By now, Gail and I would have departed on our flight from Winnipeg to Paris, via Montreal. Tomorrow we would have walked the streets of Paris. The following day would have taken us by train to Laon. And, after a day there, a short train ride would have taken us to nearby Tergnier.
Just six months ago, on September 26 2019, we had walked to that small city. It was the endpoint of our trek from London to Canterbury (following the Chaucer Way) and from Canterbury to Tergnier on the first leg of our Via Francigena pilgrimage to Rome. Our plans for this spring were to complete another stage of the journey, this time from Tergnier to Besançon—23 walking days and some 550 kilometres later.
As we all now know, an invisible threat has, with devastating fury, reshaped all of our day-to-day lives and, in one tiny corner of the globe—Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada—forced Gail and me to cancel our springtime walk across France.
Today, we will not board that flight. Instead, we will cocoon in our comfortable Wolseley home, barbecue a couple of steaks and open a good bottle of French wine.
And we will contemplate our return to France and the resumption of our two-footed mission to Rome. Soon. This Fall. Maybe. Hopefully.
Ordinarily, I would recommend a walk down the frozen surface of Omand’s Creek, the perfect antidote for these COVID-19 days of uncertainty and social-distancing. At its mid-winter best, this is a walk with some risk—crawling on ice through a steel conduit, for example—but spring is closing in, temperatures are rising and water can already be seen flowing over deteriorating ice. A walk is all but impossible till next winter.
In its place, I offer a self-isolating, fireside-and-scotch alternative: my just-published On Omand’s Creek, the eighth in the Ways To Walk series of small softcover books.
Winnipeg is blessed with frigid winters. Its rivers and creeks freeze over every year, without fail, becoming seasonal sidewalks, opportunities to revisit the city from unique perspectives. Of all those frozen waterways, Omand’s Creek is arguably the most tortured, most compromised. Yet there is an aching beauty to be seen from its white banks. On Omand’s Creek is the story in words and pictures of my trek up this iced-over creek, from its mouth at the Assiniboine River and stretching north to Brookside Cemetery.
I’m proud to announce the publication of Navigating Hope. This is the seventh in my Ways To Walk series of small softcover books documenting—through photography, prose and map graphics— a number of my short, mostly Winnipeg walks in search of nothing in particular other than some vague understanding of where I am at any particular moment.
Navigating Hope and the other Ways To Walk books can be previewed and purchased at my Blurb Bookstore.