Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One Degree, Not Six

"Don't they do this test in New Brunswick?"

Holly confirmed to the hospital receptionist in Halifax that they do definitely do have the ability to administer this medical test in Saint John.

"Couldn't your doctor ask for the test to be done there?"

She couldn't because Holly's doctor isn't registered in the New Brunswick computer database.

"Couldn't your doctor there have ordered it?"

The receptionist, only asking these questions out of personal curiosity and registering Holly for her test while conversing, appeared both surprised and sorrowful to hear that there are no available doctors in Saint John.

halifax macdonald bridge old bridge

A quick online search and a phone call was all it took to land a family doctor in Halifax and this test was why we made the four hour trip exactly a week before Christmas.  We made the most of the hours in Halifax by having brunch with two of my sisters and exchanging hugs and gifts over the excellent food at Heartwood Restaurant on Quinpool Road.  Having to close our new studio for a day so close to Christmas was not something we took lightly, but health trumps money - or so should be the case.

heartwood bowl halifax

Late December road trips (the first day of winter, my birthday, and seemingly, the end of the world are only three days away) are always a concern in Canada too.  On our return trip, just past Sussex, the temperature gauge on the car's control panel indicated that the air had chilled to freezing and the light drizzle we had picked up just after Moncton had changed to big, fat snowflakes and the painted white segmented lines on the highway began to fade.  The road had quickly become a treacherous mess with the centimetre or two that had fallen and we were creeping along near 30kms per hour.

norton nb snow

"The sign says there's an exit to Norton in six kilometres," Holly informed me.

Is there anything in Norton?  The two cars behind indicated their intention to take the off ramp, so we followed suit.  Lo and behold, at the bottom of the ramp, an Irving sign glowed through the snow.  This would be so pretty if we were safe at home, I commented.

A handful of cars and a couple tractor trailers sat watching the highway in the service station's (and liquor store) lot and nearly two hours past.  This precipitation was no surprise, nor was the temperature or the wind chill that accompanied the gusting winds, there was no indication any salt had been laid on the highway.  During our time watching from the Irving, we saw two plows going our way, the off ramp was plowed once, but not the on ramp.  Then another plow passed and everyone seemed to decide that it was time to venture out.

The tractor trailers took a number of attempts to get up the covered ramp and the cars crawled their way to the highway.  We prepared the car and went into the service station for any last necessities, still unsure of setting out for the last 55kms to Saint John.

"Are there any motels in the area?" Holly asked one of the seasoned clerks.

It turned out the closest would mean back-tracking 18kms to Sussex.  This was what the clerk recommended, adding "They say a plow just went by, so going from experience there isn't likely to be another 'til morning."

I found that statement to be so incredulous that I struggled to believe it, but was most disturbed with her delivery of it, as she was neither upset by this neglect nor seemingly aware that situations like this were certainly not normal in other parts of the country.

Put off with the prospect of traveling a significant distance in the wrong direction, Holly and I agreed to attempt the journey home, noting that we had water and food should we have to camp out on the side of the road.  We crawled most of the way, but made it safely, albeit completely unnerved, to the untouched slushy streets of home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Plus Side of Zero

It turned out to be a sunny Sunday with the neighbour's outdoor thermometer indicated a crisp-but-tolerable setting on the plus side of zero, so I settled into my one day off for the week.  With the holidays hitting full stride the studio will be open Sundays, leaving this as the last day to ourselves for a little while.

The day before I read a post by a fellow Saint John blogger about cold weather running and it reminded me that I hadn't been to my favourite route in a long time. Around noon I hopped in the car (the irony of driving somewhere to go for a run isn't lost on me) and headed to the Irving Nature Park.

Cresting the hill before the park, I could see that I wasn't the only one with this idea as the parking lot was more full than most summer days.  With the exception of the the immediate dirt after the end of the pavement, the road was smoother than many Saint John streets.

I backed into an empty space, got out, breathed in the cool air, hit play on my shuffle and started up the steep hill that begins my clockwise trail through this gem.

After finally reaching the initial summit (I used to love hill-running) I kept a slow, steady pace and waited for the pounding in my chest to lighten.  My first realization was that I forgot to bring my gloves.  I knew I would regret that.  Even pushing up the hill, I thought about how, despite not getting out for many runs the past couple months, good I felt and considered the possibility of surpassing the 6.5 km that marked a single circuit.

There were crows, lots of chickadees, and dogs - even an unattended medium sized canine on the edge of the forest barking at something toward the upper reaches of an evergreen.  And there was no shortage of people.

Settling into a quiet stride I became conscious to the fact that my creative thoughts were in overdrive.  Without the distractions of business and home, my self began the automatic focus on the increased physical stresses leaving the creative part of my brain free to explore - and the results of this exploration were producing at an exceptional rate.  I wanted to stop and write.  I yearned for something I could record these meanderings into for later.

Rounding a bend, there was a secondary path branching to the right that I couldn't remember.  I then became aware that I had lost familiarity with the trail and couldn't even properly gauge my geographical orientation, I tried to recall when my last run at the nature park took place.  Maybe early summer?  It had been too long.

I knew I hadn't reached the wooden bridge that marked the approximate half-way mark yet and I was already feeling the negative effects of my lack of training.  Those early thoughts of exceeding my distance goals had been trashed.  I kept an eye open for one of the wood mile markers (kilometer marker just doesn't sound right) and upon seeing "4 km" and realizing that simple math was becoming more difficult, I knew I would now just have to be happy with completing the loop.

In the last half kilometer I saw my first ground critter - a grey squirrel that bounded away from the roadway at that slow grey squirrel pace that I know I will never become used to after being around red squirrels only for most of my life.

Passing the last marker, I slowed to a walk and began my cool down, then stretching before heading back home for fronch toast with Holly.  These are Sundays that are truly priceless.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't Inhale

"Tiffany, it's Aunt Judy."

This is the start of the message I found on the studio's answering machine when I opened this morning.  Perhaps a month ago the same lady left a similar message for Tiffany on our line, but this time she left callback numbers along with her message of love for her niece.  There seemed genuine notes of concern and longing in her voice, so it may be a nice idea to phone and let her know she is using the wrong - or out of date - number to reach out to her family member.

There seems to be a heaviness about people this holiday season, a burden of tension that I've not noticed before.  Conversation has often turned to health concerns - "How long have you been vegetarian?" "How often do you run?" "Do you smoke? Have you ever? I used to, but like Bill Clinton, never inhaled."  These are the sorts of comments I'm hearing more regularly now.  Inquiries that acknowledge that there is a shadow of doubt about choices both past and current.

Walking about Saint John sees many down-turned eyes, people with thoughts elsewhere.  Just  entering Brunswick Square, doors don't get held, smokers are gathered around every exit (can anyone share what the smoking legislation is here in Saint John?) and many are on edge.  Just try using a crosswalk without experiencing the death-stare of a pissed-off taxi driver or walk the uptown sidewalks without having to surrender your space to someone unwilling to share the concrete.

Anxiety without a positive action begets anger.  I am going to keep trying to invoke a force of positivity in my environment, however insignificant it may seem and I encourage others to do the same.  It's not easy, especially when holding your breath to avoid noxious fumes as you pass that "no smoking" sign.  Cigarette smoke is dangerous - read the packages - but inhaling negativity affects so much more.