creatures of habit


Everyday on my way home from work on the bike path, I pass an elderly woman sitting by the lake. She sits in the same spot near a fork in the path where it curves around by some trees. She is leaning rather. Leaning against her walker with one foot up on the guardrail looking out at the lake. She wears a white cotton hat, loose fitting pants and a comfortable top and a light jacket on cool afternoons. She is petite, her skin wrinkled but cared for. She is calm, her profile still and classy. I pass by her quickly because I'm always trying to get somewhere in a hurry - a tennis game, the farmer's market, a workout, the library, a writing class, home.

She is not in a hurry. She let's the world happen around her. Behind her the hectic city bustles - traffic, cyclists, hospitals, festivals, landscapers, financial transactions, art openings, daycare, yoga classes, restaurants. In front of her the water is stretched out - kayaks, fishing boats, sail boats, planes, geese, the steeples of Stelco in the distance on a clear day.

A lot of life has happened to her. This is her chance to rest, reflect, and remember. I don't know what she sees in the water. Maybe the memory of a lost love, a loyal pet, a failed career, a good book, a bad haircut, a car accident, a successful career, a questionable choice, a perfect meal, a hot pink sunset.

Perhaps she's thinking about how she made it here today one more time to look at the lake. And she's contemplating how long it will take her to get back to the seniors residence beside St. Joseph's hospital where she lives. The hike she has to make over the Jameson bridge. How she has to be mindful of her steps because of fragile bones. The dust and clammor she has to contend with because of all the damn construction. How those cyclists ride too fast.

Maybe she's thinking about the dragon boat races she was involved in on this very water years ago. The grade six social studies class she taught. The camping trip to Algonquin Park. Last night's mushy grey dinner. A honeymoon in Alaska. The birth of her first grandchild. The death of her husband. The tea she'll have for breakfast tomorrow. How she survived a battle against breast cancer. The scar on her leg she got from falling off a horse. How she never got to Africa. The peace she finds in being alone with her thoughts.

I think what she sees in the water are moments.

But she wasn't there today.