Since mid-October when I started a work assignment in Surrey, I’ve been walking to and from the skytrain station every day. It started because the bus schedule either got me to work too early or too late, and because October and early November were so sunny and crisp it seemed silly not to walk around in them. It was flip-a-jaunty-scarf-over-your-shoulder-and-wear-leather-boots weather. It was only-one-tissue-required weather. I felt so virtuous.
The mornings turned me into a walking evangelist, because what is more lovely than starting the day strolling briskly through your neighbourhood park, then the streets you’ve been walking for thirteen years, sometimes pushing a stroller, sometimes training for a half marathon, a neighbourhood full of old houses with wrap-around porches and stained glass windows. In October there was a civic election and I felt connected to my community in a way I hadn’t in a long time, walking from one side of New Westminster to the other, seeing clusters of lawn signs and thinking fondly of the people who lived behind those lawns, in all those civically engaged houses.
In the mornings Saint Aardvark and I often walk together (he’s the one who’s been walking to the train for years while I took the bus like a sucker) and it’s motivational and pleasant to take a walk with someone you like every morning. Some days he works from home and then it is just as pleasant to walk alone while listening to Metric or Sylvan Esso or the Electric Light Orchestra or Courtney Love.
In the morning I love the chittering birds bouncing from tree to tree, the crows tearing up lawns, the occasional peppy fur ball dog, tongue flapping in the breeze. I love the way the light – when it comes – sometimes comes from all directions, washing over us like someone tipped the jar where they’ve been rinsing paintbrushes. I love when it starts as a tear in the thick clouds, growing bigger and bigger until we’re waiting for the light to change under a bright, blue sky.
When the Rains came, it got harder, but I do have the brightest, orangest rain boots in the world, and an umbrella with cats on it, and let’s face it, the bus is no treat in the rain either. Soon enough people decorated their homes for the holidays and there were twinkling lights and wreaths and full colour blinkyphernalia and like a runway leading an airplane, those blocks all led me home.
Yes, walking to the train station in the morning is easy, but I never intended to walk home every day too. It’s uphill in a special, hill-city way. It’s a hill that iPhone health says is equivalent to 24-29 flights of stairs. One day in my first week, I came out of the train station and my butt cheeks were still sore from the day before, so I waited for the bus that comes every half hour and goes right past my house. It was ten minutes late and full of people and I had to stand at the back holding on to the ceiling with the palm of my hand. An infant cried quietly from its stroller. It’s one of those wee buses that feels like a mini van strapped to a few skateboards and I just didn’t want to tax it. I didn’t want to be the straw that broke that camel. I never took it again.
So even on a day like today, with the rain sheeting and my uterus having its own winter storm, I popped up my umbrella and hung a left for home. I love that the lights are on in the houses I pass and the blinds are open, that kids are sitting at tables doing crafts or reading – and I recognize some of them – and there are dogs on couches staring out the window at me — and I recognize some of them too. There is security in knowing whose house you could knock on if you had to pee or started to feel faint. I love seeing the light of a kitchen at the back of a house through the living room window. I love people pulling into their driveways and slamming the doors of their vehicles. Home, the car doors say. Home.
My home stretch takes me down the path to the bottom of Queens Park. The cars strung out along McBride, ruby lights lined up and waiting. I’m glad I’m not them, every day.