Sunday, September 26, 2010

WK 25: Art Enlarges the Language of Observation

"[Art] enlarges the language of observation" - so says Canadian painter and sculptor, Gathie Falk. Certainly photography does. Sometimes I don't really see what's in a photo until after it has been taken and I look into it as the observer-participant.  Once I found a bright scarlet ladybug I had missed when snapping a picture - another time when I had forgotten my glasses, a finished photo revealed a fat raccoon sitting in a tree which had totally escaped the notice of my unspectacled eyes! But it's more than just the obvious that we see. Photos zoom into the details and reveal layers and nuances we often haven't the time or even maybe sometimes the inclination to notice. And it is this act of framed observation - a snapped moment in time - which reconfigures our perception of what we think at first we are seeing.  It prompts 'second sight' revealing what we hadn't seen before - offering us a completely refreshed insight and focus. Sadly, we miss a lot as we rush about our lives. Whether taking a photo, painting a picture, arranging flowers, washing the car, cooking a fabulous meal - taking  the time to look closely at what is in front of us and noting all we can see reveals much both about the object viewed and about ourselves.

I couldn't get out to take many pics this week due to a rhum foot... but on Wednesday, lame limb or not, I  plan to be on the trails taking as many photos as possible. This looks to be the optimum autumn leaves weekend coming up here in Bracebridge.  I welcome all of you to try to make the time to come up and take in the fantastic vista.  For those of you can't come, I invite you to find a tree or even a single leaf near your home. Make a close inspection - with your mind, your emotions and your soul. What do you see?

and Thank YOU for walking along with me on my footpath this week.


The Photos for Week 25 are HERE: 

Monday, September 20, 2010

WK 24: The first pedometer walk went well...

Wilson Falls Road - Part of the Trans Canada Trail.
If you begin walking at Taylor Road and River Road here in Bracebridge 
and continue onto Wilson Falls Road up the Trans Canada Trail until you reach the Falls - 
and then make the return trip, that is just about the 10,000 heart-healthy steps some walking and health sites recommend per day. Unlike most of the other hiking trails which feature forest floor surfaces, Wilson Falls Road can be walked along almost every day of the year and so it will be my winter exercise of choice most days.

Almost all of the wildlife I saw this summer including ducks, deer, beaver, myriad birds including a mighty heron, raccoons and something else in the river I couldn't identify - an otter?, were located along the Muskoka River at Wilson Falls Road. I hope you will all give this diverse and very beautiful walkway a try if you are by this way!
Let me know if you do!


This week I stubbornly maintained focus on exercise, eating healthy and continuing to find a work/living balance in my life even while navigating through the busiest, nerviest part of my work year.

The rain has been fairly persistent the past week, but finally today the trails dried up a little and it was possible to get around the muddy bits. After saving up my Shopper's Drug Mart 'Optimum Points' for awhile, I took them to shop for a Omron Pedometer to help measure the distances walked in both km and 'steps', the percentage of those steps which were walked at a quick enough pace to be considered aerobic exercise during each hike and also the number of calories consumed. The burned calorie count is personalized on the pedometer by inputting one's body weight and it can be further manually adjusted according to age if that's an interest.  It is the distance - number of steps and km - that I am using it for mostly as another means of being aware of a balance between calories in and out -- and time away from work!

The first pedometer walk went well. I checked the 'steps' function a few times to make sure it was recording accurately which indeed it was. The light-weight gadget attaches easily (though not firmly enough, in my opinion) to the waste band or pocket or can even be attached to a purse.  The measurement at the end of the hike was dead-on and I was glad to see that my favourite trail - Wilson Falls Road - provides just the right number of walking steps to fulfill the 10,000 being recommended by many today as a healthy amount of daily walking exercise.  This is on top of the ordinary walking which varies depending on what we do throughout the normal course of the day. Obviously we all have different levels of health and walking distances and the benefits of that are going to depend on our own personal make-up. Some folks walk enough in their jobs and have little need of further walking during their day.

So that was step two this week to keep working on health.  Step one was just simply making the decision to get out the door each day!  Sometimes that is far harder than taking the actual walk which I quite enjoy - once I get out there!.  When set into a work 'groove' for the day, I get a bit obsessive and don't want to firmly put whatever the project is back down on the desk and drag myself out of the chair to grab the back-pack and shoes. The thing that seems to work is to remember how enjoyable it feels being out walking in nature, along the river and in ear-view of the birds. And every walk, there is some little surprise to behold.

Decision three had to do with food and portions and where and how I eat. Eating good healthy food has never been a problem for me. I am almost entirely a vegetarian with a few eggs and some fish thrown into the mix. I eat lots of beans and many varieties of them along with grains. This is my food of choice and certainly no sacrifice at all. But, some days, portions are. Especially when the workload is heavy and the hours are long. So one thing I am doing is to make eating a separate daily event - even if it is a brief one - instead of grabbing whatever and chowing down in front of the computer, the printer or the TV. And to ensure the meal is even more enticing and the portions are reasonably sized, I have decided to spring for a very special handmade dinner plate. It is smallish and square; a beautiful ceramic piece  decorated in a fine-art, understated sort of way. I have promised myself that when I finish losing the next 15 pounds, I am going back for a soup or fruit dish by way of reward!

None of this is easy.  This is the hardest time of year to lose weight, exercise and maintain health.  There is just so little time in a day and from the moment I fall out of bed 'til it's time to turn the covers back down again, it is work, work, work - right up until about December 23rd.  And because it is getting colder, the body seems to say more often - 'feed me, feed me, feed me something warm and comforting!' And then with winter coming on, there will be a heavy coat to get into and heavier still boots to lace up... it just all takes a little more effort.  But after a summer of regular walking, exercise and eating well, my endurance has increased, the weight is down a bit and so are the blood pressures. Nothing's perfect but it sure is improved. If I can make it through the busy season coming up - basically just 13 weeks - then I will finally be on the way of having achieved a lifestyle change and can be assured that walking, good eating, and a healthy life balance are taking root. Enjoyment of the maturing years has so much to do with health -  none of us want to spend those years in a chair - or worse still, in a bed!

Cheers, everyone. I hope you too, are getting out to enjoy the lovely fall weather. If it rains, then try walking round malls or just take an umbrella with you.  But do stay off the slippery forest trails which can be muddy and dangerous.

Thanks for your company and walking along with me on my footpath this week,

Supplemental photos of a downtown Toronto visit this week are here:
Page 1:
Page 2:

The crackers if any of you are interested for Thanksgiving are here:

PS:  The new  Muskoka Trails 'Map Clips' are available.
You can buy them at Muskoka Bean on Manitoba Street for just $5.
The Clip Book contains trail maps for 6 Muskoka Regions - each page is plastic protected, features a map, access points, parking locations and items of interest. Each trail also features a "Volkssport Rating" to indicate the walking difficulty.  I don't know if I particularly agree with these ratings for Bracebridge.  One trail which I find especially easy, is rate 5E - the most difficult level but another trail that I believe to be the hardest in town is given only a 3E.  So maybe some of this is subjective!
Anyway, these attractive Clips can be handily attached to your back pack.

For more information, Twitter here:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Supplemental Photos - Toronto

 Toronto Wired

The usual 12 photos of Bracebridge will be posted likely on Monday.
Meanwhile, here are some taken in Toronto
while I was waiting for a medical appt.

Here are the page links - hope you enjoy them:

Toronto Page One
Toronto Page Two

Old City Hall - Details

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wk 23: I have birthday-promised myself...

Thank goodness for these corduroy-like walkways
which help us over the boggy parts of the Trans Canada trail.
Sometime, about the first week of August every year, my nerves start jumping about in raw disorganization and a million 'To-Do' lists visually conjure up from the frightening jumble that's stuffing up my brain.  And every year I run out to the nearest "Back to School" sale to load up on a fresh supply of Hilroy exercise books into which all these lists get transcribed. A blue book for supply sourcing; the pink book for creative ideas, the green book for financial matters and the encouraging, cheery yellow one for everything else. I live under the ever-hopeful expectations and impression (mistaken?) that if I can only get it all written down in neatly organized, numbered columns that a way to figure it all out and to get it all done ON TIME will become clearly evident.  And, I will be able to breathe again. 

This is the start of another holiday season at GillianCrackers. It is always a nervy, stressful time.  There is much to do, create, buy, produce, stuff, wrap, roll, tape, cut, print, weigh, ship, stamp, record and pack. There are new cracker styles to create, paper suppliers to find, new puzzles to devise and holiday candy to source.  And then there are the dog and cats to think of because, being an ardent animal lover, I like to make Christmas and crackers special for them too. The production end of the crackers is huge and boxes of supplies and activity packs and chocolate are everywhere - stacks of paper boxes which need filling with cut, sized wraps; unfolded paper hats (all hand made) and puzzle sheets awaiting folding stare petulantly at me from shaky make-shift shelves stacked to the ceiling with holiday components - rather uncertainly and everywhere - all reminding me there is much work to be done. The puzzle pencil and the cello bag supply boxes have reached empty and I am reminded (once money is found!) they must be reordered. SOON. And then there is co-ordinating the efforts of others involved - the 'cracker elves'.  These are the folks who help me source supplies, handle late out-of-country deliveries, supply specialty items like this year's handmade (in Muskoka - YEAH!) pewter tree ornaments or the artisanal chocolate truffles which give the crackers their special Victorian-England holiday touches. And then there is the headache of financing (unsuccessfully again this year) the seasonal 'start-up' costs which has never as a result to date 'started-up' on time so I am always a couple of months behind from the get-go. The clouds of stress build and hover like some kind of looming doomsday storm about to break at any moment. Ohhhhh, I have a big, big headache.

Some of the prep work gets done in January when everything is still fresh in my mind from the preceeding months and when there is a ton of feedback from my wonderbar customers (God bless 'em all!) who send in their completed 'customer satisfaction/suggestion' surveys. At that time, ideas for the next season form and take shape for fun new cracker varieties for the next season.

But it is in dear August when the dramatic start of 'nerve season' begins. I mention all of the preceding because, as many of you know, I am trying very hard to live a more healthy life, lose pounds, lower blood pressures, build muscles. And for all this to become a 'habit-for-life'. Nerve Season is the toughest time of year to get through - physically and emotionally.  I start to eat.  And eat and eat and EAT!  And then eat some more. And sadly with so little time available (the normal 10 hour working days having turned into 16-18 hr 'holiday' season days by mid July), I find it harder and harder to get out for any kind of walking let alone a peaceful, energizing hike on the trails. I'm sure many of you with pressured jobs and schedules can relate.

And so, last week, while not surprised, I was dismally dismayed to see the scales creep up 2 pounds already and my blood pressure was again through the roof. This cannot happen. It WILL NOT happen. I turn 60 in just 20 weeks and I have birthday-promised myself that I will be a healthier person going into the next decade. This is a soul-promise and it can't be broken no matter what. It is very hard though with so little time to eat well when working such long days. Instead of taking the time to make vegetables and fish, I end up eating bread and anything that doesn't require cooking. Including looting the Christmas Ghirardelli chocolate supply. (And, as I keep telling my Swiss-Canadian chocolate-loving friend, Diana, I don't even LIKE chocolate!) This year though I am GOING TO LICK THIS. I have made some pre-emptive strike changes, filling up a freezer given to me by friends Diana (same one) & Wray (thanks so much, guys!), with multiple varieties of 'whole-food' soups, stuffed green peppers and other healthy, portion-sized entres all made in my own kitchen with controlled nutrients and calories. It will all be so welcome when the pressure gauge turns up a few notches by October 1st.  The harder thing to plan for is exercise - finding the time, the energy, the will to get out onto the trails.  So I sat myself down Friday and delivered a stern admonition: Life is short and getting shorter - To live it well, to the utmost, to squeeze every last little bit of enjoyment out of whatever years remain, health is essential. I resolved Friday that a daily short walk and at least two longer weekly hikes are a continued must. MUST. I really enjoy them and after 8 months they are almost an ingrained habit - it's just a matter of being given the self-permission to get up from the office chair, leave the holiday season work on the desk despite the awesomely growing piles, grab the backpack and. go, GO, GO! 

Yesterday I enjoyed a soul-refreshing, body-energizing hike along the Wilson Falls Trail and the Trans Canada trails - both the northern and southern Muskoka River  routes. The fungi were ablaze with deep reds and golds, a few trees are already dressed in autumn glory, the summer birds are leaving replaced by jays and other feathered friends who winter here. I gathered up acorns - abundant all across the forest floor - for my backyard chipmunk friends (I don't think they like them though!). The trails stretched ahead for 8 or more miles and I walked and walked and walked all the nerviness out of my brain and legs and enjoyed every little minute of living in the moment.  And there were surprises; most notably the sudden flight of a mighty heron taking off as I passed by his perch. My legs feel like velvet today and my head is clearer. And I am ready to tackle the seasonal work-load and challenges. For today, at least. I know I can get through the holidays with health, trimming pounds not adding them, lowering blood pressures not raising them. Like the "Little Engine who Could", I CAN do this!  I CAN, you betcha. Cross your fingers and toes for me and ... stay tuned.  Sigh.

If you enjoyed this week's blog, please feel free to pass it along to friends, colleagues and family or anyone who may enjoy / benefit. 
Have a great week everyone.

Thanks for walking along with me on my footpath this week.

This photos for Week 23 are HERE:

The Holiday Crackers, if you wish to follow their progress, are HERE:

Wk 22: Rain and more rain...

Garden Fence - Front Street, Bracebridge, Ontario
Lots of rain during Week 22 of the project and the pictures had to be gathered slowly and one at a time over the course of the week - in between the raindrops!

The Photos are here.