Preamble (you should probably skip this)
Several times last weekend (Easter weekend) I found myself feeling quietly depressed and oddly unmotivated to work or write. Holidays can provoke the swirling up of suppressed emotions in many of us. I was missing going to Toronto to celebrate my dad’s 91st birthday—and last year’s milestone birthday trip was cancelled at the last minute because of you-know-what.
I haven’t been tragically touched by Covid-19 the way so many people have. Yet, like most of us, I am weary of this semi-siege that has gone on for so long. At New Year’s, we thought the liberation of vaccination was close. We expected that once the vaccine rollout was underway, we would see the number of infections gradually declining. Instead, the number of cases is climbing rapidly. This is happening in most places in the world. It can be blamed, at least in part, by the frightening new variants of the coronavirus that are more infectious, and often more damaging or deadly than “regular” Covid-19, even for young people.
I didn’t mean to write about Covid-19 in this post. (A separate article giving my own assessment of the Covid-19 situation will follow soon.) Yet I’m recognizing that part of the reason for my dysphoric mood last weekend was my unusual level of anxiety, even fear, about the virus.
I was also angry about this, viewed at Sasamat Lake on April 2, the first day it came into effect:
In the summer I often drive up to the lake four or five times a week in the late afternoon or evening for a refreshing swim. When I saw those pay parking meters, I felt as though I had been robbed of a kind of freedom. Can I give up that escape from my stifling west-facing apartment, the wonderful invigoration that a brief swim gives me? But—ten dollars a week to go for some short dips in the lake?
On Sunday morning I did a 38-minute bike ride. It was my day’s tiny window of perfection.
It was Easter morning, yet I would be spending my Sunday selling shoes at Running Room as usual, and that’s why I started my ride at 7:06 and knew my time was limited.
Being an early bird is my natural state, and early Sunday morning has always been my favourite time. Most people are sleeping. On my bike I feel like I own the streets and bike paths. I can ride spontaneously because there are few cars to worry about and few pedestrians forcing me to ride considerately, carefully, and at a non-threatening speed.
After two gray days I was given this jewel of a frosty but lovely morning. There was nothing extraordinary about my route. It was just my neighbourhood: my apartment building to Rocky Point Park, a brief pause at Old Orchard Park, then Alderside Road and Ioco Road to the Ioco terminal.
I face a familiar conflict; it’s happened before on Sunday morning rides; should I try to ride as hard as I can, maximizing my athletic effort? Or should I stop for photos? Always, my obsessive desire to capture this beauty that never fails to astound me, even in the places I know so well.
This blog post illustrates my choice. That’s why what could have been a 50-minute ride turned into a 38-minute ride.
There were a few other early birds out enjoying the perfection of the morning. I stopped on the bike path above Old Orchard Beach to warm my frozen fingertips inside my several layers of clothing. After they warmed up enough, I could take more photos.
When I reached the end of Ioco Road, I had another choice. Usually, I would do a short but intense workout by completing several hill loops using the steep roads of the Ioco Townsite. But I was drawn, irresistibly, to take more photos as I saw how the sun lit up the trees and made the train tracks gleam a brilliant silver.
As I stood waiting for the elevator after leaving my bike in my basement locker, I whimpered with pain. My fingertips were thawing out! Yet, I reflected, it was worth it; maybe the contrasting pain even amplified the exultation I felt after that beautiful ride.
So, maybe, the suffering, deprivations, and monotony imposed upon us by Covid-19 can amplify our gratitude for all our joyful moments.