Autumn run through Cedar Cottage


I’ve just come back from my first run ever!

Well, in a really long time at least. 10 years ago, when I was lonely in Scotland I started a one-minute-run, one-minute-walk effort on a trail along a disused railway line. And I’m sure I’ve made some efforts since, but let’s just say ever since that is definitely how it felt.

Mr G and I made a deal that today I’d get the morning to myself and he’d get the afternoon child-less. In one way, I just wanted to sit myself in front of the computer and write because that is one thing I absolutely cannot do with a 2 and 5-year-old. But I’m noticing that I’m pretty housebound. Whenever I have desk days – when the kids go to dayhome and I work – I’m always in the apartment. I used to try to get to the gym or do an hour of yoga and meditation, but lately I’ve been really buzzed not to waste a single minute of that desk time. So I stay in. And in. And in.

This morning was gorgeous and autumnal – bright sun, cool air, brilliant sunrise-orange maple leaves all the way down Miller Street. And at the end, just before I crossed into Selkirk schoolgrounds, a piece of dried honeycomb. I don’t know what this means for sure. I took it as a good omen, a nature treasure. I kept to a walk all the way to Trout Lake, reasoning that concrete wouldn’t be so good for my novice joints. Also, I didn’t want to look like a pathetic runner in my ‘hood, but just a go-getting early walker.

My “run” started across the damp grass and I eventually joined the gravel trail by the people beach. My muscles, I have to say, were super tight. I felt like a picture of a little old person, hunched everywhere from my shoulders to my calves. Yes, even my calves felt hunched. My feet were so close to the ground, so slow in their shuffle, that it took me nearly five minutes to pass a woman walking ahead of me. She must have thought someone was walking a large heavy-breathing dog behind her.

Anyway I made it running exactly half-way around the lake and then just walked fast the rest of the way and home – so maybe 10 minutes out of a 40-minute journey. On the way back, I found blackberries along the Skytrain tracks as sweet as candy. That was a nice surprise. As I walked back up through Cedar Cottage Community Garden, I heard and then saw, P*, shouting and wacking at the long grass by the big wooden house, where I think he stays. He was a member of the garden when I was, several years ago, but was finally asked to leave after his mental health and substance issues got too much for everyone to handle.

He reminded me of the people I walked past when I went out for a rare drink in Gastown Friday night. I wonder if he’s better off attached to this more natural, more residential neighbourhood, than on the gritty streets around Hastings and Main. Or maybe he’s worse off, because there are fewer services. It’s just as weird a situation really. For me to be out for a run, and then home to cook eggs and tappity-tap at my keyboard, while P* is mentally unwell and officially de-welcomed from the Garden. (I left the Garden before the council made that decision and don’t really support it, though I wasn’t there for the incidents.) I ran into him a year ago at Spartacus Books, asked him how he was doing and he said, “Not good.”

His friend and landlord had died unexpectedly, and P was sad about it. And then I think the friend’s family didn’t want P staying there anymore. I like to think of myself as a person who would help anyone. But … well, I had my two little boys with me, and he talks for ages, and I wasn’t sure I was equipped to take on P’s specific issues. He’s always been nice to me, but gets really loud and swear-y when talking about Garden council people and I’m not sure if he’s got the whole story straight most of the time.

It was so bizarre being in Gastown for similar reasons. My bus stop was at Main and Hastings, so I needed to walk through the thick of it – along Hastings, and then down Columbia to Powell. People were camped out in groups everywhere – a Friday night party atmosphere. And I just felt so exposed, so …wearing nice clothes, carrying an iPhone, looking for a tapas bar where I intended to pay a ridiculous amount of money for sips of wine and nibbles of steak …so privileged. It’s such a weird juxtaposition of people and place. Do I deserve this glass of wine? Do I deserve to pay too much for a bite of steak? I’m meeting a friend and former colleague who might have some career advice for me. So that’s a smart way to spend my money right? If I want to be successful in this line of work, in this kind of Vancouver, then this is like my ditch to dig. I have to dress and eat like this.

This is NOT my real and final answer, believe me. I know this situation is wrong. My privilege is embarrassing me and the way I’m talking about it, is probably very offensive. But I’m just not sure what the right way is yet. And I think I can only figure it out by saying and writing a lot of the wrong things first.

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