The Passing Lane

Like the title character in the novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – which I wish I could say I’ve read, but I’ve only gotten through the first attention-grabbing chapter in a local bookstore – I thought I was only going to go for a short walk.

Boy, was I wrong. It morphed into an atypical, uphill-and-down, through-the-woods, 10 km, kind of walk. With a nearly sufficient amount of time for periodic stops to rest.. though, quite possibly, not nearly enough. Anyway, I walked. Alot.

IMG_4694A good part of my unexpected trek took place on and around the sides of a mountain smack dab in the middle of the city. (Oh how glorious an urban oasis of nature can be!). It might have looked something like the picture above (which I snapped on a previous SunDay walk), but alas it was extraordinarily grey and overcast. Plus I was pitifully lens-less.

IMG_4719This mountain is (and we walkers are) blessed to have the gift of a gravel path that circles, weaves and wends its way around, much of it covered by overhanging trees. Summertime, it’s used by walkers, runners, mothers with strollers, students, athletes, cyclists, backpackers-in-training and guards on horseback. When fall turns to snow, tracks are made for X-country skiers, while snow-shoers, dating couples, shivering tourists and babies bundled up into toboggans dragged behind doting parents.IMG_4721I did much of my walking on that path. Much of it in silence, with only the occasional passersby, ensconced by the sounds of squirrels high-tailing it up trees with found treasures, the sight of a woodpecker knocking wood, sending chips flying in every direction, and the taste of fresh spring water.

Then, I heard a sort of shuffling coming up from behind. As he passed, I noticed that the 60-ish man with a mild pant in his breath and a forced limp in his jog, still had muscles in his calves and arms swinging by his side. It was pretty clear that he was giving it his all.

He’d barely disappeared from view when a tall, lithe, athletic-looking student with a deer-like presence leaped by me, as if sailing through the air, so light-footed was he. I suddenly remembered that I too once ran easily, softly, lightly. Until one fateful day, ten years ago (and almost to the day), when I collapsed (on another part of the same mount) and faced my first brush with death. With that, came a swift end to my solo running career.

IMG_4758I was still pondering the art and beauty of running when I heard the unmistakeable sound of tires scraping against gravel. She rode up from behind, a day-pack strapped to her back, and passed just close enough for me to feel the whoosh of air flit across my scarf. A pang of envy came with that whoosh. The longing, to get on a bike, to ride like the wind, to feel the brakes skid, the wheels whirl, to throw my two legs out to either side and let out a big “wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

I steeled myself and walked on. They all overtook me. Which got me thinking about the faster-paced pilgrims I would meet, starting next week, on the Camino. I took a deep breath in and acknowledged, quite obviously to no one in within earshot, so to myself in a whisper…

They too shall pass.

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