Author Archives: Anna L

Travel Blog 8

I was off again. Starting from that disastrous off-turn that I made onto a railroad track, I was sure this time would be different. I was going to follow that trail, so help me, and not veer off. It would be fun! This was still back in September and there were surprising gifts of late flowers along the way. You know, no matter what, these hikes – be they short city hikes, long ambles through country roads, windy trails or anything else, really – have been a sheer delight.

Resisting all temptation to follow the little trail, I walked along to the big road instead. Sigh. See, here we are. The big road. But at least there’s the sign telling me I’m going in the right direction. That’s good!

The road was indeed just as boring as I thought it would be. Until, that is – I looked up! Would you look at that sky? Gorgeous, right?

Before long, however, I found myself walking near some very beautiful places – and familiar ones. I had made it to Hamilton! Truly, there’s beauty in very little things – both people made – like this RBG flower bed and natural like these fall flowers at the side of the road.

Here’s the railroad I found myself walking on that other time. It looks much better from above – in fact the whole view is panoramic and not at all awful. Then down the stairs to the hike under the bridge – I’ve actually hiked this bit before but never officially like this. It was pretty cool. Hamilton hikes are gorgeous, I must say.

The trail under the bridge is lovely – full of little tiny picturesque moments. Are you getting a twisty trail feeling? I always do. And of course – it’s nice to know you’re going in the right direction!

The fall coulours do a lot to accentuate the beauty of the day, but then – argh! I’m back on the street again. It’s a pretty street, but it’s still a street.

But wait – is that a park with woods right to the side? So much for sticking firmly to the trail this time. (I still used google, but did go a bit off trail.)

It was so pretty though! I found myself in the woods and as everyone knows, I totally adore the woods! Whether the tiny mushrooms in the various tree stumps or the sky peering through the tops of the trees, there is nothing about a wooded path I don’t like. I know these are tamed and groomed and manicured woods compared to the real thing – but for a few glorious moments, I let myself forget and enjoy the beauty.

All good things must come to an end and this hike did too. I finally came out of the hike to a very nice grassy area which was also conveniently close to where I was going. Double win.

About 4 more km walked brings us to 28 km and completes the Burlington-Hamilton journey. Onward, ho!

Trip 8 Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel Blog 7

This hike happened because I was invited out! Yay, Denise and Yoav! I really enjoyed hiking with them and hope it happens more often. It was good that I was able to make them part of my trail. It also let me cover a slightly different piece. I wonder what will happen next? This, I must admit, continues to be a super cool adventure. (But I’m going to catch up on these blogs – it’s ridiculous that I’m still blogging September!)

Here is our starting corner and Denise, Yoav, and Jakey. This is bit where you realize that Hamilton is 90% hiking trail – at least to the discerning eye. Right in the center of the city is this beautiful trail. It’s a narrow band of trees perhaps, with parks or roads or houses on either side – but here, on the trail, with minimal suspension of disbelief (much less than needed in a super hero movie) one is on a hiking trail through the woods. And you know what woods are full of? Trees!

The Rail Trail, as can be seen from the pictures below, is truly a lovely treasure. From behind the university plaza (where we started) and onwards, there is a lot to see. (If you’re primarily interested in seeing a hiking trail, of course!) Oh, look a side trail…it’s a good thing I had friends with me or I would have taken that one without a second glance!

In fact, friends made the whole thing better. Although Yoav and Jakey biked off into the distance, Denise and I ambled and talked for a significant time. Yay!

The trail made a beautiful back drop for us and we managed to really enjoy ourselves. Even when the trail needed to wind through city things, it was pretty nice. Here’s a neat children’s park and street crossing.

All good things must come to an end, however, and eventually, it was time to leave the trail. We got off around Sanctuary Park.  Another 2 km covered, for a total of 24 km.

See actual maps and pictures – way better!

trip 7 blog

Travel Blog 6

It was time to walk again. I came to that place near one end of the RBG and began to follow along with the Great Trail. It was a beautiful day an I was determined to enjoy myself. This trip continues straight from travel blog 5 and I planned on another 1-hour hike.

I started out in good spirits, ready for adventure, but wondering why the path included so many streets. Surely, it should have more hiking trails?

Don’t get me wrong – the path was pretty enough. Just not a trail. I did see all sorts of cool things, though, like this lovely hidden house.

My daughter commented that my travel blogs are a bit on the funny side, being close to home, involving 2-3 km at a time an having very local objects. Well, this is one of the reasons I’m on this journey. That’s how I want to see Canada. (Also, yay! My daughter reads my travel blogs!)

The flowers on the fence let me know that once again, I was passing a cemetery – this time on the outside.

Luckily, I do enjoy a good walk through the streets. I like weird urban things too sometimes, like walking tunnels, graffiti and all.

After this I came to a gorgeous little spot by the water. Yay, swans! It was like a mini-park.

So, I was having fun with the pretty trail, and did not want to go back to the big road at the end of this path here. It seemed that I could follow the railroad for a while an then connect to where I was going quickly enough. I was so wrong, though! After a half-hour or so of wandering the railroad an not having a way off, I clambered back on to the street and went home. I am not counting that part – we’re just going to pretend it never happened.

Another piece accomplished! Yay! This marks 22 km of the journey.

Click here to see the actual blog with pictures and maps. (Really, do click. What’s an extra click going to hurt?)

Trip 6 Blog

Travel Blog 5

One day, when it was still sunny and there was no rain and snow, I took the bus to Aldershot go station. That’s where I had walked to last time I wanted to fill in the Burlington/Hamilton piece. This time, I decided to hike for exactly 1 hour and then get back on a bus. This proved very effective. Here is my starting point, right where I left off before catching the bus to Burlington.

This worked like a charm and I saw some really pretty things.

Here is my starting point. It’s the same point I ended off travel blog 2 at.

Although I was walking along a road I thought it was quite pretty. I noticed lovely signs here and there showing me I was going the right way. Given how easily I get lost, they are always reassuring.

The road wound along until it turned, and the turn wasn’t bad either – but I was getting bored and there was a lot of near the road walking.

So when the biking trail I was matching turned into the nearby cemetery, so did I. I’m glad I did. Cemeteries can be really interesting, and this one was different than those I’d seen which had been mostly Jewish. I had never seen one with all these very bright little bouquets in rows.

I really enjoyed this part and enjoyed the company of other walkers and bikers and, oddly, ducks. It seems that this particular graveyard is a very comfortable place for ducks. I saw many of them, and with the other hikers, stopped often to let them cross the path.

When I had passed the ducks and cemetery, I found myself back on the road again, which was mildly disappointing except for these neat art shops. I didn’t go in, but I did window-shop, and one day, I’m coming back!

Finally, my trip was done. I was near the RBG, and excited to see where my next walk would take. 20 km, and counting!

Link with pictures:

Trip 5 Blog

Travel Blog 4

Back in August, I did a few smaller hikes. Little did I realize that the problem would be, not the walking but the recording. I refuse to give up though. Somehow, I will find the time for both despite a busy schedule. I have a country to cross! In this particular hike, I left work and hiked for half my lunch hour in one direction. Then I walked back. Small – but I did it.

You might notice this from the time I walked to Hamilton. This is where I started. This time, I went the other way, choosing the quiet Burlington streets towards Toronto. I had hoped to walk along the water, but that wasn’t a thing. So I turned to the streets.

I really appreciated the city-hike nature of this little adventure. While it wasn’t exactly woodsy, after the “ahem – route verte” of Montreal, pretty streets covered in greenery and nice houses were a real joy to walk by.

It was obvious this was the abode of the wealthy. Some of those lawns… let’s just say I’m glad I never had to mow them. I loved the hanging baskets. How very thoughtful of you, Burlington. Although this wasn’t a long hike, it was part of my journey and so I noticed where I was when I ended. Some day, I’ll get back to that self-same spot.

Now at 17 km. Yay, me!

Click on link for real blog with pictures…

Trip 4 Blog

 

 

 

Kislev (or Elul 8 – Hear)

A kid teased another kid at school the other day, and thought nothing of it. It happens all the time – people calling each other names that target intelligence, ability, appearance, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation – you name it! From “you’re dumb” and “you’re ugly” to more subtle insults like “you look good, no homo” (“hey, miss, I was just complimenting him but I didn’t want him to take it the wrong way”) to clearly racist slurs like “immigrant” (he isn’t) and “terrorist”, from casual unthinking comments like “that’s so gay” to direct creative insults involving parentage and future, kids have many horrible ways to be nasty to each other and those about them.

 

They think nothing of it. As far as they’re concerned, it means nothing. Heck the kid that was being teased laughed. Everyone laughed. Only the teacher took it seriously. No-one knows why – probably because the teacher is old, and politically correct and soft and…so I gave this speech in school. I’m recording it here because it’s my response to the Pittsburgh shooting, and the one before that – and the one (and it breaks my heart) after, and the many, many others.

 

Did she laugh when you told her she should quit synchronized swimming because she now had water on the brain, or when you thought it was hilarious to call him Paco because he came from Latin America? Did they?  They told you the nicknames were funny? Maybe. Maybe what you don’t know is that they came to me after and told me how much they hated your teasing. Why would they tell you? You tease. You’re also their friend and they don’t want to lose that. So, they won’t tell you. Ever.

 

But I don’t want to talk about, for instance, the girl you called plump, who laughed at your nasty little make-up tips. I want to talk about the girl sitting silently behind her. See, you don’t know it, but she was teased in the same way in her previous school, so much so that she suffered depression and anxiety and finally left that school and came here to this one to feel OK. When you said that – not to her, even – she realized this school would never be OK either. She went home and cried herself to sleep. Maybe she turned to a form of self-harm, like cutting or restricting food, like drugs or alcohol. I hear from the kids who have made such a choice. They exist.

 

Why, you say, did she not go to an adult? Well it was because three of you had made a joke of it the day before, saying “miss, he’s bullying me” when someone wouldn’t lend you a pencil and claiming that the low mark I gave you on a test was due to me being racist – especially funny if the kid who says it is as white as I am. So, no, she didn’t feel it was safe to turn to authority either.

 

But never mind her. There was another boy sitting next to her. He heard your words too and you’re in a higher grade than him. Being in a higher grade, you have authority you know. It may be slight, and not very conscious – but people look up to you. As an older kid, that’s what you’re beginning to acquire – authority. Authority is another word for power, and that’s something you get more and more of as you get older, and as Spiderman’s uncle once said, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” What kind of responsibility? Is it your doing that the young lady turned to self harm? No, of course not! No one but her chose her path. Did you have influence here, however? Yes. Yes, you did.

 

So, that boy who heard you might have a little brother with developmental disabilities or a cousin who is gay or got any one of a number of people you’ve insulted in his life. And after your words, might see his brother or cousin just a tiny bit differently. Might be a little less likely to help. Might be a little more critical. Might say slightly less OK things himself. That didn’t do much to make the world a better place.

 

Or what about these three kids sitting at the side? They are popular and charismatic and they’ve already been teasing the person you just called a name. They now get a feel that this is OK. After all you did it, and you got away with it, and so, it’s no big deal to tease. And the poor kid getting teased is getting more and more angry all the time – and should he lash out physically, it will not be your fault if he or his opponent gets hurt. Absolutely not. But did you contribute to an environment where this kind of behaviour was possible? Hmmm….

 

But never mind them. There’s another kid in the class. He hates this school, just as much as he hated the last four schools he was at before they kicked him out, or he moved or left or whatever. He hates the teachers – they are all unfair and mean and nasty. He hates all the privileges the older kids get that he doesn’t. He hates how the younger kids can get away with just about anything. He hates all the other students – they’re losers and they either bug him or ignore him or whatever. He hates everyone. And your comment and people laughing was that final touch that told him the next thing to do was to get a knife or gun and come back to school….

 

What, you say? It couldn’t happen? It would certainly never happen here? Maybe not. But this last week I was at a vigil for 11 Jewish people who were murdered.  The man who murdered them did so because somewhere in his mind, he created a universe in which Jews were bringing refugees into the country and the refugees were full of Muslims who were terrorists who would kill him and his family. Thus, if the Jews were dead, he’d be safe. This man didn’t see himself as evil. He was, in his very horribly incorrect way, trying to protect family. What made him think that refugees were full of Muslims, that Muslims were terrorists, that Jews were paying for refugees to come?

 

These were all things he heard from the president. Now, the president does NOT, emphatically, see himself as antisemitic. He does not. Why, he has Jewish grand kids! He supports Israel! So, it is definitely not his fault. And yet…what kind of environment did he create? Who did he encourage and embolden with his remarks? How did people with different, possibly fractured world views hear him? Oh, I’m sure this was not a consequence he intended. He too, in his very horribly incorrect way, was just trying to protect family. But our words have consequence. We have power. And it is our job to use it with care.

 

Frankly we haven’t been. And if we, in our classes, haven’t been, that means I haven’t been doing enough. For if you tease, then I as your teacher have permitted this, have modeled this, have encouraged this in some way. That must stop. I say now that I am sorry – and will try to do better, to work harder at being polite to and about you. Oh, I’m sure I will fail sometimes as will you – but I will try. Hopefully together we can build a school where a person won’t need to turn to violence to protect herself or her family. Hopefully this will be a school in which violence – even emotional violence – is unthinkable. That’s the school I want to teach at, and you all being amazing kids – that’s the school I know you can create.

Travel Blog 3

At the very beginning of August, I did my third walk on the great trail. Again, I walked with Josh, making 8 kilometres (yay! That’s 16 total…) and covering some of East Montreal. I hadn’t realized that some of the trail was beautiful, some of it was – rather ugly, taking me through ghastly industrial regions where I was hard pressed to find something to take photos of. You’ll say, “Anna, that’s not what your pictures show” but it is, really. It is exactly what they show, given how few of them there are. I took a picture any time there was something beautiful and inspirational and the fact that these are all the pictures I got tells you how little beautiful and inspirational there is in these 8 km. I’m going to keep going, of course. Just thought you should know. Walkers of the great trail, find a way around this bit!

Do click on this link. Most of the info is in here – pictures, distance, etc…

Trip 3 Blog

 

 

#BlogElul – Elul 7

Elul 7 – Understand

It’s hard to understand the kids. They use different words to mean different things (like “sauce” to mean pass – really?) They present things in different ways. They don’t share my goals or my dreams. Things that I strongly dislike or that make me uncomfortable are perfect for them. And each different too! I can’t even say “kids these days” because all 3 of my big “I left home and I’m grown up now” kids are so different. Frankly, my small kids aren’t that small any more. With one already Bar Mitzvah and one about to hit the double digits, all my kids are “grown up” in their own very different ways.

And so my relationship with them must change – I hate change, but this year, it seems to have shown up as a theme. I need to listen more carefully than ever to them. I can’t assume anything except that I’m often wrong.

In particular I have to think the best of the kids. I must replace “they are lazy” with “they are taking the time they need” and “they are shiftless” with “their ambitions are different.” It’s easy for me to see very little things – a mess left in a room, a brusque comment, a delay in texting back – as a sign that their differences are wrong, that they’re careless and self-focused, that they need to be corrected and taught and advised.

It’s what I did for so many years! I tried hard to give good advise, set useful rules, teach correct lessons. Now, they don’t need that. They just want to be understood and accepted and loved. It’s confusing! How can I be there for them when sometimes that means giving them a great deal of space?

I know part of it is to keep reaching out, keep communicating, keep connecting. Building a bridge with my kids – I can’t imagine a more important activity. It’s also very rewarding. They are infinitely interesting, intelligent and successful young people. They are excelling in ways I never could (and making mistakes I never made, but that’s growth, right?)

Part of it is letting them set the timing, the content and everything else about our conversations. I need to be there for them – but just in the way they need me. If I push, I lose that connection. That’s a bridge I treasure – the fact that my kids can confide in me is what I feel one of my biggest successes is.

Most of it though is about understanding. I listen to them, I work to understand them, and I recognize the divine shining through them. It’s hard work – but it’s the work that I have before me. I may as well enjoy trying to understand.

#BlogElul – Elul 6

So, wants – we all have them, they’re not needs, most religions agree they should be left to God, or at best sought in moderation. But what I want – at least what I want to talk about in this blog, is what happens when wants clash.

And what happens is anger. We don’t understand why the person we are trying to spend time with, communicate with, or work with in some way won’t simply do what we want. It would, really, be best for everyone. It’s just that they have a similar idea and so poof, anger, conflict, ick.

Now, don’t get me wrong – Anger is useful. It’s sort of like oxidation. It creates energy, sparks change, removes blocks. It’s powerful and effective, or at least – it should be. But oxidation is also rust and fire. It can destroy, slowly, one tiny bit of rusty nail at a time or rapidly in a huge conflagration.

Most people (myself included) are really bad at dealing with anger. We are way more likely to create rust and flames than change and energy. There seem to be two ways of dealing with anger – you can hold it in and keep it to yourself, or spew it out all over everyone. Holding it in – that’s my specialty – and that leads to rust. Soul rust is when the foundations of your dream temples are slowly eaten away, and you are unwilling to build, when you find yourself putting more and more walls on that temple to hide the rusty spots and to keep the collapse at bay. It’s ugly. At the totally wrong moment, the temple – now looking much more like a fortress – collapses anyway and in the process, self esteem and relationships have been destroyed.

Others (and I know them too – and you know who you are) light the world on fire with their anger, making sure everyone knows that they are UPSET. This is not much better, as it not only burns bridges between us and other people, but actually, it’s almost impossible for our own soul temple to not catch on fire, leaving ethics and priorities, courtesy and breath as a pile of ashes.

So what to do? God seems to frown on anger, sending plagues and swallowing people in the earth if they let it out – except when God encourages anger and tells us to fight for this or for that. Confusing. The Pirkey Avot says that they are strong who are slow to anger and can master their own spirit. Hmm. So, the first thing one must do is accept that one is angry – because our wants will not always be satisfied. We’ll get mad. We’re going to have to notice that and slow it down, and not react immediately. Then, it’s a matter of analysis. Is this the kind of case where our anger is due to a misunderstanding, an unhealthy want being unsatisfied, something we can fulfil some other way? Then we find ways to deal with that anger privately, to scrub the rust off the foundations, and do a bit of internal restoration here and there. We could write and tear up angry letters, punch pillows, go for a brisk walk, find a distant and private location and scream, visualize, make art – whatever turns the anger into something productive for us.

If the anger is motivated by something being truly wrong, on the other hand – an injustice, a lack that reflects a need rather than a want, someone’s cruelty or disdain – then we have a responsibility to act. The Torah is big on warning someone who is about to do the wrong thing and rebuking someone who is acting badly. The trick is to do so calmly, to ensure that our goal is improvement and not destruction. Embarrassing a person, using cruel pointedly sarcastic remarks to wound, pointing out flaws in public – these are totally against Jewish precepts. (If you ever were in Jewish Junior High with the Rachels, you wouldn’t know that and would actually think the opposite, but hey…) You need to find a way – a gentle but powerful way to use your anger to create change.

How can we help each other repair our soul temples instead of burning them down?  It’s a daily challenge. Learning to work with anger – to neither swallow it into myself as the earth swallowed Korakh, nor throw it out to destroy others – that’s a challenge for this year. And getting that skill – now, that’s something I definitely want.

#BlogElul – Elul 4

Elul 4 – Choose

This year, I’m making choices. For years I’ve said, “I don’t have enough time for that” and “I don’t have enough time for this.” I read something this month however that said, “I don’t have enough time” is synonymous with “This is not a priority for me.” That is a very different way of looking at the universe.

“I don’t have enough time to contact my friends” sounds believable, and almost valid as an excuse. “These people are not a priority for me” – that’s different. “I don’t have enough time to go hiking or canoeing or camping or enjoy any physical activity at all” – that’s just a bit sad. Poor thing. She doesn’t have enough time. If only time had been nicer to her. “Hiking, canoeing and camping aren’t priorities for me” however, sounds horrifying. Of course they’re priorities! What? What kind of life am I building here?

Every day, I have the same 24 hours. What will I fill it with? How much time am I losing to activities I didn’t choose, activities I “fell into” because of lack of time? It’s a bit scary to think that every little thing I do – from taking a drink of water to typing this very line is a choice of how I spend my time – a choice of what my priority is. And Judaism tells me I should think hard and deliberately about that choice. Judaism is big on acting with intention. There’s a whole word Kavana for acting and praying and doing whatever you do with intention.  We are supposed to put all of ourselves into what we do, not simply skim the surface.

Sometimes, I need a rest! A break! And here too I have choices. I can pick breaks that meet my priorities or breaks that don’t, that waste some of those 24 hours. It’s easy to go on default – heck, not going with the flow, not going on default – that takes brain power and focus. (For most of us, walking along to the musac in shopping malls is automatic, it’s breaking that pattern that’s the challenge – for me, well, let’s just say that thing doesn’t work for me when it comes to music. When it comes to activities, however…) I get tired of that too and so I fall into patterns in which I’m doing things that are easy rather than things that are important or fun.

So, this year, I want to push slowly but firmly to change those patterns. I want to create new patterns in which, when I look at what I’m doing at any given time, I can say “this is a priority; this is exactly how I want to be spending my time.” That way, when I say “I don’t have time for this” I’ll be able to add “because it’s not a priority” without flinching. That way, I know I’ve made the choice and not whatever random dude picked the musac playing at that shopping mall.