One Km At A Time, I Hope We Get There
The end of February, frost and peace.
It’s been a heavy week here in Europe, as I’m sure you all know. The invasion of Ukraine has sent shock ripples across the world, and I feel a profound sadness for it all. Sometimes the purpose of things, as much as I’d like to believe there is such a thing, is beyond my understanding, and evil unveils itself as real. It’s a deeply disturbing truth.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I’ve made miles on my long, afternoon walks. That, and how lucky we are to be isolated in our peaceful little corner of the world, away from it all. For outside of the news, our life has been surreally light.
Our garden is starting to bloom in abundance, buzzing with life and the heady scents of pink plum flowers and blue rosemary blooms. Our local supermarket is decked out with new plants and seed packets, and vegetable plants are popping up at the open-air markets too. Everything is rushing towards Spring, embracing new life with a fervor I’ve not seen (or perhaps recognized) in years. Post-COVID finally seems to be becoming a reality.
I’ve also been blooming in my own way, feeling stronger step-by-step as I keep piling on the miles of gear testing and planning for my big April trip. Years of COVID-weary worries are slowly being chipped away, past burdens are being worked through and visions of different futures are coming into light. It’s not an easy or painless process, and perhaps rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but it’s happening and from where I was standing before that’s a good thing.
Rays of light against a backdrop of darkness. A strange week in SW rural France, but as usual I share it all.
Have We Learned Nothing?
I know everyone has been following the news, and my blog is not the place for going into the depths of this war, but it is an event that has (and will) affect us all. So here’s what I’ll say about it.
The invasion of the Ukraine shouldn’t be happening, it’s insane that it is and the consequences are likely to be dire not only for the Ukrainians, but for us all. The images are hard to digest. Mothers giving birth in metro stations, old folks signing up for active duty, young men dying, and families torn apart. People who only a few days ago, were just going about and living their lives. And all this destruction launched from one, ego-centric madman who has been indulged far too long. Have we learned nothing from past mistakes and wars?
As in all crises however, many good organizations are signing up to help. So if you’re looking to act these are the places to focus on. For relief aide both Red Cross and UNICEF are active in the area. For medical aide, Doctors Without Borders are an excellent organization. For local news sources, The Kyiv Independant and KyivPost are posting frequent updates. There are many more solid, vetted organizations out there who are doing good work in difficult times.
Let’s support these and hope that peace prevails for all.
COVID News Is Fading
While one worry starts, the other worry we’ve all had for so many years (it seems like forever) appears to be fading away, and that at least is a good thing.
In most of Europe COVID cases are dropping like mountains of bricks, and restrictions are crumbling away with them. It’s been weeks since COVID was “news” in our area, and that’s significant in and of itself. Within the space of a month we’ve gone from a massive 5th wave that dominated all talk to almost…well…nothing, and this despite the fact that most of Europe is still solidly in the red zone (for infections).
My prediction, bar any new crazy variants on the horizon, is that hospitalization curves and restrictions are going to continue to fall and that this summer is going to be fairly normal.
In fact I think it may actually be kinda crazy.
People are dying to travel, yearning to get away like never before, meaning it’s very likely this will be one of the biggest travel years we’ve seen in a long time. So, if you’re primed to come to Europe this summer I say go for it, just be ready for the fact that you’re not likely to be alone.
Not a big sacrifice after all we’ve been through these past years, I’d say.
I’m Getting Back To Normal Too
One step at a time, one km at a time, I am chipping away at myself and years of pent-up stuff. And it’s all thanks to the power of putting one foot in front of the other.
Walking alone, if you’ve never tried it, is actually an incredibly therapeutic thing. You may start off your walk with a burden of worry or sadness and spend several km carrying that weight and talking to no-one in particular about it. Somewhere down the trail however that worry lessens, or perhaps it’s just the pain in your back or feet that takes over your mind. Either way, by the end of 12km or so there’s a faint endorphin in your blood, a kind of buzz that replaces all that heaviness you had before.
Things seem lighter, the sun a bit brighter and you sleep a bit deeper that night. Somehow all the rest of it doesn’t matter so much anymore.
Some folks might say this phenomenon is just plain old tiredness, but I call it the magic of the trail.
It’s a real thing, trust me.
Gear Testing Is Still In Progress
This week I’ve been plying a lot of that trail magic wile I continue to gear test.
I’m still trying to decide between my trusty 20+ year old Kelty backpack (that’s heavier but fits my long, mutant-curved back like a glove) and a snazzy new Osprey which is much lighter but feels…not quite right. At this point I’m leaning towards the old familiar, a decision I didn’t really expect to make, but actually seems sensible.
Comfort is key on a long, long hike.
I’ve also started testing a piece of gear I would never, in a million years have considered before.
An umbrella, or more specifically a hiking umbrella is possibly going to make the cut. It’s nothing fancy really, just a light umbrella with a reflective UV coating (Euroschirm Lightflex #amazonaffiliatelink) that doubles up as both a rain and sun protector. And it makes you look like a total dork when you’re walking with it. But holy moly I think it may be the best thing I’ve discovered since grapefruit margaritas!
I’ve now done several hikes both with and without the umbrella, and as pale Scandinavian with the melanin-producing abilities of an earthworm I can honestly say this thing is the bomb, particularly in the sun.
It’s soooo much cooler under the umbrella, soooo much more comfortable, and it’s already saved me from at least three tomato-red burns, even in the soft Feb sun.
I can see it being a real asset in other ways too. Want to sneak a pee on the trail with privacy? Umbrella to the rescue! Lunch in the shade? Umbrella here you come! Walking in the rain without having to zip up completely and suffer in your own sweat-suit? Yup, you got it!. The only obvious downside is wind which is of course an issue, but I still think it’s going to be a win overall. I just need to perfect the hands-free attachment mechanism (I’m almost there) and I’m good to go.
One more piece of gear figured out…
We All Move Forward Into March
Next week we will enter the third month of the year. Can you believe that?
I’m one week closer to my big walk (yes, I know I still haven’t told you exactly what I’m doing, but a few of you did actually guess in the last comments), one week closer to summer plans. I feel hopeful, uncertain, weird, worried and excited all at the same time. I guess it’s a good thing to feel all these emotions, a sign that I’m human and alive.
I have so much hope for these next months. Hope that COVID is truly a thing of the past, hope that peace prevails, and hope that we all get to have the summer we all deserve. One km at a time, I hope we get there.