Living in the Times of Covid – 19: A Journal

So, I reorganized my CD collection, sent a video to my mom and put a silly picture on Facebook. My very busy agenda for the day is complete. I am thinking now it is time to start an on-line journal on our days staying inside.

Just to be clear, none of this will be me complaining. I have a sister-in-law who is a nurse in Montreal, our daughter and her partner and our daughter-in-law are all front-line health care workers. They are the ones I know who are actually going through challenging times now.

Thank-you Norma, stay safe!

This is more of a reflection piece. Where was my mind at during the Pandemic?

If you can see the photo I put up on Facebook, you can get a sense of where my head is at. I really think, number one, the idea needs to be stay stable, don’t go off the deep end, this is a really weird time.

But at some point, we will all go over the deep end.

Two nights ago during a Zoom book club, I didn’t follow my own advice. I had spent an hour listening to the daily presser with Donald Trump fact-checked by Now This News. It is really good because they fact-check Trump in realtime. Good, but very disturbing.

Going from this train wreck to a discussion on books about hiking was a little too much. I erupted about Trump, about trekking books, about everything. If my Zoom partners could have backed further away from their computer they certainly would have. For good reason, my state of mind is now a discussion item and I can hardly blame people for that.

Trying to keep an even keel these days is a real challenge!

We all have minor and major disappointments. We can’t see our friends and family. Everyone is seeing opportunities and plans go up in smoke. In the very worst cases of course, many people are dying terrible deaths.

There was an incredible article in the Sunday New York Times – He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus.

It is a long article – four pages in the NY Times.It really outlines in gruesome detail how President Trump hid from what was coming. Then I read an amazing piece by Nicholas Kristof, Life and Death in the Hot Zone. Here is the video he made of his time in a COVID ward.

 

So, I think we need to do a bit of both. We need to send out the silly photos, we need to share our pictures about baking bread and we need to read good pieces on hiking too. We need to do it all. We need to face up to what is happening too.

There is no balance in the time of COVID -19. There are highs and lows and all are good. We need to witness the terrible and we can’t turn our faces away from the corrupt and stupid. Somehow, we need to find a way to see both.

For me right now, the best I can do is write. Yes, it is a bit of an apology for a wonky state of mind, but we all need to acknowledge that this is a different time. Terrible for some scary and uncertain for everyone.

If this works I will keep writing, maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, take care everyone!

ps – I leave you with this – while I don’t really like books on trekking I love trekking videos – definitely, to each their own!

To Be a Pilgrim

Who would true valour see, Let him come hither
One here will constant be, Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent His first avowed intent,
To be a pilgrim

John Bunyan

Pilgrim – person who journeys to a sacred place; a traveller or wanderer.

Lightfoot Companion to the Via Francigena

symbol for the Via Francigena

Retirement is a funny thing. After decades of defining oneself by an occupation, the time comes where your definition needs to come from somewhere else. It is a different journey with fewer signposts.

After two and a half years, I think I am putting some of the pieces together. While there is work from time to time, retirement for me is becoming defined by the sojourn. This was not the plan, but it seems to resonate.

Two years ago I climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and entered the world of thin air and extreme trekking. Later, I travelled the old military roads of the Scottish Highlands with my daughter Colleen. The following year, on our first Climb for Kids trek, we climbed the sacred ground around Ausangate in Peru.

Colleen finds the Braveheart Car Park on the West Highland Way

My son Liam and I followed this up by walking the Pathway of the Gods in Amalfi. We also traced ancient Roman ruins at Pompeii and Rome. Very soon, our second Climb for Kids group will be trekking 170 km around Mont Blanc.

Liam and I starting another trek on the Amalfi Coast

Now I am starting to plan for my longest journey, part of the Via Francigena next October. We are also actively planning for Year III of Climb for Kids. The next trek will be an epic climb, but we won’t announce this one until the end of the summer.

I think what is happening here is that in my retirement I am becoming a pilgrim. There is an ‘avowed intent’ that is linking all of these walks. I think the most important intent is to connect or reconnect with people. On my treks in Scotland and Italy, I had the wonderful privilege of travelling first with my daughter Colleen then with my son Liam.

There is a true beauty in reconnecting with your adult children. We all change as we grow older and we all need to take the time to make sure our relationships stay vital and fresh. You can do this really well by walking and talking or sometimes just travelling in silence.

Climb for Kids is a wonderful experience for all sorts of reasons. I wrote about Year II last week and you can see that post here – Communities Move Mountains. This trek is about connecting too. Most importantly I get to travel and plan with my wonderful partner Heather Swail. We did our first high-altitude trek together last year in Peru and we experienced the beauty of the mountain together. After so many years together, it is still possible to learn things about your partner, especially when you are trekking under conditions of high physical stress.

Heather reaches the high pass at 5200 m with her buddy Beth

We have a great group this year and we will learn a great deal about each other as we travel around the highest mountain in Europe. Mountains take you to another place. They help you to hold others who travel with you in higher regard. They help you to gain a greater respect for yourself and for what you are able to do. The mountains truly make you a pilgrim.

There is a really good story that John Muir told about trekking. He never used the word hike and neither do I. He liked the word saunter because of its connection to an ancient practice.

Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.

John Muir

A Parable of Sauntering

So this is my saunter. It is defining much of what I do these days, although until now I didn’t know if I had put this together. I still have to start writing about the Via Francigena and I will either soon or after the TMB. There is so much to learn and a world to saunter in. Each journey takes me to another holy land and I guess that makes me a pilgrim.

Acclimatization camp on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Calling for Climbers! Come with Christie Lake Climb for Kids in 2019!!

Our Climb for Kids Launch at the Senate Tavern last Friday

Thanks to all of you who were able to attend our launch last Friday. We had a great turnout and now we need to fill the final 7 spots to make sure we have a group for 2019. Pretty exciting to see so many people out to celebrate 2018 and hopefully, take part in this year’s trek.

We have 7 trekkers and we need 7 more by mid-November to offer a trip for next July (departure July 12). You may be thinking of going or you may know someone who would be great on this trek. There are always lots of reasons for putting off adventure, but there is only one good reason to go – try something really different that changes you and the lives of children!

I know that the people who went with us last year would all agree with this. Climbing in Peru was great, climbing with a wonderful, committed group of people was even better.

Our Ausangate group – do you see yourself in this picture for 2019?

So this week I am making the big push to fill up our group. I am sending emails, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram messages – anything I can think of to get people motivated to move way outside their comfort zone.

don’t miss out on this great adventure!

What certainly works better than social media is word of mouth. The people who came with us last year were all linked to others in the group. If you are reading this maybe you are that link – bring a friend, a colleague or partner! Think what you can learn and experience together!

If you are planning on waiting until next time you may be too late – life doesn’t wait and neither should you.

To help you make up your mind we do have some resources for you.

  1. A new ESRI Story Map that has all the information we have on the trip, including the booking form, itinerary and the video invitation.
  1. a great Climb for Kids digital poster – we have copies of the poster and can make more if you need them. We can even supply you with these to pass on to your friends.

    Here is the official 2019 Climb for Kids poster unveiled at our launch last Friday
  1. If it would help if I contacted you or someone else directly via email I am happy to do this – please feel free to pass on my address and phone number (613-218-9615) if this will help.

Climb for Kids is a great group experience – we combine adventure with a unique opportunity to help kids – please consider joining us!!

Paul

Booking form:  https://bit.ly/2Q06H3u

Itinerary: https://bit.ly/2pAdMwl

A very cool Tour de Mont Blue Interactive Map:  http://u.osmfr.org/m/206457/

Our video promotion!

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Travels with My Daughter

It’s a really different world when you no longer work in a traditional setting. I don’t call it retirement because I am still working, just at other things.

There is work coming and there has been lots of work, but when you leave the mainstream working world you need to become a bit of an opportunist. Two weeks ago, I dropped our youngest daughter off at the airport in Montreal to start her grand tour.

It occurred to me on the way home that I am between contracts and probably for the first time I can remember, I really don’t have anything I really need to do.

This is an odd sensation, not one I am totally comfortable with, but you really need to lean into things when you are facing a major turn in your life.

So, I will join my daughter for nine days of hiking through the Scottish Highlands. I haven’t been to Scotland for 35 years, so it is way past time that I visited. We will hike through the Highlands and attempt Ben Nevis at the end of our hike. After climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, this is the only type of travel that I want to do.

To do it with our youngest daughter is a really wonderful opportunity. I am so glad I decided to take a leap and go for it.

So the writing will continue, but I will be back focusing on adventure and trekking. I am very fortunate to be able to take this opportunity. Let’s see what leaning in really looks like.