Monthly Archives: September 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: SATURATED

I was at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market. As it was fairly early, I found the stores saturated with stocks; just right for this week’s Photo Challenge: “Saturated“. The cheese store displayed a sea of yellow in different tones, the meat was pink and fresh, and the florist was saturated with colours too.

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The Hamilton Farmers Market shares a long history with the City of Hamilton since its inception in 1837. It is open four days a week. Since it is situated in the downtown area of the City, it is a convenient location for office workers to shop for fresh produce, coffee and spices, baked goods as well as household items during lunch hour, and before or after work.

Hamilton Farmers Market, 35 York Blvd., Hamilton, Ontario. (Jackson Square).

Thursday Special: My 200th Blog Post

I celebrate my 200th post to-day with a link to my first post. I also submit this post to Thursday Special, that Paula of Lost in Translation has set up. I entitled my first post “Impossible? Possible!” It was the banner in the photo that gave me the inspiration to start blogging, and the words also reflected my determination to power walk to bring health to my life. Blogging and power walking are now two activities that I engage in regularly, together with my other passions–reading, food, and music and art.

I was standing under the same banner at the start line of the Sporting Life 10K earlier this year in May and took a picture of it myself. It dawned on me too that I had been blogging for one year. These two activities have enabled me to connect with many lovely people, who have shared with me their interests and their lives. They have broadened my perspectives, challenged my usual way of thinking, and in short, they have enriched my life.

My walking friends have supported me through races and hikes. I have covered distances that I have never dreamt that I am capable of doing. They have also given me the privilege to share their blessings and joys, as well as trial and tribulations. Without walking with them, and being part of their non-walking related activities, about half of the contents of this blog would have been missing.

My blogging friends (yes, although we have never met, yet I consider you my friends) are generous and embracing. They open their world to me. Their posts have made me laugh, made me cry or rendered me speechless in awe.  I learn about books, movies, music, crafts and hikes, as well as classics. Their blogs have taught me how to take pictures, how to write and how to cook. They help me update my bucket list of things to do and places to go. They have offered me comments and “likes” that have encouraged me to keep blogging better posts. The benefits I have derived are too numerous to count.

Now that I have reached the 200th post mark, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

This blogging milestone is making me reflective, but not sentimental. I am determined to live by the Tagline of this blog to “age with peace of mind”. I have made a choice to appreciate my blessings in the vicissitudes of life. I have likened races as a metaphor of life. Walking and Blogging are part of my Life. Thank you for celebrating my 200th post with me–if you reach this far–and so, let us walk on and blog on.

For other Thursday Special posts this week, check out: Lost in Translation.

 

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A Canal Hike on the Merritt Trail

My last encounter with the Welland Canal was on the Laura Secord Hike and only then did I learn that there were several canals in Welland, although not all of them were fully in operation. I therefore joined the Canal Hike of my local hiking club, -the Iroquoia Club of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, to find out more.

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We car-pooled and our starting point was at Port Robinson in St. Catharines. Ahead of us was a paved trail which ran beside the Canal. The lift bridge was in sight.

This is a big structure and I think it is interesting to have this industrial structure standing beside the green trail.

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At the lift bridge, we turned into a smaller trail which took us further up the canal and here we saw torrents of water raging downstream. Here we crossed over the bridge to the other side of the Canal.

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Back to paved roads and trail and we were heading in the direction of St. Catharines.

It was here that we discovered that the trail was closed due to reconstruction, and our hike leader had to change our plan to turn around and hike back. We passed the lock again with its rushing water.

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Once passed it, we were also able to enjoy again the calmness of the canal and the serenity of the trail.

You may have read about my fascination with lift bridges, and with this shot, we walked back to Point Robinson. We completed this hike  of 13 Km which was mostly paved trails. This is a leisurely hike recommend to anyone who does not want too much exertion.

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Travel Theme: THROUGH

For the Travel Theme this week in Where is My Backpack, Ailsa has posted Through. My two photos are taken at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. The  Bay of Fundy has the highest tide in the world rising to an average of 53 ft. compared to 11 ft. at the Atlantic Coast in the area.

The first picture is taken at low tide. One can walk on the ocean floor and see through a cavity in the rocks towards the Bay.

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The next photo is taken at high tide the following day. The water has risen above the hole but one can see the top of the rocks through an opening from higher grounds.

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Thursday Special: A Mud Run

This is not an Adult post, nor is it rated “X”

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A mud run? Who wants to get dirty in the mud?

I want to make this post a Thursday Special initiated by Paula, because it is a totally new AND special experience for me…even as a spectator.

On this beautiful day in early Fall, my friends invited me to join them for a road trip to Buffalo, NY. My assignment was to be their photographer when they participated in a mud run. We drove almost three hours from Hamilton Ontario to New York State. The event took place in Elegant Raceway Park.

Pink was the dominant colour at this event. Although it was not a fundraiser for cancer, survivors were offered complimentary registration, hence making it a popular occasion for survivors and their families and friends to have some fun. I was impressed by the beautiful team T-shirts and the colourful knee socks and tights around me.

Some participants wore tutus.

The run was a five-kilometre route with obstacles along the way–climbing up a rope fence, wading and crawling in mud pools, and sliding into a mud tub–just to get dirty!

Some people rolled and swam in the mud pool, while others tried to stay as clean as possible using different strategies, but it was all relative, for they still got dirty anyway. Most people seemed to be enjoying themselves even when they walked away dripping and caked in mud.  So did my friends!

The organizers offered some basic facilities for rinsing off the dirt and for changing. My friends felt comfortable enough to head out for lunch afterwards, knowing that they would have a thorough scrubbing when we returned to Canada.

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I am so proud of my friends. We are in the same age group and they have taken on the challenge to get dirty in this obstacle run. I should be up to it stamina-wise, but I prefer to stay clean and enjoy the experience vicariously. We do what we can and prefer, and I think this experience fits beautifully into the philosophy of my blog–Aging with Peace of Mind.

(Here is the where Paula talks about her conceptualization of this wonderful Thursday Special non-challenge “challenge”. I love this avenue to express ourselves.)

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A Terry Fox Legacy: Terry Fox Run 2013

1-IMG_1839One of the first things every school child in Canada learns is that Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. The Terry Fox Run every year in mid-September also draws crowds from every city across the country to raise funds for the Terry Fox Foundation, set up in memory of Fox to support cancer research. This event has also become worldwide, and millions of participants in some 60 countries come out for the Terry Fox Run.

Terry Fox’s story has become a legend. When he was only 19 years old, Fox’s right leg was amputated after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He was a distance runner and continued to run with an artificial leg. In 1980, he embarked on a cross-Canada Marathon of Hope to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. His noble endeavour to run a marathon distance every day was sadly cut short when it was found that cancer had spread to his lungs. He had reached Thunder Bay, Ontario, after walking for 143 days from St. John’s Newfoundland . He died nine months later. His effort has resulted in the establishment of the Terry Fox Foundation in 1981 to carry on his dream.

I was with a group of friends in the recent Terry Fox Run. We power-walked a 5 Km distance in memory of a walking buddy who lost his battle to cancer. It was a beautiful day, and everybody at our walk location, Coronation Park in Oakville, ON, was upbeat and excited about the walk.

There were a festive atmosphere around. Stores were selling souvenir items. The cheerleaders were all already to go. The first group to head out at the start line were children on their bikes.

Then came the runners and walkers doing 1 Km, 5 Km and 10 Km, and of course our pets could take part too!

As the Terry Fox Foundation website has put it, this is a “non-competitive and all-inclusive” event. We can run or walk at our own pace, and the most important part is to remember our loved ones who have lost the battle to  cancer, pray for those under treatment or in remission, and to cherish the hope that one day the disease will find a cure.

Nothing was better for our team at the end of the walk than to enjoy a snack at our team table.

We shall see each other again next year!

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Travel Theme: MULTI-COLOURED

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This week’s Travel Theme in Ailsa’s Where is My Backpack asks for Multi-coloured. My association goes to the multi-coloured display of food items on the buffet table on one of my cruise trips. Colours make the food more enticing, and even when I feel that I have been eating a lot on the cruise, I cannot resist the temptation but to dig in.

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Thursday Special: Tent Caterpillars

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I have noticed the presence of tent caterpillars on my walks. I have not encountered the larvae as much earlier in the season, but now that they have woven their silk-like cocoons and are staying together as a group in their pupa stage, their omnipresence is unmistakable. Their homes look like marshmallows on the branches with fillings of leaves and twigs. They come in different shapes and sizes, and make such interesting subject matter for photography, whether I look at them through the morning light and shielded by the shades of the leaves.

Fellow hikers bemoan that the tent caterpillars are a hazard to the forest because their destruction of the leaves can be extensive in one season. Local resident are fearful that the tent caterpillars are returning for another wave similar to the one about ten years ago that forced the city into spraying as a last resort to control them. Northwestern Ontario is on alert with the defoliation, and the havoc is spreading into southern Ontario. (That’s why I notice them on the trails.)

As with most natural phenomenon, there is a balance of power. We human beings observe the forest leaf loss and the trees baring, but who knows whether this may actually help the undergrowth and smaller tress to get the sunlight, which cannot penetrate through the shades of the larger and taller trees. Birds, mammals and other insects rely on the tent caterpillars as a food source and caterpillar droppings are the natural fertilizers for plant life.

Whether an outbreak will take place in the next few years is still open to speculation. The experts are monitoring and I shall keep my eyes open on my walks. I simply marvel at how the ecosystem maintains its own checks and balances.

Let me break Paula’s rule by adding one more picture here. The silky tent is just a wonder.

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An Ecological Walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens

The Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System is Canada’s newest urban ecopark. It is ‘urban’, because it is situated in a fast growing residential and re-developed area between Burlington and Hamilton in Ontario. It is an ‘ecopark’, because it is an area designed to preserve, restore and protect the natural lands in this western part of the province. It has taken seven years of planning and the Park has been open since June this year. Work is still continuing to reconnect the natural areas in this region that have been fragmented by roads, rail tracks that has come into existence as a result of urbanization.

I enter from Cherry Hill Gate on Plains Road in Burlington, and I am in the grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

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In front of me is a downhill trail and I cannot believe that the air already breathes cleaner and fresher once I walk into the shades . A colony of chipmunks has been breeding in this area and they take no notice of people when they scurry across the trail and in and out of their burrows, with their dollar-size openings on the grounds.

Fallen trees are kept as long as they do not create an obstacle on the trail.

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I take an incline–unpaved, with exposed roots but firm footing–and turn into an area of marshland.

The water may look mirky, but the marshland is home to many species of insects and wild life. I feel pretty lucky to spot a muskrat and get a picture of it.

Crossing the boardwalk, I arrive at a big pond rich in vegetation, like the water lilies. Take a closer look and one can see many insects such as water roaches, dragon flies and many others that I wish I could give their names.

My walk today is short loop from Cherry Hill Gate, and take up part of the North Bridle Trail, and then Grindstone Marsh Trail to return to Hendrie Park of the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is an easy forty-five minutes’ reconnaissance stroll. I’ll be back for more.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: In One Colour

I welcome Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge for this week: In One Colour, as long as it is not black and white. The subtitle of my entry is: “All that glitters is not gold”. This is a visual illusion of gold coins showering from the sky in a show in a Macau casino. See how excited the audience is trying to catch them!

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Thursday Special: A Visit to the Hairdresser

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Paula of Lost in Translation has set up a non-challenge Challenge called Thursday Special as an avenue for bloggers to “wake up their creativity and show their own ideas and interpretation of the world”.

As I was sitting in the chair in the beauty salon the other day, I had a revelation that I wanted to write up to share in the Thursday Special this week.

On that day, I had to spend almost two hours in the hair salon to perm my hair. I was leaving for a trip on which I had to attend formal occasions and professional presentations. I would not have time to take care of my hair which was normally short and straight, let alone get ready in my hotel room with curlers like Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street. My solution was to perm my hair, with a plan to finger dry it after  shampooing it myself.

The shampoo was the best part of my appointment with my hairdresser, Maria. I lay down in the reclining chair and rested my neck on the groove of the sink. I closed my eyes while my Maria showered my hair with lukewarm water. She worked the shampoo solution all over my hair before rinsing it off. She was efficient but never rushing when she repeated her action with the conditioner. Then I felt her fingers, gentle but firm, starting to massage my scalp. This was the moment I was waiting for. My already half-relaxed body let go completely. At the end of each stroke, her fingers applied pressure to the vital points on my head. If one aspired to an “ohm” moment in transcendental meditation, I already attained my “ah” moment at Crowning Glory, with my hairstylist giving me a head massage. I forgot that I had left my house all stressed after a hectic week; I forgot that I had a list of errands to run after my hair appointment before I could to go home to pack for a trip.

“Let’s move to the other chair,” the voice of my hair stylist Maria sounded distant, but brought me back to reality before I drifted into an altered state of consciousness, with my hair wrapped in a turban and I was now sitting upright. I followed Maria to her station and talked about the purpose of my visit.

Still, for the moment,  I watched Maria put the curlers on strands of my hair sandwiched between two thin pieces of paper and she squirted a chemical solution on them. I noticed how the method had not changed since my first perm that was inflicted upon a reluctant me by my mother when I was six years old, even though the stink of the chemical seemed greatly reduced comparing my present experience to that retrieved from my olfactory memory.

After Maria had left me with my head of curlers covered in a towel under a shower cap, and a cup of coffee and a magazine to wait for my hair to curl. I noticed the animated conversations between the customers around me and their hair stylists. The lady sitting beside me was having a blow dry. She raised her voice that I guessed the entire place could hear her.

“I have to be there almost three or four times a week. She says she is taking a course and has to stay back to do her homework. Then I get a call from Tom the night before asking me to stay with the kids when they go away for the weekend,” she did not sound pleased. I was more amazed though by the neutral yet tactful response from her hair stylist, “So it must be very inconvenient for you.” “You’d better tell her,” the lady said, “I know Tom wants a break but can’t she ask and say ‘thank you’ to me?”

When the blow dryer stopped, her voice subsided, and I was drawn to the conversation between an elderly gentleman and his hairstylist. He sounded tired but only too pleased that he could be out of the house for a brief moment to get a haircut and vented about his circumstances. By the sound of it, he certainly needed this reprieve from the constant strain taking care of a spouse suffering from dementia.

The two customers were not the exceptions, I realized. My mother, who is in her eighties, goes to her hairdresser for a “shampoo and set” every week before she meets her friends for lunch. Her friends apparently do the same. During these regular visits, my mother, like many customers, chats with her stylist. Only on one occasion when I met her hairdresser that I realized how much she had told her hair stylist about me and my family.

My revelation is that the hair dressers are there not only to create an attractive coiffure for the customers and pamper them with head massages, but they also become a social resource to some customers over the course of regular visits. These encounters of an hour or so transform from small-talks into a social support session as well. If the customers are willing to talk, the hair stylist becomes an engaging individual for them to open up to like a friend, or if I were bold enough to speculate, a therapist-of-sorts.

I believe that face-to-face interaction is fundamental to social relationships. Powerful as the social media for fast, instant and brief messages, they cannot replace what real human conversations can offer. A visit to the hair dresser is one of such encounters. You become relaxed after the shampoo and the disarming head massage. There is verbal dialogue, visual contact and body language in the interaction. The hair dresser is always ready to listen. This is the essence of human interaction that technology cannot replace. Maybe that is why most of us find a visit to the hairdresser so desirable.

I felt very content with the hair treatment and my beautiful perm when I left Crowning Glory to get on with my day. I also felt good that I had witnessed the celebration of REAL human interaction in the hair salon.

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