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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Crestview Morning

August 15, 1993

Brr... it's cold this morning. Minus 12, I think they said.  Yesterday, it was only zero when I woke up and I huddled in my little bed, bleating and moaning that it was too chilly to get up and would Phil please, please bring me some coffee in bed, I would have done it for him, please Phil, huh? 

Hard to imagine eh, this hearty and well-padded old Yukon gal lolling in her bed, electric blanket cranked up to simmer, waiting for someone to bring her some brekkie.  I can't explain it, either, except that now that we have retired (or whatever it is that people keep as- suring us that we have done), the blood of my adventursome forebears tends to run a little thin and tired, once in a while.

This morning, however, the old sourdough in me gave me a slap on the haunch, laced me into my hiking boots, and had me striding down the hiking trail that skirts the green belt on the other side of the street before I'd even had time to ask for my first cup of Nabob.  It does that, every now and again, just takes over my life and sends me out into the snow and cold without so much as a by your leave.  It's healthy, something inside me insists, gets the heart pumping and the blood jangling.  And before long, I find myself out on the road again, rosy-cheeked and out of breath, exercising my cardio-vasculars for all I'm worth.

But I wasn't alone today.  It must have been a good morning for a sourdough because the old trail was crowded with dogs and kids and runners.  An older lady, wearing a cap that was even more antediluvian than my own favourite and leading a big orange cat on a piece of string, overtook me on a curve and passed by with a cheery, "Beep, beep."  The cat gave a pitiful "Mew," as he skittered by.  He looked as if he might have been having a wistful thought or two about break- fast in bed, himself.  I didn't really have time to think about him though as I stepped off the beaten path to avoid being run over by a family of joggers. "Off to a good start," I called to them as they puffed by.  They didn't even glance in my direction.  Undaunted by their indifference to my early morning manners, I strode on, head up and arms swinging.

It's different, walking here as compared to all the walking I did back at Johnson's Crossing.  It was always quiet there, especially if I left the highway and tramped along the pole line or along the river.  Alone in the wilderness, the only sounds I'd hear would be the chuckle of the satin-black current, testing and fretting the lace-ice along its margins, or the rush of wind through the wings of an eagle as it side-slipped down a line of trees, hunting an afternoon snack.  Occa- sionally, I would meet a neighbour, Jane Goodvin or Vic Ponisch, out on a similar quest of personal fulfillment, and we'd stop and chat for a while before moving on.  

Here, as I walk along the edge of the valley, I look into the back yards of the houses that line Rainbow Road and hear voices calling and dogs barking and above all, the pervasive sound of traffic.  Being a friendly sort, I enjoy seeing other people on the path but so far, none have had the time or inclination to stop and visit, although most smile and nod as we come together and diverge, ships passing in the night sort of thing.  No doubt my reputation as a garrulous old broad has preceded me and my fellow walkers stumble home with a feeling that they may have barely escaped with their lives.  "You'll never guess who I met on the hiking trail," they pant.  "It was that lady from Johnson's Crossing, you know the one who followed us out to the car last spring, telling us about her dog?  Remember, she had a hold of your sleeve..."

Unaware of the angst I may have aroused in my fellow hikers, I skip on, and soon the trail branches, the main course curving down and around the end of Crestview to bump spang into the Alaska Highway; the fainter, narrower path turning left and down to cross a small creek and emerge onto a well-used track on the other side of the valley.  I follow the smaller trail into the fairy grove of alder that lines the clear brown brook. In summer the leafy glade had been infused with a misty green half-light that had been a tad eerie and uneasing.  Today, it was merely beautiful, the hoarfrost thick on the delicate bare limbs that laced together over my head in a silver filigree.

I cease my cardio-vasculating for a moment, standing still in that lovely, magical place, reminded of a poem from my childhood: Up the purple mountain, down the rushy glen, we daren't go a-hunting, for fear of little men.  I glance around, expecting to find tiny footprints in the frosty moss that lines the path.  How easy it would be to believe they might be there, those small people in green jack- ets, red caps, and white owl feathers. How easy....

The old sourdough inside gives me a poke in the ribs and I know it's time to get back to my hup-tup-thrupping.  I step out but as I do, a flash of red catches my eye and I turn my head sharply.  Was it a high bush cranberry still clinging to its slender wand that I'd seen?  Or was it, perhaps, a wee crimson cap adorned by a single snow white plume?   

Get a-going, the old sourdough advises, and quit maundering on about fairies and fantasies.  But I ignore the voice and stay a little longer, hoping for another glimpse into the world of make-believe.  At my age, you find something magical, you tend to go with it.  Chances are, they aren't hunting, just blowing out the carbon, like the rest of us, and are ready to stop for a little light chitchat.

"Hey," I'll say, holding a teeny sleeve between two fingers, "did I ever tell you about my dog, Tia?  She was a beautiful husky-golden retriever cross, reddish-gold with mascara around her eyes....."

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