually – a newspaper that has blown against a light post, a Starbucks coffee cup on the ground, a half eaten Tim Horton’s donut. In a small crevice above the walk button Richard digs out a needle and syringe, partially full.
“Look what we have hidden here. I guess he left this for tomorrow. Better to leave it hidden here than to have it on you, if the police pick you up. I am conflicted. Leave it here or take it away. I guess the right think to do is throw it out,” he says, holding it in his hand which is no longer swinging by his side, but semi-stationary against his jeans. When he reaches the first garbage bin in our lane he opens the lid and toss the needle away. “All of us try to keep our children protected, and this is in my neighbour, a place I want to keep safe for Michael and Alice.”
The weather has been perfect for walking, hovering around zero. Still we can’t forget that there have been some cold spells where we have felt chill blains on the thighs of our legs of on our cheek. Richard as been looking for a face guard for both of us, but no shop seems to have them. “I am batting zero every place I go to find them,” he tells me. A few days ago he found one: Dakota; Face Guard; Cold Weather Protection.; Performance Neoprene Face Mask for Cold Weather.
It has a fleece backing and a hook and loop closure at the back for adjustable fitting. I haven’t practised with mine yet. Instead I take the weights in my arms and I try go get used to the feeling of holding those. Occasionally I do arm curls with them. But I can only do one thing at a time, so practising with the mask practise will have to wait until the cold comes. The weather forecaster says that the cold begins tomorrow. I will build some time into my schedule to practise getting the on and off.
Sometimes Richard and I shake our heads at the wonder of having such a perfect place to walk. The university keeps the snow off of the street and the city has the road that leads to the children’s hospital well lit.
We know the people we meet along the path now: a woman with 3 dogs (one of them is a tiny little pup that has attitude); the man on the bicycle whom we meet on the park path. He shouts good morning as he passes by. We remark to each other that he is coming so fast that we would never recognize him without his bicycle and his winter gear. Richard opines, “That lucky guy. I biked to work for 2 ½ years and I loved getting to work, having a shower and feeling so good. I hated go give up the perk of that job.” The man who walks his dog at 6 am in the park is holding fast to the leash and the dog keeps the leash taut. “It is trying to go hunt the coyotes in the park. He knows they are out there, but they will just make him a piece of their breakfast.” We chat for a while. “Yes, I walk my dog three times a day,” he says.
“Doing that is probably going to lengthen your life-line exponentially,” I think to myself.
We see the employee on his way to work in the maintenance building. He doesn’t nod at his for he listening to his MP3 player. And we see the night watchman leaving the building site of the new apartments on campus. As he is leaving the first shift of workers are coming in, lunch pails in hand. A few are taking their last smoke as they walk along the sidewalk.
In the past, Richard pointed out that there is a big pop dispenser on the outside of the builder’s trailer. Today he laughs as he points to the north side of the trailer and says, “Look, even they have a Christmas tree. It is easy now to join in the holiday festivities.. The tree has lights embedded in it. Just open the package and plug the tree in. Voila. The Christmas spirit in a box.”
Yes. The Christmas spirit everywhere – at the building site, on the tree decorated by the Grade Six Class, and in us as we walk in the early morning.