Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Walks of October

Well, the schedule I've been looking for since the beginning of January has finally, I think, arrived. And with it, I might add, not a few very interesting memories. It's getting close to the Canadian Thanksgiving, which in my particular recollections reminds me of the weekend trip to Victoria that did so much to precipitate my first, profoundly useful, withdrawal from law school. To be perfectly truthful, I have for some time wondered if the actual weekend were not a little later, because the big decision began to be made on the Sunday night of the return to Vancouver of myself and my roommate, I'm now fairly sure; but it's this time of the year that brings the memories to mind, and the spirit of the celebration is more important than the date recalled.
Now, as then, I have shifted priorities, and it has given me a very pleasant sense of freedom. For five months, so driven was I by the sense of need of the reform of music education, the blog has loomed every day as my first active duty. (Active as opposed to contemplative, or all the necessary operations of passive prayer.) With the weekend this has changed, because I have decided, or more accurately, been given the grace to decide, that my prime duty for the weeks ahead was walking for the sake of getting my weight down. I have indeed managed to lose eight or so pounds since my visit to my intended surgeon, at the end of December, but I feel that this is not enough, and of course the threats of high blood pressure justify the removal as soon as possible of more fat.
When I graduated from high school I weighed 150 pounds. I weighed the same after four years at UBC and for the next decades only weighed more when I had gained muscle from working at weight bearing occupations. I was still an eleven stone or 250 kilos chap in 1982 when I had my appendix operation. When you average seven miles of walking a day, spread over morning, afternoon, and evening, it's not easy loosing the lean. But with Shawn going to the museum in 83, and MT taking over housekeeping duties, the walking suffered. Then there was the car, acquired in 86, which made things worse from the fitness point of view.
So the battle of the bulge was on, and I struggled, actually quite successfully, with staying in the lower 160's, albeit with a second-hand scale which lied, although we did not catch on to the full extent of its fibbing until we bought a new one, battery-powered, which told the grim truth to the nearest half-pound. There was also the gym scale, which measured the nice acquisition of muscle weight in 2000, but you can't stand on that one wearing only the glasses you need for reading the numbers, unless you own the place and can go in when no one else is around. And other stuff demanded concentration, like the music research, the steady growth of the various plots, and the study of alternate schools of fitness and medicine. I always had in mind the simple fact that if I could just get into a regular schedule of adequate mileage, the lard would slip away in a relatively short period of time, but I could never quite get to such a program until the summer of 2000.
Now I knew, absolutely, as mystics have to know, that it was not simply a matter of human will power. When your principal purpose on earth is contemplative prayer, even 20 pounds here and there is all but irrelevant. Compared to most men still active, I had nothing but time, in the physical sense, for walking off the baggage, and yet there was more to it than that, for I seemed to have to go through a routine that included jogging, even if it meant hurting my joints to the degree that insisted on fuller studies of the musculo-skeletal details I was not always eager to learn. So, stop and start from June of 06 to March of 07, and the pounds were once more losing ground. But then the final understanding of the absolute rule of numbers as applied to music theory and practice, and then nine months of a lot of energy for the keyboard and not much for the open road of the dedicated walker, to say nothing of the return to writing via, finally for me, the new and lovely wrinkles of the word processor.
Frankly, I ignored the bathroom scale in those nine months and ate a lot of my own extremely healthy homemade bread, and drank a fair bit of my excellent - Capuchin approved - homemade beer, in the wee smalls of the morning while I kept exploring the gaps, on the keyboard, between my lovely, exciting, theories, and my much less lovely grasp of good scale studies and the perfect sense of fingering needed to go with them. It was not especially creative work, in the main, and I knew the beer would help me hang in there until I got a message or two. I also knew that the beer would hand some extra cells around the waistline, and I was right. By the time the good doctor gave my marching orders, literally, I was peaking - and paunching - at a svelte 177.
Thus, at four in the morning, sometime in the first week of the New Year, I felt myself kicked out of bed, and not for the rubber keyboard under the earphones, but for the streets of Nelson. There had been snow, but the city lads had the roads plowed. I worked out an uphill route, in the center of the old town, which is where we have lived these many years, but then settled for the Fairview route, going east on a gentle downhill grade to the last north-south street on that side of the town, then coming in parallel to the lake shore and home through the main intersection of Ward and Baker. A little over an hour. I got out about four times a week or so, and started losing around half-a-pound every fortnight or even less. I endured a finishing course on water retention - you think mood swings are bad - and also began, largely due to those nine months of leisure, to register quite sore feet. Well, I assumed it was just the leisure. More on that later.
As the jogging had earlier, painfully, illuminated my ignorance about the effect on the knees of tight quads, the front muscles of the thigh, so this walking programme began to teach me that I had been quite neglectful of the physiology of the feet. My arches became so sore that I went to our orthotics man to ask for an increase in the dimensions of the insets I've worn for the past dozen years. He skilfully prodded my extremities and said what I needed was not fatter insets but a better application of calf stretches. I had planter fasciaitis. He demonstrated the cure, and I began to make it work, although not to full effect. And, fortunately, MT had some months earlier begun to lay in texts related to the study of fascia.
I think this step marks the beginning of the end of the process, although I do not yet have total control of the effects on my feet. Yesterday morning I decided, or was moved to decide, that I would begin a ten-mile-a-day schedule. By far the most important part of this decision was to insist to myself and anyone else that the walking was the new priority. Even the blog could go to hell. If the ten miles left me too tired, so what? Besides, with the latest economic crisis, the world might need to relearn how to walk.
Even though my left ankle was giving me a little trouble, I thought, from some new stretches, I made my goal, in two rambles. MT left me to myself for the second. The ankle was even worse this morning, and as I came out on the street after Mass I felt like Saint Teresa of Avila the time her carriage collapsed while the horse was pulling it and her across a creek. "Lord," she said, "if this is how to treat your friends, no wonder You have so few." I was in a like frame of mind. If I've been so mentally set up to get cracking on the conclusion, why the sudden breakdown? The ankle had been fine for weeks. I stayed puzzled for about three blocks, then hit upon the solution, which was to extend the left leg as I walked, forcing it to be the leading limb. This worked instantly, and after the customary muffin at the coffee shop in the hotel on the lake shore, I left the ladies to walk the few blocks home on their own and took off for another two hours, rain or no rain, going east within constant view of the lake to Horlick's Point, the end of the road at that part of town. It's mostly bush out there, and only a few hundred yards along the return, I spotted a youngish coyote, down on the CPR tracks. I squatted down and we studied each other for a while, then he went on his way. Unlike Saruman, I like to pay attention to the animals. I'd say the coyote was a sign that it's going to be a very good month. In this part of the world, Coyote was an enormous symbol to the natives.
Then for a while I had the company of a border collie. Black and white, like the sons of Saint Dominic. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican. He had a phrase I've always loved: sufficient distinctions. I'll publish this now, as it is long enough, and the next installment will tell of that principle as applied to a perfect curing of my podiatrist problems, which surfaced hugely while I was in the middle of this essay.


Southview said...

Ken...Home Brewed Beer and Fresh Baked Bread, your makin me glands squirt and me taste buds tingle! Winter is comin and you need the insulation on your old brittle bones anyway so forget the walkin and lets EAT!

Southview said...

Ken... You may find this interesting?