Kili Karuna #16

Happy 111th Day of the Year,

Life seems to vacillate between mountaintops and valleys. Though frequently I think, we wish it would stick only to the peaks. My week had both summits and canyons, often in close proximity to each other. The highlight of the week, of course, was my book launch. About a hundred people came out to help celebrate and I loved being surrounded by both “near and dears” and folks I’d never met before and everyone in between. I was really touched that the entire Kilimanjaro team made it out with some even doing a few Signal Hills ascents before the festivities, some running afterwards, and one arriving on her bike.

My friend (and sponsor) Deb Bourden gave a moving introduction about how she and I both supported each other through high places and low moments. I told a few stories about dropping out of an English class in university because of a little disagreement with the professor and trying to deliver an oration at convocation with my hand flopping to and fro like a dying fish. To celebrate the presence of Vanilla Dip Tim Bits at the launch (a wonderful surprise from the folks at Creative Publishing), I read the story of Velma the Vanilla Dip. I shared the story of Alice the Duck (you may remember hearing part of that story when I got to be the honourary duck master in Arkansas last fall). I closed by reading a passage about the approach to Namche Bizarre, and how I passed the TV and the TV passed me.

I then signed books until my hand was ready to fall off and I so enjoyed chatting with many of the folks who came. I continue to be amazed at how many people followed the climb and are now coming out to events to meet me. After the launch I headed over to hockey and then began feeling like I’d had a big day. I recognized that I was already sliding down from the summit and careening towards the valley below. Fortunately, I’ve come to know that after every peak, there is a time in the valley. I was tired and didn’t fully unload my car.

The next morning when I went out to the car to head to the gym, I saw scattered glass. My heart sank and as I rounded the side of the car, I could see that my window had been smashed. First glance reassured me that my prized hockey stick was still there (it has an aluminum shaft and they don’t make them anymore). Second glances confirmed the presence of a few other items except the change purse I keep my meter money in. Third glance caught the web of shattered glass throughout the car and street. “Guess I’m not going to the gym, ” I moaned. I got out the vacuum and starting to clean up, then drove to the police station to report the loss, and tried to get the glass replaced. I missed training, yoga, and half of hypoxia, but didn’t know at that point, the loss was much greater than that.

I hadn’t realized it then, but my daypack, with over a $1500 of gear and clothing, had been in the car. In my tired state, I elected to leave it in the car after the launch to use the next day in training. When I went to meet the Wokies on Saturday morning in the icy pouring rain, I went looking for my shell and in that moment, I was hit with a huge sinking feeling. I searched the house over and over again. Then in a flash, I saw my pack lying on its side, just below the car window. It was gone. I wanted to sit and cry but I didn’t have time.

I would have to replace all of that in the short weeks before Kilimanjaro. I was pretty sure it wasn’t covered by insurance. The valley got deeper. I found some old options, put them on, and headed up to the top of Signal Hill to meet the team. They commiserated and I tried to find some humour in the situation. Seven Signal hills later, we were drenched to the bone, doing fine imitations of drowned rodents, and thrilled with ourselves for being so hearty to be out in such a scoff of weather.

My hands were so cold I had to test the shower water with my shoulder blade. When I put my frozen paws in the water it was as if icy hot daggers were driven under my fingernails. I hoped I could shower and still keep them out of the warm water until they thawed a bit. I didn’t have much time because I was due at Zeller’s for a book signing within 30 minutes. A hasty bowl of soup added internal heat and I was back into the rain.

I arrived at the giant box of a store and the aisles seemed fairly empty for a Saturday afternoon. “Oh no, this will be a slow afternoon,” I lamented. I couldn’t spot Janine anywhere and the book-signing corner appeared to be full of another author and his books. “Double oh no,” I exclaimed. “Do I have the right store?” I panicked. I went over to the service desk and asked and they said, “You’re here, not just right now.” “Phew, at least I’m not late,” and my adrenaline that had arisen at the prospect of needing to cross town at light speed began to dissolve away. The woman pulled out a poster and then said, “No, actually you’re here and it’s right now.”

The other author and his model birch canoe moved on and I took up my seat at the table. A woman and her son waited patiently. He’d been in hospital during my climb and had followed it closely with one of the recreation therapists at the Janeway. He had a few questions for me and I signed his book. After him, a man approached the table and presented me with an original offering of Canadian postage stamps. The special issue had a stamp for each of the seven summits and Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. He’d ventured out in the nasty weather to get them to me. He had contacted me soon after the climb to see if I wanted them but we never connected. Again, I was so touched by his efforts to get them to me. I plan to have them framed.

I brought my laptop to place on the table to show pictures to get people to stop in for a chat. Some did. Some didn’t. A few more folks who’d come along on the adventure stopped in for a signed book and I posed with the Downhome’s mascot, Salty Dog. In the end, I signed only five books that afternoon but I have fine and fond memories of each one of the connections each one represented. Quality is so often better than quantity.

This morning I forwent my run to be a guest on CBC’s Weekend Arts Magazine. Angela Antle, the host asked some new questions, and I appreciated that the interview was more like a conversation than interview. The show has an archive but I’m not sure if my interview will be on it. Just in case, here’s the URL:

Getting home from sitting, there was a call from the police. It seems as those they may have found my backpack. I’ll know for sure on Wednesday when I’m back from Maine when I can go identify it. I sure hope so-it would make life much easier. I’m off for that run now-it’s a beautiful day to be out and I look forward to the rhythmic swaying of my mind. Have a good week,


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