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Alta States

Walking midst the mountains - reflections on another election



"Reconciliation requires changes of heart and spirit, as well as social and economic change. It requires symbolic as well as practical action."

Malcolm Fraser

There was frost on the ground and a sharp bite to the morning air. But the October sky had that special blend of blue that makes even cranky old columnists fall for Whistler's charms again. Not a cloud to be seen anywhere. Not a breath of wind to ruffle the leaves. And what a sight those leaves offered: a concerto of yellow and red and orange, their frozen tips gleaming like diamonds in the autumn sun. No point in resisting, I thought to myself. The mountain calls. Time for a walk to timberline.

Full disclosure: I'm not the testosterone junkie I once was. No, that's not right. Let me put it another way. My body no longer supports the kind of physical adventures that once defined my life. Call me what you will: Icarus cobbled, Popeye in port, Beaudry on the couch. It's been a tough two years.

Quite a come down, in fact. A real eye-opener. Where once I flew, I now grovel. You see, anything more aggressive than putting one foot in front of the other hurts me terribly these days. Gotta run across the street to catch the bus? Pain. Jump on the bike for a quick spin to the store? Pain. Ski down the mountain on a beautiful powder day? Pain. Even lifting the damn surfboard onto the roof - Ouch - pain! You get the picture. I've been robbed of my adventure drop-out clause - my one get-out-of-jail-free-and-wild card - the very thing that kept me sane in this paranoid world of over-management and nanny governance. YARGH!

As the old song says "and the backbone's connected to the..." well, connected to just about everything else in my body as it turns out. Which has left me no recourse but, sigh, to take up walking.

Fortunately I've discovered that being a pedestrian (a word I once used as an epithet - as in 'don't be so ...') is surprisingly fun. And healthy. No, walking doesn't get my heart beating like a mad drummer at a T-Rex revival. Nor do I feel the adrenalin pinging around my stomach like a box of bb pellets spilled on a slate floor. No. That's not what I get from walking. Its magic is far too subtle for that.

The sights. The sounds. The smells even. The silky feel of a dew-kissed cedar frond sliding across my skin. The foreign texture of a white-speckled amanita squatting on the forest floor. It's a raven chortling at my passage. A ground squirrel collecting seeds for its winter stash. To me, that's what walking is all about. You get to become an intimate part of the community in which you're strolling. Whether it's embracing the human bouillabaisse on Vancouver's Commercial Drive or braving a gaggle of garrulous black bears on a Whistler trail - doesn't matter. It's all-incumbent on the magic of using your feet to get around. Really. There's nothing like being a pedestrian when it comes to learning about your own neighbourhood.