The deep thinker Kierkegaard had that just about perfectly right. As I stumble my way through the final weeks of my seventh decade I find walking more vitally important than ever. I’ve always been a walker-hiker-rambler but as I approach the opening salvos of decade number eight I am ever more struck by the insight of the sage, Robert Carl Nagel: You don’t wait ‘til your seventy to start looking after yourself. All around me are folks whose knees and hips seem to be crumbling faster than the fond hopes of those who went into U.S. balloting stations November 8 expecting that their fellow citizens would be governed by their better natures. I seek to walk my troubles away.
Some of the best walking Jan and I enjoyed in 2016 was in the hills of Tuscany in May. Apart from the obvious attractions – the regional food and drink – we reveled in a plethora of wildflowers and beautiful birds. We ate up history, culture and ancient architecture. We made new friends. We wore ourselves out, happily, and rationalized that with the daily caloric burn we could reward ourselves with all the gnocchi and gelato we could load on board.
A year ago health issues deprived me of an entire season at the summer Shangri-la in Cape Breton. Jan and I made up for it in 2016. At Big Bras d’Or we typically start our day with a seven-kilometre walk to and around Dalem Lake, relishing the ever-changing scene delivered by the passing seasons.
We enjoyed occasional bike expeditions, entertained visitors at the cabin, exploited Lynn-and-Louise’s willingness to take us into wild, untrampled parts of the Cape Breton highlands. Now we are back at the winter base camp on south Vancouver Island, where there are more hills to explore and other kindred spirits to explore them with. We wear out boot leather with good friends Mike, Mary and Judith – and count ourselves lucky that we’re still able to do so.
The past year delivered a happy event of another, less sweaty sort. On November 12 I launched my book, Remembered in Bronze and Stone, a contemplation of Canadian war memorials. Published by Heritage House, the book is available in stores right across the country. It is early days but the response to the book has been highly gratifying. It makes an excellent Christmas present. No, really.
2016 was a banner year. Mostly. True, not all the passages wrought by time are ones that bring joy. Dan Livingstone departed this mortal coil in March. In June it was Bob Nagel’s turn. Then the great Ron Satterfield took his leaving in August. Though I never knew them personally I also grieved the departures of Muhammad Ali and Leonard Cohen. Happily, life affords plenty of joy to offset periodic stabs of grief. Even with D. Trump in the White House, the sun will likely still shine; warblers will return in May; satinflowers, shooting-stars and calypso orchids will yet bloom in the warmth of another island spring. We shall make a point of reveling in them all. Perhaps everything will be all right.
On my own behalf and Jan’s too: Happy Holidays and our best wishes for a healthy and productive New Year.