Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.
Due to the pandemic, I’m keeping my goals small, flexible, and open-ended this year. Right now Toronto is in lockdown due to our hospitals being overrun with patients suffering from life-threatening cases of Covid-19. Everyone has been ordered to avoid mixing with other households and to only leave home for essential purposes like grocery shopping or going to work (for those who can’t work from home).
I’m doing my best not to try to predict when the current vaccination efforts here will begin to reduce the pressure on our overwhelmed hospitals, much less when life will start to feel at all normal again.
These are the things I can control, so they’re the goals I’ve set for this year:
Meditate Daily. I meditated a few times a week in 2020 and am trying to make that part of my daily routine in 2021.
Exercise Daily. Not all of my workouts are strenuous by any means. Sometimes I simply go take a walk and enjoy the crisp, winter air! I notice both mental and physical health benefits from doing something active every single day, so I make a point of prioritizing it.
Look for the Good in the World. Honestly, I believe this habit is most important in times just like these. This doesn’t mean I ignore the difficult parts of life, only that I think humans sometimes need a little prodding to take note of what’s going well for them (or humanity in general).
Try New Things. Right now this must be limited to new recipes, TV shows, and movies, but I hope it will be safe to leave home and expand that list dramatically later on this year. Will I be able to take that dance class I wanted to try a year ago? Make new friends? Learn a new skill? End up with a job or volunteering gig as a result of saying yes to something I haven’t even heard of yet? The possibilities are endless, and I’m open to them all.
Finally, here is one final goal that is only somewhat under my control this year but still important to me:
Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19 . I’m in a low risk group for this illness, so it will be quite a while before there are enough vaccines for young, healthy folks like me. Still, I want to do my part to help end this pandemic for the sake of everyone who can’t be vaccinated and/or who is high risk for this illness.
I don’t know about you, but I crave certainty in uncertain times.
Star Trek has filled many niches over the years. Sometimes its stories are a reflection of controversial issues we deal with in the real world that don’t have simple solutions.
Other episodes might humorous, poignant, hopeful, silly, or any combination of these and many other themes.
There have been Star Trek characters and episodes whom I loved immediately, slowly grew to have a deep appreciation for once I got to know them better, or, in a few rare cases, honestly never connected with much at all. (Not everything appeals to everyone!)
Star Trek itself is comfort food for me, and it’s been this way since my first experiences with it through reruns of The Next Generation. No matter which episode or series you pick, there are some things that almost always remain the same in this franchise.
There are many excellent science fiction books, stories, and TV shows out there that do not necessarily hold a hopeful perspective of human nature or the future. This isn’t one of them.
While Star Trek writers have occasionally strayed from this theme in the more modern versions of it, this franchise in general takes a hopeful stance on what we are capable of and what our future might hold.
Perfection doesn’t exist in this or any other universe, but human society has changed for the better in so many different ways between our era and theirs.
Every time I see characters greet living beings from other planets, order a meal from a replicator, or be treated for an illness or injury that would be fatal in the twenty-first century, I feel another pulse of hope that we’ll someday create versions of these futuristic wonders for ourselves in the real world.
Yes, there are plenty of obstacles along the way in just about any Star Trek story arc, and they can be difficult to resolve depending on the series and the specific conflict in question.
Sometimes these conflicts are so complex they take up multiple episodes or seasons (see also: Deep Space Nine), but viewers always know there is a solution on the way eventually if they stick with it to see what the characters do next.
That certainty is a breath of fresh air now more than ever.
Call me an idealist, but I believe there’s something to be said for losing yourself in a storyline that will be resolved satisfactorily at some point.
By far the biggest reason to think of Star Trek as comfort food is all of the humour tucked away into it. No matter which series we’re talking about, there are reasons to smile when watching all of them. Yes, even Picard and Discovery if you look closely enough!
You may have noticed that I avoided mentioning specific Star Trek episodes in this post until now. That was done on purpose in order so that I could talk about the over-arching themes of this universe. Discussing a particular episode was less important than knowing there are many options to choose from when you’re a Star Trek fan who wants something warm and reassuring to watch after a long day.
With that being said, I’ll now provide a short list of my favourite humorous Star Trek episodes and provide one reason each for watching them. If you’re also a fan of this franchise, feel free to add your own suggestions below.
Episode: The Trouble with Tribbles
Series: The Original Series
Why You Should Watch It: Not only was it the funniest TOS episode in my opinion, it’s also aged the best since first airing. The idea of Kirk being outsmarted, if only temporarily, by what are essentially extremely fertile hamster-like creatures called Tribbles makes this a must watch for anyone who hasn’t seen yet.
This post will meander much like my Thanksgiving strolls do.
One of my favourite things to do on Thanksgiving or any other holiday that has decent weather is to take a walk.
If the big meal of the day is scheduled for the evening or if the weather is expected to turn chilly later on, I’ll wander off in the afternoon when the temperature is as its warmest.
Ideally, someone will join me, but there’s also something to be said for walking quietly with your thoughts on a day like this one.
Thanksgiving is one of those big holidays that temporarily shuts down the usual rhythms of life here in Ontario. This is even more true this year due to our government asking us to celebrate it with other members of our households only and avoid all unnecessary in-person interactions with other people now that the second wave of Covid-19 is surging.
Yes, there are advantages to gathering with kind relatives during the holidays. I miss my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews and dream of the day when my spouse and I can be together with them again.
But there are also advantages to quiet holidays at home, and a walk at the nicest part of the day is one of them.
Our slice of the world is a fairly still place on Thanksgiving even during ordinary times. If they’re lucky enough not to be working, most folks stay home and rest on that day or go visit relatives.
The streets are nearly as empty as they’ll be a few months from now at Christmas. Very few restaurants and other places of business are open today, and I tend to avoid the ones that are to encourage them to give their employees a break.
A walk doesn’t require anyone to put on a uniform, miss out on time with their loved ones, or clean up after you. At most, you might need to find something delicious to nibble on in the kitchen when you return back home.
Walks are meditative. There’s nothing like looking at the beautiful world around you, whether it is a forest painted with all of the colours of autumn, a suburban park filled with curious wildlife, or a quiet urban road that somehow feels like a poem that’s about to begin whenever you unexpectedly see a car drive by.
Taking a walk is a gentle form of exercise that most people are capable of doing. A pet, small child, senior family member, or loved one who might have a disability that makes more strenuous forms of exercise difficult may be able to join you.
If the pets in your life are anything like the dogs my family had back in the day, they will insist on joining you and might just keep you out of the house much longer than you were expecting to be gone!
Good conversations can happen on walks. Yes, this can include conversations with yourself if you’re walking alone. I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally talk to myself on walks to sort out a problem or figure out what to do with my stories next.
Walking is non-competitive…unless you’re my siblings who genuinely find joy in making everything a competition between them. Ha! For the rest of us, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require any scorekeeping or picking a winner.
It’s tempting to overindulge during the holidays. I find it helpful to go take a walk before I decide whether my stomach truly needs another slice of pie or serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Whether the answer to that question is yes or no, there’s definitely something to be said for giving your body some time to start digesting what you’ve already eaten before digging into another plate. I’d rather be stopped at the point of satiation than cross that line and end up uncomfortably full.
Have I convinced you to go take a walk yet? I hope you enjoy it if I have.
September is a wildcard month like March. This was one of the cooler days in it so far, but we’ve also had days that were about 30 C (86 F). Last year, our September was just as hot and humid as August was.
If you ever visit southern Ontario in this time of year, remember to pack for both extremes of temperature. You might shiver one day and perspire the next. Even locals can’t assume anything about next week’s weather based on what we’re wearing today which is why my wardrobe currently includes everything I own other than my thickest winter sweaters in it. Ha!
Two things make September look and feel different from August other than the unpredictable temperatures swings that happen as the seasons change. One, the humidity generally goes down. Two, a few trees begin to change colour before the dramatic shift that will come in October.
But before we talk about that, I sadly must show you our Covid-19 protests. This shot was taken at a distance so you can also see the greenery at the park.
Are they protesting for better wages for the doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers saving lives? More personal protective equipment for frontline workers? A stronger social safety net for everyone who has suffered financially during this pandemic? Free counselling for anyone who needs it?
No, they’re protesting because they don’t want to wear masks, prevent the spread of disease, or listen to the experts on public health, epidemiology, and medicine. I respect everyone’s right to protest, but please note that most of us are taking this pandemic seriously and are embarrassed and annoyed by the small percentage of Canadians represented here.
This shot was taken from a distance in order to protect the identities of the protestors. May they and their loved ones stay healthy and never learn the hard way just how dangerous this virus is.
In more cheerful news, look how green the trees remain!
You could almost think it’s still August here. The running path remains as busy and dusty as always for this time of year.
Many portions of the park look as green and lush as ever.
The canopy of leaves is nearly as thick as it was last month. Have you noticed any of the subtle changes yet?
Maybe this will help. Most trees are still 100% green, but some of them are showing the first signs of their autumn colours. It can be fairly subtle like this tree…
Or a bit more advanced like this sapling whose leaves seem to be about 30% red…
Or well ahead of the curve with about half of its leaves changing….
Or even like this oddity that is simultaneously bare, covered in red leaves, and still hanging on to the green ones. My spouse and I wonder if this is normal for large, towering trees in a forest. Maybe they get the lion’s share of strong winds that rip off their leaves as soon as they’re the tiniest bit loose?
Our tree friend that lost half its branches last winter seems to be thriving. All of its leaves are still green, and its trunk looks as solid as can be expected given the damage it sustained last winter.
But the tree friend that lost about a third of its branches doesn’t seem to be doing well. Many of its branches are bent over now, and the crack in its trunk seems to be widening and creating new, smaller cracks in its wake.
I’ve avoided walking underneath its branches for some time now. Many of them are large and quite heavy looking.
This was as close as I dared get. As I’ve said before, I’m not an arborist, but this tree really doesn’t look healthy to me. I hope I’m wrong about that and it wakes up stronger than ever next spring.
On a lighter note, this is the time of year when you can see a tree that has lost all of its leaves right next to one that’s still green. That juxtaposition always makes me smile.
Do you remember how I told you all to look at the ground six months ago when seeking out the first signs of spring? That rule doesn’t really apply in the autumn.
Bushes and trees alike are showing the first hints of their autumn colours. Whether you look up, down, or all around, you’ll find them with a little bit of patience.
The famous stone walkway remains more or less the same shady, green spot its been since May for the time being.
Ontario seems to have entered our second wave of Covid-19 infections, but I don’t expect that to interrupt this series. Our parks always remained opened for socially-distanced walkers and joggers even when the first wave of cases was as its highest and all other park amenities were closed (including benches for a brief time last spring!) If I get sick or if Toronto’s bylaws unexpectedly change in ways that require this series to be paused, I will let you all know about it as soon as possible.
Next month will bring dramatic and, in my opinion, breathtaking changes for our foliage. I can’t wait to share it with you all! Stay safe, friends. I cherish these virtual walks with all of you.
I am not a doctor, and this post is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider to see if light therapy lamps are right for you.
Last winter I talked about how much light therapy helps me with my winter blues.
When I stopped using it during our sunniest months here in Ontario, I wondered when I should start up again but decided to defer that decision until autumn.
This spring and summer were filled with the glorious light that lifts my mood every year. Like life for almost everyone else on Earth, they were also filled with the cancellation of many long-anticipated events thanks to Covid-19.
I smiled and made the best of the outdoor, physically-distanced activities that were still safe to do, but with autumn coming up I wondered how my mental health would fare once it was cold and dark here once again.
This isn’t meant to sound like a complaint, by the way. Cancelling all of those festivals, parades, and events was absolutely the right thing to do from a public health perspective. I’m also grateful for my good physical health, safe home, and all of the other advantages I have that so many others do not.
And yet there is also something sad about missing out on almost everything you love about spring and summer only to begin the plunge into another long, dark cold season. This became even more true as I read about the cancellation of Halloween on Church and our mayor discussing the possibility of cancelling trick-or-treating as well. My favourite holiday will either be cancelled altogether or is going to be nothing at all like it was in the past.
At this point, I suspect every upcoming holiday will be celebrated virtually, within the same household (or small social bubble), or not at all until enough people have been vaccinated against this disease to stop it in its tracks.
There’s nothing I can do to change things like these. What I could do was start using my light therapy lamp earlier this month as soon as the first faint whispers of autumn appeared in the form of dark, cloudy days.
I’d forgotten how bright it was. That one little lamp fills the whole room with light and still has some left over to spare.It doesn’t emit heat the way the sun does when you’re outside on a bright summer day, but it otherwise feels something similar to that experience.
(Yes, I purposefully picked photos of dimmer lights for this post. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s eyes).
It’s still a little too early for me to feel the effects of it, but that also means it should start working long before November arrives and we start seeing sunsets before 5 pm.
What creative ways are you planning to celebrate upcoming holidays? If you also have a light therapy lamp, when did or will you begin using it this year?
I recently read that there has been a surge of families interested in homeschooling thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. As someone who was homeschooled for several years, I have some tips to share for anyone who is planning to or thinking about homeschooling their kids this year. Before we dive into the meat of this… Read More
Why, yes, I did write the same sort of post last summer! It was such a smashing success that I’ve decided to do it again. Last year’s peek at upcoming posts has since been edited to include links to everything that I ended up writing. Some of the stuff listed below are ideas from last… Read More
There are a few things about Canadian and, more specifically, Torontonian culture that I should explain here for anyone who isn’t already familiar with them before diving into the meat of this post. I am speaking in broad generalities here and this is a large, diverse country, so please make friendly allowances for that if… Read More
I remember a Canada Day spent on a rooftop party hosted by a friend of a friend. The view was spectacular. I remember a Canada Day when I felt asleep early only to be awoken by fireworks being set off nearby. I remember a Canada Day where I took a long nap and relished that… Read More
Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the fifth instalment of this series. Click on February, March, April, and May to read the earlier posts. It was 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and sunny this time which I think… Read More