'Tis true - little by little, one does indeed walk far. It's exactly how I completed Operation North Delta (OND). Walking North Delta was how I remained sane during the worst of COVID-19 restrictions. When a friend suggested that I walk every residential street in North Delta, I didn't hesitate to put on my running shoes and hit the street. Thanks, G.!)
North Delta was the perfect choice, as Surrey, where I live, is simply too big. North Delta is close by, so it didn't require a lot of driving. More importantly, however, is that OND was feasible within a reasonable amount of time. It provided a much-needed sense of accomplishment during a time of altered expectations.
Bathing Suit to Running Shoes
What's a gal to do when her go-to activity has all but evaporated? COVID-19, that infamous party-pooper, put a halt to, well, almost everything. One of the things I grieved was the closure of my swimming pool.
Exercise is important for everyone. (Profound, aren't I?) However, for those living with a chronic, debilitating disease, it's vital. Exercise releases endorphins. It helps to control pain and maintain mobility, build strength, increase endurance and flexibility. The key is to find the right exercise; one that doesn't cause more harm to an already overburdened body. Swimming ticks a lot of the exercise benefits boxes, but during COVID-19 closures, it simply was not on the table, er, in the pool!
So, I exchanged my bathing suit for running shoes and I became a "street walker," as my friend called me. OND would have been much more painful to complete, if I hadn't lost weight. You can read about it here: Weight-Loss and RA: Be Kind to Your Joints.
Step by Step, Little by Little
Step by step, little by little, I completed OND. Thanks to Google Maps, I chose a grid, drew it on a piece of paper and off I went. Each grid usually took me about an hour to complete. I walked on sidewalks, cul de sacs and sometimes I cut through walkways to get into another neighbourhood. The weather didn't deter me: sun, wind, rain, clouds. My preference was to walk when it was cooler, either on overcast afternoons or in the evenings, when that light is just so perfect. It's that particular type of light that seems to smooth out one's wrinkles and paint over the rough edges of a harsh day.
When I returned home, I stapled my map into my little black book, added the date, weather, distance and observations that I made. Yes, I'm old school. There is something satisfying about using the highlighters to trace my route and a pen to record my thoughts.
You may be interested in discovering The Benefits of Note-taking by Hand.
Art on Display
One thing that was evident was that the pandemic seemed to inspire a lot of creativity and well-wishes. Windows, garage doors, fences and sidewalks became readily-accessible canvases for messages of hope, healing and harm-reduction. Paper, paint, chalk, rocks, ribbon; regardless of the medium, I couldn't help but be uplifted when I strolled by the words and images of encouragement.
One of the joys of OND was when I encountered streetside libraries. With the public library doors crazy-glued shut, I was desperate for new reading material. I kept a few books in the car so that I could "take a book, leave a book." I love the fact that they work on the honour system. To be safe, I kept them on the patio for three days before I brought them in for my reading pleasure.
On my OND journey, spring gardens gave way to summer gardens. I delighted in the green thumbs that provided beauty, distraction and even inspiration for my own little patch.
Many lawns in the Lower Mainland (Vancouver area), are playing host to the European chafer beetle. In turn, crows, raccoons and skunks are doing an amazing and unwanted job of rolling the turf to find a high-protein snack. It's an expensive and often, yearly problem to treat. A number of people chose to replace their lawns with rocks and the creative placement of containers.
Novelty, Sanity, Random Thoughts and Observations
As I wrote on Follow the Music, novelty was in short supply during the height of the restrictions. OND was the path that led to sanity. It also provided much-need novelty, even if that novelty wasn't earth-shattering. There was and is enough of that with COVID-19!
OND was an activity with a high yield: exercise, diversion, connection, exploration and of course, novelty. All these things helped to maintain my equilibrium, my health and well-being and give me some semblance of normalcy in an abnormal time. Was it always easy? No, but when I consider the alternative...
Sitting at home, day after day, was unacceptable. Even though I would go on Holly dog walks, it wasn't enough. Nor was it desirable for me to spend enormous amounts of time online. Zoom or Google meetings proved to be frustrating and exhausting, especially with hearing loss.
Along the way, I noticed differences in the neighbourhoods. In some neighbourhoods, people were more apt to do the "Coronavirus Shuffle" when meeting on the sidewalk. We'd each step off to the side so as to maintain physical distance.
Some neighbourhoods had homes and yards that were lovingly tended, even if the homes were older. I particularly enjoyed strolling through areas in which the homes didn't look like they were all made from the same package of lego-blocks.
Of course, I was on the lookout for swimming pools. I only spotted three. I was so tempted to knock on the doors and ask if I could offer swimming or aquasize lessons in exchange for time in the pool.
I discovered a number of parks, large and small. Finally, I found other ways of accessing Burns Bog, otherwise known as "the lungs of the Lower Mainland."
There are a lot of hills in North Delta, some more difficult than others. I ended up "essing" the hills in order to save my knees. I always find going down harder than going up. Do you?
I had a few good chats with people. A kind woman offered me a glass of water, as she told me about her ethnic neighbourhood. I was inspired by the eighty-seven-year-old woman who was out mowing her lawn. She told me that she still walked in Burns Bog with her friends on a daily basis. Another man told me how his heart attack had forced him to reevaluate what is important in his life.
I am debating about my next walking project. New Westminster is just across the river, but my-oh-my, talk about hills! White Rock is hilly near the beach and is further to go. Or I could choose certain neighbourhoods in Surrey. To be determined and continued.
Little by little, one does, indeed walk far. It's also how one accomplishes things, especially during trying times, when our "fuel tanks" may be on the verge of empty.
Little by little, we transform our stress when we onboard techniques that balance the nervous system. Little by little, we lose our weight. Little by little, we step into better health. "Little by little" seems to take a back seat in these days of "overnight successes," but realistically and honestly, little by little is how you get to your destination, wherever that may be.
Over to you. Did you start any sanity-saving projects during the height of COVID-19 restrictions?
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