Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If You Go Down to the Woods Today . . .

Please note that you can get up close and personal with all the wildlife pictured in this post by clicking on the photos to enlarge them . . . just watch out for the giant squirrel!

It's always a bit tricky arranging something with Mom. She tries to write arrangements down to help her failing memory, but that doesn't always work. So I've arrived to take her for an outing before and found she wasn't home -- because she'd subsequently been reminded she had a dentist appointment that morning. Rather than stress her, I generally try to check her schedule with my sister -- and then try to get to her place before she leaves for the first of several daily walks. Monday morning, everything fell into place, and she was there when I called at 8, and she stayed put until we got there at 9:30. She finds it tough, she says, to stay in the apartment, and the urge to get out just builds until she has to start walking, generally walking 4-10 kilometres at a go, often fitting in several walks a day.


She came to the front door of the condo without a jacket, so I went back up to her unit with her to help her remember to bring one. It turned out that she was right, though, and the day warmed up pleasantly so that we all left ours in the car when we got to Burnaby Lake. This used to be a favourite walk of Mom and Dad's, and then after he died, she would walk it fairly often on her own. But she hasn't been able to get to it since being made to give up her driver's license a few years ago (deeply resented and, wow, I know where all her memory power is tied up because THAT she CAN remember!!). She was thrilled to know that's where we were walking, and although it was a solid 10 kilometre walk, she kept up well (although she wasn't as fast as usual -- she's been known to have us adjusting stride to keep up).

This park is just minutes from the freeway, and at one end particuarly, you can hear the sounds of traffic and industry. gradually, they fall away and allow walkers to concentrate on the sounds, sights, and rich scents of the woods and wetlands. I was elated to find so many skunk cabbage plants -- I haven't been up close and personal with these pungently redolent, tenderly yellow flowers for too long. Did you know they can actually create their own heat if they need to melt away snow cover in the winter? Some botanists speculate the other benefit of this thermogenesis is that it allows the plant to broadcast its smell, drawing pollinators who are still scarce when it blooms. Certainly, there was ample skunky aroma filling the woods we walked through. (Edited in 2017 to add that thermogenesis isn't a property of the Western Skunk Cabbage, sadly, just some of its cousins. Still interesting to think about though, right?)
As I wielded my smartphone camera on the big fleshly leaves and handsomely sculptural flowers, I realized I should get a shot of Mom as well -- but I was a bit startled that she spryly leaped onto a rock, almost into the swampy mud, to stand among the bed of vegetation. She managed to leap back out, though, so all was well. . .
You'll have to peer closely at this next picture to spot the large beaver dam -- it's just left of centre, an impressive piece of engineering which I imagine goes a long way to creating the skunk cabbage habitat. . . .
Not sure if these guys are equally helpful, but they are another marvel of nature's engineering -- and we were captivated by the different patterns on their shells as they crawled up these salmonberry canes. I feel as if I'm offering you a bit of a Where's Waldo puzzle, but you should be able to spot this snail in the centre of the photo. . .
Not sure if you'll do as well spotting this squirrel, but he's there -- a little way out on the first serious branch to the left of those central trees.
Similarly, you'll spot this Downy (or is it Hairy) woodpecker if you look closely along the left side of the trunk slanting right toward the centre of this photo -- he's about 2/3 up. . .
And this little fellow is easy to spot -- he played shy for a while, but the lure of the seeds someone had scattered on top of the stump was too strong. He just couldn't resist.
I suspect the next time I'm out walking 10 kilometres, I'll be taking those footsteps in Amsterdam -- I love that kind of contrast!
What about you? Have you had any walks in the woods lately? What's letting you take some big refreshing breaths?

25 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your walk in the woods. Love the photos of plants and your family. What a kind daughter you are to take your mother to walk a favorite path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't do it often enough to be called "kind," Anonymous, especially compared to my siblings who do much more, but I do feel good when I get the chance to take her out like that.

      Delete
  2. It's amazing to me that your mother still walks and walks. I hope I never lose that impulse. There is youth in movement - even when one's memory is not what it once was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What you say is so apt, K! This is exactly what Paul and I talked about on our way back from our outing with Mom. I'm so happy for her that she still takes pleasure in movement, and I hope I'll stay fit enough to do the same (although I have to say I really dread the possibility of memory loss).

      Delete
  3. Skunk cabbage is aptly named - it's hard to mistake it for anything else! How wonderful that your mother walks and walks, and enjoys getting out in nature.

    We've been spending our extra time in the garden, although we try to walk up Christmas Hill in the evenings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a very distinctive aroma, for sure!
      I don't know where Christmas Hill is, but your photos show that you have abundant opportunities to get out into some lovely walks.

      Delete
  4. Your mum is amazing - 10 km! I certainly haven't walked that far in one go for quite a while. I need to take a leaf out of your mum's book!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll pass your comments along, Patricia. She really delights in people's amazement, taking pride in her long walks at her age.

      Delete
  5. Looks like a great piece of paradise tucked away for only those in the know.
    I have never seen a beaver dam, I am impressed at this post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a fabulous space available for city-dwellers to clear their urban heads a bit.
      As for the beavers, it's so impressive to see a trunk they've gnawed through -- even more to imagine them dragging it into place.

      Delete
  6. You either have a very keen eye or the wildlife there knows how to make nice with the tourists to score a few fries - I suspect it's the former! What a wonderful way to spend time with your mother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's fun to spot the woodland inhabitants -- I love how my eye gets more alert as I leave the cityscape behind. . . and yes, it's a really pleasant way to keep mom company, without requiring much conversation yet bringing us both real re-creation.

      Delete
  7. I find this really poignant, somehow. The urge to get out and walk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As so often, you put your finger on the mood. . . There is a poignancy to her urge.

      Delete
  8. It's so important to build up that store of memories with your mum for the future.
    I remember walking by the sea on a very stormy day in our little east coast Irish town, and thinking 'this time next week I'll be doing this in Paris'. Like you, I got a thrill out of the contrast.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, that's exactly the kind of contrast that really appeals to me, and, of course, it's really only available through the wonders of modern travel. Odd and thrilling, somehow at once, to me at least.

      Delete
  9. I must admit, I too would struggle to stay indoors for long, unless I had a very specific task to do, so I share your mother’s wanderlust. Currently sister No 2 has that duty, plus my mother has discovered a walking club that organises walks that are accessible via public transport. Sadly any current walk is just a muddy quagmire due to the constant torrential rain!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny, I can stay indoors reading or knitting or writing for hours and hours. Mom used to be able to, but now most endeavours that require more intellectual or cognitive commitment seem to make her anxious. I suspect that the walking is reassuring because she can do it so well.
      Her favourite day of the week is Friday because that's the day she joins a Seniors Group on an organised walk -- they also use public transport to get there, and they stop for lunch when they're done. She loves it!

      Delete
  10. I came to you via Pondside and you have really struck a chord. I too love to be outside and love to walk. We live high on a hillside in North Wales and I am trying to work out how to walk the coastal path which is about to open. It will make Wales (which is a little country!) the first country in the world with a footpath along all its coastline. My father who is only 77 has developed problems with his balance and fine motor control. Only a year ago he would walk five miles a day routinely with his dog. Now he struggles to do a mile, but he insists on being out there, every day, rain or shine. Unlike your mother he has all his memory intact. Ageing is a hard thing, in all its different ways, but it is good to know your mother can still take pleasure in walking. It will always be there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting, Elizabeth, and for taking the time to leave a comment. I'm envious of that wonderful path you have to walk -- years and years ago, we visited Wales (Harlech) and always meant to get back for some walking. One of these years. . . I admire your father's persistence, but it must be frustrating to lose the ability to walk as freely as he'd like. My Pilates instructor takes much pleasure in helping the seniors she works with recover a more confident sense of balance, but I know that's not always possible -- she comments, though, about seniors who are able to enjoy walking again once they get a stronger sense of balance back. I hadn't realized it was such a consistent problem and am trying to keep my own balance tuned up . . .

      Delete
  11. Oh, I love taking walks like this though my mother is no longer up to it--she's not very ambulatory, but her mind is sharp as a tack. I don't believe I've ever encountered skunk cabbage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish my mom's mind was still sharp -- it's sometimes hard to accept her cognitive losses, especially given her voracious reading, her love of classical music, drama, etc. all things that formed the basis for conversation. But having lost that, at least we can get out and do something pleasant together.
      Skunk cabbage is such an impressive plant with its huge leaves and statuesque flower -- and you'd be surprised at how much it smells like skunk.

      Delete
  12. Lots of skunk cabbage in our back 40!
    My mum sounds a lot like yours. She can't remember details of yesterday but she can beat us at cribbage and scrabble. She still delights in shopping and walking and going to church, so she always has stories to tell. It is a bittersweet time, as my mother was never a soft or easy person. Time has taken away the prickles and left a sweetness that is the new Mum. I'm glad to have this time to overlay some of the memories of difficult times with the essential sweetness that is my mum today.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I envy you your skunk cabbage (and the back 40, for that matter!). We used to have some near the beach access path right next to us, but I haven't seen it for 6 or 7 years -- I imagine the development of nearby lots has affected the drainage.
    What you say about your Mom is so relevant to mine. One or two of my siblings have had a tougher time letting go of some memories, but I just see that the other Mom is gone -- there's no settling scores or working things out with her, because she's not there. But the one who's left is a very sweet, hopeful Mom doing the best she can. . .

    ReplyDelete
  14. I always enjoy photos of your family. Your Mom is an inspiration taking those long walks. Not at all surprised she remembers her license being taken away.

    ReplyDelete

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...