For all of us these are strange, strange times. All of us are trying to find ways to navigate them, to ease our anxiety and to stay connected. We are becoming familiar with technological means of connecting like Zoom calls and experimenting with ways to make them more personal and less business-like. I think many of us have rediscovered the pleasure of long phone conversations over texts (so convenient but a tad unsatisfying).
Our routines are changing too. Daily walks or bike rides have become the highlight of our schedules. Who knew that there are such great free yoga videos online and that qigong is 10 times easier to learn than tai chi? Who knew you can download hundreds of books for free? Who knew how creative and funny folks could be during a crisis?
Early on in our new reality we began experimenting with ways to feel more in the presence of our friends. Weeks ago, Mary Lage and I mused that we missed the opportunity to walk together, made impossible now by distance. She is on the Sunshine Coast in isolation with her daughter’s family. I am ensconced in a high rise in Kerrisdale. “What if we took a virtual walk,” I asked? After all when you go for a walk you are side by side, not actually looking at each other.
It works like this: each of us walks in our own neighbourhood and we chat by phone as we walk. We have wonderful ranging conversations like we used to have when we saw each other. She also describes the experience she’s seeing: “I’ve made it to the beach now and the water is utterly beautiful today, like glass.” I describe the cherry trees coming into bloom and two lone dandelions that I would never notice in summer but look beautiful when there are no other flowers on a lawn.
To our surprise it feels like we’ve had an actual outing together. I’ve virtual walked with a friend in Toronto, on Vancouver Island and even in Kerrisdale so we can maintain social distance. She walks on the Arbutus Corridor; I walk on the tree-lined back streets.
Unitarians Mary Bennett, Cathy Sevcik and John Smith and I each took a stroll together this week. Right now I have five virtual walking partners every week. One partner was pretty dubious until he tried it. Now he prompts me every week to take a stroll.
Virtual walking has made my life feel less cramped in these crazy times. And it’s deepened my relationships with friends I connect with less often than I’d like.