On March 24, the province ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Shortly after that and in keeping with the direction of the province, all Hamilton Conservation Areas were closed. The good news is that we are just now starting to see early signs of restrictions loosening up. The province announced yesterday that garden centres and hardware stores can re-open as of today and the Hamilton Conservation Authority followed suit with a re-opening of the Rail Trail system.
Last weekend, I stopped along the Desjardin Canal, sat on the rail there and just enjoyed the geese. Sitting quietly, I was soon in the company of a few who, once they realized that I hadn't come bearing gifts of food or with thoughts of malice, went about their business which seemed to consist mainly of foraging and when they weren’t doing that, preening and washing themselves.
It was fascinating to watch. I didn't realize that they actually roll in the water to get a complete wash, picking away at themselves to remove any debris and seem to follow a pretty stringent washing regiment.
The drying process was even more enjoyable to observe. This seemed to consist of a lot of shaking to release the majority of water, followed by a stretching upwards and out, as they let the air and the wind do its thing to dry the many folds within their magnificent wings.
Sitting there with only about three feet of distance, I was impressed by the detail and the rich textures on these large birds, ones that many write off as urban pests. They truly are beautiful creatures, strong and agile. They clearly have a distinct family dynamic too and it was interesting to see how they pair up and how they communicate so effectively with each other.
It was also good to sit there awhile and reflect on the year thus far. After starting out so well, the last couple of months have really become a challenge and maintaining a positive outlook seems to be regularly put to the test. There are likely some lessons in there too. Thinking them through from my perspective, I was able to distill them down to these seven, which I share for your consideration:
1. Appreciate every day and treat everyone with the value that they hold. Say thank you. A lot. From cashiers to co-workers to the girl in the take-out window. Smile and let them know you’re glad they’re there.
2. Be grateful for everything from sunny skies to budding flowers to interactions with people. Take nothing for granted. Pause to enjoy sunsets and the budding cherry trees. Take pictures, start a journal.
3. Reach out to those that matter, check in and make sure they know you care. Our days to do this are not unlimited and everyone’s battle is different.
4. Protect yourself from the mental garbage that surrounds us. Limit exposure to news, social media craziness and anything negative by nature. The rhetoric out there is ratcheting up and prolonged exposure to 24 hour news does nothing good for your mental health.
5. Prioritize the tasks of each day. Try to minimize the unimportant and focus more on tasks of value. Take time for things that bring you joy and eliminate habits and tasks that no longer matter or are no longer significant.
6. Do something new. Use newly found time to read a new book, try your hand at painting or playing an instrument. Take an on-line course, bake bread or plant vegetables in container pots. YouTube is a great resource.
7. In everything, be kind.
By all means, this is not an all-complete list but these were the points that came to me as I spent time with the geese on that quiet afternoon. Feel free to make your own list. It is my hope that if anything good comes out of this difficult pandemic, it is that we emerge as a more patient, thoughtful and caring people.
A pipe-dream? Maybe, but it is one that I care to hold on to.
Be well and I hope to see you on a trail soon.