My annual practice of choosing a keyword to shine a light on the year ahead was delayed this time and I think I know why. It could be that 2017 – when the word was "climbing" – was the most remarkable and surprising year in recent memory.
If everything last year had gone as planned it would have been an eventful but typical year, with a major birthday, a book publication, an epic trail race in Iceland, and a hiking trip through Northern Scotland. It was the unplanned that gave the year its tang and reminded me that we are never in control of the future – at least not as much as we think we are. I sustained an injury that affected my Iceland race and nearly ended my running season. And we suddenly bought a house in the country and moved away from Toronto, a place I had called home for over 60 years.
So the idea of choosing a single word to represent what I hope my year will hold seemed a bit trite.
My life on an island in the Trent River is more different than I could ever have imagined it would be. Lifelong paradigms and templates are no longer valid. We get our water from a well. We swim in the river. My front yard is twice as wide and ten times longer than the one I left back in the city. Internet download speed is not always reliable and Netflix reception can be infuriating. There are stars in the sky. I often wonder why it took me so long to get here.
And I can run for hours on back country roads and see a maximum of half a dozen people the whole time. Although I had a decent path near my Toronto home, I now enjoy the freedom from having to dodge bicycles, off-leash dogs, and belligerently trespassing e-bikes. This itself is a reason to get out my door each morning. The routes are many and varied; it is flat on the island but hilly just across the bridge. There are trails, including the Trans-Canada Trail, which runs through our town. And when I get home, I jump in the river to cool off. (I’m talking summer here of course. At the moment the spring runoff owns the river.)
So I will run a lot this year and hopefully be more sure-footed than I was last year. My first event will be Around the Bay, in Hamilton Ontario. This year however I am not doing the full 30k, but rather the two-person relay with my son. I’m doing the first leg and I have been working on increasing my speed so that he is not the last one waiting for his partner to appear. So far I have improved my pace to somewhere near where it was ten years ago.
Following the release of my book last year, I find myself at a bit of a crossroads where my writing is concerned. There are many things I would like to try, and I need to remind myself that no one is telling me I can’t. (I figure I can get get some good work done on my novel while I'm waiting for Grace and Frankie to load on Netflix.) The signs at my crossroads point to many paths, and I am not going to limit myself to just one.
I spend a lot of time on the highway because I still travel back to what my friends call “civilization” once a week. When I do, I drive to the outskirts and take the train and then the subway. This takes longer but saves me the stress of trying to drive in gridlocked traffic – one of the reasons I left the city. Multiple routes also add to the adventure of travelling.
Because of all the above, the word I have alighted on for 2018 is “pathways.” Whatever happens in the coming year, I have a feeling it will involve being on the way to somewhere: a town, a lake, or a finish line. There will be paths I plan to take and paths that appear out of the forest, beckoning me or challenging me.