Two days ago I was in transit from Toronto back to Vancouver. I had been staying with my father for a few days after he had heart valve replacement surgery (TAVI).
It was a day to make me sorry I was leaving, a perfect Indian summer day of rare warmth for Toronto in mid-September.
I took full advantage of it. By 8:00 a.m., while it was still cool, I was on the decrepit gravel track at the high school across the street from my dad’s building. At this time of year, the track is fairly smooth and it’s softer on my arthritic knee than the paved residential streets nearby. I glanced at my Garmin frequently as I ran to “keep on track” figuratively and make sure I made a good effort for my 5K! I made one quick “turnaround” after six laps to change directions, gradually increasing the pace and galloping to a satisfying finish after 12.5 laps. Then I eased into a slow 1K warmdown on the leafy surrounding paths and streets.
For once, my schedule matched up with Dad’s so we ate breakfast together. I had shed my sweaty running clothes and was now dressed for cycling. By 10:00 a.m. I was ready for my second workout. It was already much warmer.
Since I was already tired from running, my plan was simply to ride for enjoyment. I avoided the main streets. After a few minutes I was riding through one of Toronto’s wealthiest neighbourhoods on a famous street called “The Bridle Path.” The road was empty as I sped past the huge mansions with their estate-like grounds. Soon I was at the “secret” entrance to the top field at Sunnybrook Park. Here I stopped briefly to shed the t-shirt I had put on over a light singlet; the sun felt wonderful on my bare shoulders.
Since I hadn’t had a chance to run at Sunnybrook on this trip, I decided to follow the woodchip trail around the perimeter of the field where I usually run.
That was where I ran my second cross-country race ever, in the fall of 1975! The park has not changed very much.
I took the paved road downhill past the stables, far exceeding the speed limit on the park road. After that my ride was an easy cruise through Wilket Creek, up to the entrance of Edwards Gardens, and on to the straight bike path that runs parallel to Leslie Street. The day was so perfect I felt as though I were in a dream . . . an idyll of benevolent sunshine and deep blue skies. I was enclosed in a magic tunnel with trees on either sides, most still green-leafed but some already showing the colourful hues of fall. Riding on the flat bike path was effortless as I glided smoothly past walkers, joggers, runners, and women with strollers.
It was even hotter that afternoon as I struggled through Yorkdale subway station with all my luggage, trying to find the GO terminal where I would catch a bus to the airport. My wheeled suitcase was easier to handle as long as I could roll it, and I was also carrying a computer case, a purse, and a shopping bag filled with my carry-on items.
I had already struggled down several flights of stairs, lifting my heavy suitcase with difficulty, when I came to set of stairs going up. Now I could definitely feel the effect of my hard 5K track run earlier that day. Not only were my leg muscles tired, but my knee was suffering under the weight of the suitcase. I had to take the steps slowly, one at a time, stepping up with all the weight on my “good” left leg. Crowds of people, mostly students, surged past me in this busy area.
A young girl who was listening to her phone wordlessly grabbed the handle of my suitcase as I struggled. I held on too as together we lugged the suitcase to the top of the stairs. I thanked her effusively—she said nothing, apparently engaged in her phone conversation, and she strode on as I pulled out the handle of the suitcase and continued on my way.
I was now in the transparent tunnel above the ground that linked the subway station with the mall. Over the sounds of the flowing crowd I suddenly heard the haunting, sweet notes of lazy jazz! An older black man was playing a saxophone, his case open on the ground before him. His music was perfect for the summer day.
I stopped, put down all my bags, took out my change purse, and tossed some heavy coins into the case. The music continued; then as I reassembled all my belongings, the musician stopped playing, smiled at me, and said something unintelligible.
I moved slowly on, thinking about the kindness of strangers and an unbeatable summer day.
The next day it was foggy and cool in Vancouver and I was happy to be home, immersed in the moist smells of fall.