Oldman River Valley, Lethbridge, Alberta
I have work to do, and painting to do, but I just can't focus. It seems to be a pandemic problem, this muddled tightness of mind. It seems also to be compounded by near-constant screen time. I set out for a walk in the sunny afternoon, with my mind so constricted it took a few blocks before I remembered to see what's in front of my eyes. Longer before I tuned in to sound and smell. Once I got to the dog park and started downhill into the river valley, everything loosened up. I am so thankful for this long, wide, swath of wild parkland that runs right through the city. So glad to see happy dogs. So happy to be able to walk. So grateful for the signs of wildlife, the trees, the river, the sky.
Location: Down to the Oldman River and back, Lethbridge, Alberta
Length: 8 km
Date: 13 April 2020
Pavan Park, Lethbridge, Alberta
This time around the Pavan loop offered up sunlight reflecting on water, a porcupine in a tree, beautiful land art by Troy, the call of a Northern Flicker, beaver-chewed branches, mud, riverspace, sunspace, skyspace, hillspace, trees. Awareness.
Location: Pavan Park, Lethbridge, Alberta
Date: 28 March, 2020
Around Mountain View Cemetery, Lethbridge, Alberta
Walking from my house, we met (at a distance - no hugs in these pandemic days) at the cemetery, and walked down the hill towards the empty golf course* at the river bottom. We followed deer and human trails up the coulee side, skirting the cemetery until we found an unlocked gate. Then through the rows of trees and rows of headstones, and back home. Trying to figure it all out as we walked.
*The country club golf course blocks public right of way to the coulees, claiming their private land all the way to the river front, and forcing walkers and cyclists to climb all the way up the hill and back down to get around their private property. Trespassing made obligatory.
Location: Around & below Mountain View Cemetery, Lethbridge, Alberta
Length: 4 km
Date: 27 March 2020
River valley trail, Redcliff, Alberta
It's been a day of baking bread and making soup and reading, a day mostly spent at home (as they will be from here on in). But it's also a sunny spring day, a mud-puddle day, and we weren't the only ones taking a walk in the river valley. No matter how our lives are limited in other ways these strange days, people seem to be openly grateful for the simple freedom of walking outdoors. These are the things we need right now - movement, fresh air, direct connection to the world outside our doors. A reminder of the expanse of sky and water and earth that is always there. I think we're losing our habit of taking so much for granted these days.
Location: South Saskatchewan River Valley, Redcliff, Alberta
Length: 3 km
Date: 22 March, 2020
Scenic to downtown and back, Lethbridge, Alberta
First day of working from home due to the pandemic, and I know how lucky I am to be able to do so. Months of sore-footed not-walking have to end, because my lungs and mind demand a walk, even a sore-footed one. Lungs and mind are tight from too much news; neither can expand properly sitting inside with constant updates. Breathing fresh cold air relaxes lungs first, then nerves, then mind. And my eyes need to contact shapes and shadows and colour and light. The world is still right here, as ordinary and beautiful as always.
Location: near Scenic Drive to downtown and back, Lethbridge, Alberta
Date: 18 March, 2020
Blairmore to Frank, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
Following the trail that follows the Crowsnest River from town to town across the pass, I walked to Frank and back from the Gushul Residency in Blairmore. A windy day in the mountains, but it felt so good to be out on the trail putting one foot in front of the other again! I've been impeded by a foot injury for many weeks, but talks of walks with friends today - from the daily commute on foot to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela - persuaded me to lace up my shoes and head out the door. What else is there to do?
Location: Blairmore to Frank, Crowsnest Pass, Alberta (and back)
Length: 3 km
Date: 17 November, 2019
Neighbourhood to Neighbourhood, Lethbridge, Alberta
Walking to a party in my old neighbourhood, thinking about homes - the ones I used to live in, where I'm living right now, the one I'm looking for. There is so much to say about home. It's not just a house, it's a neighbourhood, a town; it's the people and animals you live with, it's the smell of a place; it's in the frequency you walk away from it and back again, and the way you feel walking through a neighbourhood. It's familiarity and friction, affection and discomfort, a longing, a memory, a habit.
Location: Southside to London Road and back, Lethbridge, Alberta
Length: 3 km X 2
Date: 31 August, 2019
Hamilton to Dundas, Ontario
Walking with a friend alters pace, conversation, thought, directional and destinational choices, what you notice or don't notice along the way. It makes me think about walking-with: walking-with another person, walking-with a non-human being (dog-walking, for example), walking with the more-than-human other, a term I've come across in my reading lately.* We are always walking-with, whether it's with spirits or histories of a place, animals, birds, trees and rocks, water, the earth itself.
Speaking very locally of this area where we walked today: "I've heard Hodinöhsö:ni' elders say that the land we walk upon is made up of the faces not only of those who preceded us but those who are yet to come. We should therefore place our feet reverently on such a peopling earth" (Coleman, Daniel. Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place, 2017, p. 89).
* Springgay, Stephanie, & Sarah Truman. Walking Methodologies in a More-than-human World (Routledge, 2018).
Location: West-end Hamilton to Dundas, Ontario, and back
Length: 5 km
Date: 27 July, 2019
Aldershot to Westdale, Ontario
It's mid-summer, and hot, and my feet hurt on the pavement. There are a lot of old cemeteries around the western tip of Lake Ontario, and big trees. The cicadas hum, and the traffic mumbles, and the wildflowers bloom, and the lake is as high as it's ever been. Crossing under the highway at the Desjardins canal, past the flooded fishway, I take the trail along Coote's Paradise to Princess Point, and up into the neighbourhoods, ending with an iced latte at the Bean Bar.
Location: Aldershot, Burlington to Westdale, Hamilton, Ontario
Length: 8 km
Date: 25 July, 2019
University to College, Lethbridge, Alberta
From the west side to the south side of town. New institutional design barriers caused false starts and extra hills and stairs at the beginning of the walk, but once I was on the trail down to the Old Man River it was easy going. I was lost in thought much of the way, not paying much attention to my surroundings except when I purposely stopped to look, and take a photo. I'm always surprised by how dramatic and beautiful the landscape is right here in the middle of the town where I live.
Location: University of Lethbridge to Lethbridge College, Lethbridge, Alberta
Length: 9 km
Date: 17 July, 2019
Sandra Cowan likes to walk on trails, paths, and city streets. She is based in southern Alberta, Canada.