After almost a week of intense heat, humidity and extreme UV values, 36C (about 96F) feels wonderful – almost refreshing! I’ve just returned with my dog Pixie from a lovely long walk at our favourite lakeside park in downtown Ottawa. This park is a magical place. Odd and delightful things happen here – people smile and talk to perfect strangers. The animals… well, their behaviours are sometimes extraordinary. Although it is very late in the season for them, a couple of days ago we discovered two brand new ducklings quite a distance from the lake. They were huddled up against the base of my favourite oak tree, a grand old man I’ve named Cyclops the Gatekeeper. Pixie was very un-doglike (is that a word?), and simply sat down to look at them from a respectful distance.
Yesterday, we were stalked and very deliberately and precisely dive-bombed by a lovely copper coloured butterfly. Today, a bunny hopped out of a bed of lilies as we walked by, then sat there and boldly stared us down. After the butterfly stalking incident, it was easy to imagine the bunny considering madly hopping along behind us, all the better to hitch a ride on Pixie’s back. In fact, it seems perfectly reasonable (at least to me) to suppose that there are garden fairies, pixies and angels just that little bit out of one’s visual field.
My point is that this space feeds my spirit and my belief in possibilities, just as my beloved Pixie makes my heart sing. It is not simply about connecting with nature – the park is a beautifully manicured man-made creation, while my backyard defies my every effort and resembles a woodland glade much more than a yard in downtown Ottawa. But the park… ah, the park is a magical place of transformation. At the park, I am a powerful being! At the park, I am reminded that my body still works – and well. It walks, bends and twists and sometimes even allows me to play rough-and-tumble with Pixie. I have confidence that it will carry me where I want to go. At the park, anything is possible!
This is not something I take for granted. Thirty-two months ago, it took me a week to plan our first visit to the park. To ‘normals’, this might seem quite a bit over the top, but anyone with CFS/FM knows that ‘spontaneous’ doesn’t happen all that often. So, I tried to plan ahead for any and every eventuality. First on the list: purchase a cell phone, just in case I needed to call for help. A fanny pack was next. Using the strap as an anchor, I could attach Pixie’s leash directly to me, which gave me confidence that, if I passed out or went into A-Fib, Pixie would remain safely by my side. Besides poop bags, the fanny pack was stocked with Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a tiny bottle of Litsea essential oil (again, in case of A-Fib), and a Migra-stick (in case of a sudden migraine attack), along with my license, health card, and emergency contact information. All geared up – and all out of excuses – I eventually got past my fear and “what ifs”, grabbed a couple of bottles of water, loaded Pixie into his car seat, and off to the park we went.
Commissioner’s Park, at Dow’s Lake in downtown Ottawa, is the site of the annual National Tulip Festival and it is divided into four sections. That first day, Pixie and I walked about 1/4 of the way around one of the sections – 1/16 of the park. I could have focused on how limited our outing was and felt disappointed, but instead I chose to celebrate my accomplishment. After almost a decade spending the greater part of my life on my couch, being able to walk around 1/16 of the park was HUGE!
These days, we walk around the entire park at least twice. Due to the heat, today Pixie and I meandered around the pathways throughout the entire park just once. I’m proud of myself for this, too (did I mention the heat intolerance that plagues those with CFS/FM)?
Every single day, I am mindful of the magic of the park. And every single day, I am mindful that this particular journey started with just two thoughts: first, that I will NOT have my life defined for me by a diagnostic label; and, second, that as long as I’m alive, there is potential for positive change.
Where is your magic place? What fills you with determination to live beyond the limits of the label?