I had a meeting at the Red Cross at 9:30 and so I set out just after 9 a.m. on my bicycle. The new Red Cross offices are about 2.5 miles away and so I was just a wee bit late arriving. A wee bit, that is, until I discovered that the person I was meeting with was on the 3rd floor and the elevators don’t work without a passcard. Never mind – I climbed the stairs. All of this exertion was to find out that there’d been some confusion about the date for this meeting and the person I was to meet with wasn’t there. We rescheduled, I put my bike helmet back on, and climbed back down the 3 flights of stairs. It was still before 10 a.m.; what to do next?
The Red Cross office is south-west from where I live and it’s just north of Bloor Street. A little bit (I thought … I was wrong) farther west on Bloor is the Old Mill which is where I usually put my kayak into the Humber River. It’s also a place with kayak rentals (from the same guys I rented from last Sunday – on the Rouge River – for my niece Miri) so I called “the guys” as arranged to have a kayak waiting for me around 10:30. Into a NoFrills grocery store to buy bottles of water, some fruit, some zip-loc bags (to keep my iPhone and books dry) and some sunscreen.
Back on my bike I started peddling west. And peddling. And peddling. Turns out that it was another 3 miles before I got to the river. But into the river I got and away I went.
On a weekday morning the river’s particularly quiet. There was a huge sun and some beautiful clouds. Almost as soon as I started paddling Iwas greeted by a flock of Canada geese taking off from the river just feet in front of me. What a sight! I greeted them and thanked them for welcoming me. No, I’m not losing my mind talking to geese; I’m just glad to be sharing the beauty of this earth with them and thought I’d let them know. After paddling for about half an hour I veered off the river into a little marsh area filled with water lilies and still water. Nestled up against some lilly pads I pulled out one of the books that I want to read to prepare for my course in the fall and spent the next hour reading. Book read, I headed back to the river and headed back to my launch point.
It was a little after 1 o’clock when I climbed back onto my bike and began the ride home. A topographical moment! Where I live in Toronto is just at the edge of where glacier-melt ended and so there’s a sharp drop from where I live to what was once the lake. Now that the lake is about 8 miles south of where I live, all north-south roads in and out of my neighbourhood include a steep hill just south of me. A hill that I can only sometimes manage without having to get off my bike and walk a bit on my way home. I was ready for that. On the other hand, I thought that Bloor Street (an east-west street) was pretty much flat. Not! As you head west you come to repeated drops into valleys and climbs back up. A number of them. Big hills all. So I stopped for a picnic (I’d forgotten to eat my fruit in the kayak) and a rest part way home, taking up residence on a bench in front of High Park. Good fruit. Good water. Still good sunshine. Perfection.
And then as I looked around I saw something that riveted me. There were lots of pigeons pecking away at the grass. When the sun glistened on their black backs some of their feathers glowed a sort of iridescent purple; very pretty. And then I saw her (okay – maybe I saw him … but let’s go with her). One brownish pigeon. One pigeon who stood out in the crowd. And as I sat and watched her I learned something about myself. Like her, I’ve always been – or at least always felt like – the “other”; the one who stood out, the one who didn’t fit in. Now as any of you who share this feeling of “othered” that I’m talking about know, there’s generally either a negative (not as good as) or positive (better than) value put on this being different thing. The “not as good as” perspective leaves me feeling depleted and insecure. The “better than” perspective leaves me equally uncomfortable because I know it isn’t honest. Today, as I sat communing with the pigeons, I realized that there was beauty in the difference; not better or worse … but beauty nonetheless. That pigeon didn’t seem to be worrying about her “otherness”; why do I?
Carl Jung said that the more we accept ourselves, the more we change. I think he’s likely right about that. Hope so.