Enjoyable Physical Distancing

While things have been trending up for most of this month, yesterday in Ontario we saw the highest number of new cases ever: 700 new cases in one day. Not good. It’s unsurprising – a perfect storm of carelessness, rapid opening and cavalier attitude. (“Well, it hasn’t got me yet, I’m sure it’s fine!”)

While the governments have taken very light actions (“Let’s close strip clubs and make sure that bars are only open until 11PM. That’ll fix it!”), our family is locking back down. While I was doing grocery trips to stores before, I’ve gone back to curbside pickup of groceries wherever possible. Last week I was required to go to work for one day but this week I cancelled my trip in.

One thing hasn’t changed, though. Cycling keeps being a great way for me to get exercise, keep my spirits up while also keeping a good distance from others. And now, thanks to an early 50th birthday present I have a new toy:

At the end of my bike trip in India I gave my bike to my friend Jerry for him to take from Kashmir to Kanyakumari hopefully next year. But that left me short one bike if I want to ride with Daegan. And so I picked up this new (used) bike. Its former owner designed it to work well off-road and on and to be a good touring bike for places where the roads aren’t always good. He used this one on a trip to Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia but now is moving continents and is selling this. His loss is my gain – and Daegan can use my other bike when we go together.

Because it’s more sure-footed on dirt and gravel than my other bike, I was able to explore the Leslie Spit beyond the paved roads. It was perfect cycling weather, sunny with a cool breeze. There were a number of folks in the park but they were far apart, and the areas without paved roads were almost completely empty. Have a look at what it was like:

In light of the state of our province, and the world beyond it was so nice to have a bit of time alone with nature – a clear reminder that while we might be experiencing all sorts of challenges from the pandemic to election-related nonsense and poor governance in my former home, the rest of the world is going on. The birds are migrating as they always have. The leaves are changing colour and falling.

I shared this photo on Instagram last night when I took it and until I looked at it on a big screen I didn’t notice one of the most striking things about it. Let’s see if you notice it:

Through my phone screen it looked as peaceful as it felt. You could hear the water lapping at the shore, birds were calling – and there was not one human-generated sound audible. but look closer. Do you see it?

One aspect of this visit that was very noticeable when I was there but totally forgotten when I left were the enormous clouds of gnats here and there. They don’t bite but they got all over my face and arms. They’re about the size of a mosquito, fly in your eyes, mouth, and up your nose. They were so plentiful that at one point even though I was far from other humans, I considered putting my mask back on to keep them from bothering me.

What was striking about that was that they were incredibly annoying and yet I chose to put my attention elsewhere. My focus was not on these irritating little insects. It was on the fact that I am lucky not just to be alive in the middle of a pandemic, but to be able to ride somewhere like this and experience its beauty. And so, when I left my mood was incredibly positive. I was recharged by nature. How would my attitude have been were I to have focused on the gnats, been angry that they were ruining my wonderful natural experience (ha!) and gone home with that as my overall memory? I know I’ve let myself ruin other great experiences over the equivalent of gnats – annoying but not truly a problem. And so it was a good reminder to me that I should focus on gratitude and being positive, work to help / change where I can and forget the gnats of the world. They’re not worth ruining a good day for.

13 thoughts on “Enjoyable Physical Distancing

  1. The best gift you can give to yourself. You have some amazing places to discover on a bicycle. Most governments are not only doing eyewash when it comes to taking action against the virus spread. This is because of the fear of revenue losses and adverse impact on economy.

    1. We’re seeing the same here – trying to balance not killing business with not killing humans. I think we can only keep things going so long before the economic toll doesn’t just hit individuals and small businesses but the governments themselves.

      We’re really lucky here to have so much interesting variety to explore in just a short distance. While there are really busy places in the city, as you can see, there are other places really nearby where you can get all the physical distance you need and recharge with nature.

      1. You are lucky Todd. Not every city has these options to unwind in nature devoid of crowd. Everyones hopes are pinned on vaccine but it’s another pandora’s box!

  2. Thankfully some things never change and some things didn’t get affected by the ongoing and continued crisis. The situation is much the same here, worse in fact as the public themselves don’t seem to be bothered anymore. Being able to explore and enjoy nature in such situations and also despite the irritating gnats are things that can only make one positive. Keep cycling, keep exploring, keep positivity 🙂

    1. We’re also seeing a change in how individuals are reacting, particularly younger folks who, not worried about the impact on themselves have for the most part decided not to do anything differently. As I’m writing this I also think that perhaps in the stress of the pandemic we all go to the things that make us comfortable. If you’re 21 and in university maybe that’s partying with friends. For me it’s exercise and nature. Would I feel differently if the things that soothed me when I’m stressed were all very social activities? And of course it’s also easier to forget about the worry that the pandemic is giving you if you’re not focused on washing your hands and wearing a mask. You can pretend it isn’t happening and be less scared.

      1. You’re are quite right. As far as we can we do go do what comforts us during crisis. Also, with the virus here to stay and with no vaccine in the immediate vicinity, we will just have to find our own ways of going through this period and our own ways of dealing with the virus. The show must go on, the world cannot be on a stand still forever. I just hope herd immunity (if there is one) happens faster and it works.

  3. I have spent more time in South Georgia swamps this past year than in the last 20. But it’s just me and the bugs, we have gnats but lots of mosquitos and spiders. Sorry to read about the Covid spiking.

  4. I have been reading Helen MacDonald’s book “Vesper Flights” and just finished a chapter where she wrote about insect migrations. Sounds like you found yourself in the middle of one.

  5. Wishing you many happy returns on your 50th Birthday, Todd. The bike looks good and sturdy.
    You must have biked a long way as you have good collection of images. Have fun with your new bike but be careful.

    1. Hi Rupali – thanks for the wishes. The official day is in November but this is a used bicycle and a very good deal so it was available now and not then.

      It was a surprisingly short ride relative to the different sorts of photos I was able to get. It was a little over 30 km in total. Probably 10-15 km of that was actually in the more photogenic area. It’s quite a unique space – and it started as literally a landfil. As they dig foundations for towers or demolish buildings the clean dirt, brick and rock is brought out there to make the space bigger. And it’s been so interesting – something about the environment doesn’t just attract people like me wanting to enjoy nature – it attracts so many migratory birds that it’s one of the best birdwatching spots in our province.

      1. Getting a good deal is important as you use bike quite often. In November you can have another gift 🙂
        I am glad there are places to attract migratory birds. We really need such areas for environmental balance.

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