August 8, 2019
Its 12 am. Somewhere near the village of Roseneath - Alderville First Nation reserve. Road 45 north of Cobourg, Ontario.
Mixed Husky named Spike has his chin on my chest carefully opening his eyes yearning for affirmation that after just an hour of our friendship, I really do love him. I breathlessly think of Max wishing it was him. The thought quickly disappears as three kittens intermittently start flying across the back of my head, dive bombing the floor - perfected timing in relation to my not drifting to sleep so easily.
Instead periscope eyes survey the camp trailer environment from a slightly inverted pull out bed. My home on this particular night. Twenty degrees to the right a long glass container housing a 6 foot python - with no apparent movement - a good thing; back to center, 10 degrees to the left I see movement of three turtles; a bit further over one of two Iguana's; now at 30 degrees the second of what would be three snakes seemingly to keep the python company; a quick swivel and a forty five degree angled stare back to where I started and I see what I was looking for, my deepest concern and reason for intermittent insomnia - the glass hut housing a tarantula.
Twenty Fours Earlier. Having walked 24 miles this day I find myself in the dugout of a baseball diamond in the quaint town of Kendall. Four baseball players and their older manager permitted me to sleep there for the night. And so I did my best to do so. Not much to wear on this cooler than normal summer night which played havoc with the internal homeostasis. Wished I'd taken the remaining slices of pizza offered merely a few hours earlier. To kinda trick the brain into thinking the body was warmer than it actually was.
Instead I meditated away the cold as the mosquitoes feasted with ferocious zeal.
5 am stumbling upward, I concluded it was better to keep walking rather than lie any longer in permanent cold. It was a good decision. In the "disequilibrium" however, I make an immediate left turn. A few hours on as the light of day and rising sun begin to warm the atmosphere I see two friendly faces.
"Hi. May I trouble you for a glass of water"?
"Oh thank you". I need to get to Roseneath. I am going the wrong way aren't I"
"I need to get onto concession 9 to road 45".
"Yes you are going the wrong way".
And so, three unnecessary hours on, parched, fatigued I see an older gentleman cultivating his garden. Road 2. Still a considerable way from Roseneath.
So. Took a 45 minute timeout and chatted to the lovely man whose name was Floyd. A bereaved husband of ten years. I could feel the loneliness oozing from every fiber of his beingness. After all. I was an expert on the subject matter. Finally learning to be comfortable in my own company.
Ninety minutes later a truck speeds by as I continue the second long walk - Toronto to Ottawa - in four months. I was still a long way off Roseneath. When the truck turns up ahead with flashing lights I thought I was in trouble for some reason. As the mangled vehicle chugged closer I suddenly see the kind face of Floyd.
Lifting the rear door to his modest truck, Floyd asked,
"Would a bike help you on your journey. You'll never get to Roseneath tonight without it"
After a long pause looking into the eyes of my new friend for life - I smiled, "it actually would, Floyd. How unbelievably kind to think of a stranger in the way you have here.
"Well. It would actually make me proud to know that in some way I am helping you.
Handing over the bike, Floyd put his hand on my arm.
"There is one condition".
"Oh okay. Sure Floyd. What is that"?
"You take this $20 as well. And you promise to me. You will eat a little something along the way. Otherwise you'll never get to Ottawa"
A landmine of internal emotion hit me to the point I had to turn away pretending there was something in my eye.
True to my word an hour later I bought an order of French Fries from the Chip Wagon - my first sustenance in 40 hours. Riding the bike was a colossal relief to the system. I kept thinking, how on earth had I walked this distance just a few months earlier.
As dark descended I arrive at the Barn Store on Road 45. I bought an ice cream bar asking how far to Roseneath. Two miles down the road didn't matter because I'd never find Barry and Debbie Best's home now. Conceding I would have to sleep outside I look across Road 45 and see two silhouettes - a tall guy and shorter lady. Travis and LIz. My landlords for the night. The kindness and the centered down to earth approach to offer a place to put my head down knowing they were both the modern versions of "Mr and Mrs Dr Doolittle" was a lesson.
After all. When the sun rose I hear the unmistakable snorting of pigs and the clucking of chickens. As I say goodbye to their rabbits I tell Liz (Inuit lady on methadone) and Travis they could keep the 10 dollars they found which had dropped from my pocket. My appreciation for their kindness. Plus I figured I could spread Floyd's good will further. Both were subsidized by the government.
"What will you do Paul when you get to Parliament Hill. How are you going to demonstrate? asked Travis.
"Well I guess I will handcuff myself to the Gates".
Riding back to Road 45 I now had a pair of handcuffs in bag courtesy of Liz and Travis - certainly a unique kind couple.
Ten Days Later
As I lay on my Yoga mat, my bed for the night at the Chapel within The Ottawa Mission - a center for homeless men - I hear the grunts, night terrors, snores and medieval sounding noises of twenty men crammed in such a small space. As I looked up at the ceiling I could feel my eyes watering as I tried to comprehend how is it that Canada can have one homeless person nor alone 35,000. Cattle. And treated as such. I think of my conversation with Peyvand about people in Iran who set themselves on fire and stitch their mouths shut such is the oppression they have faced. The most extreme of all protests.
As I close my eyes. For the third time over my life I would have been okay if I didn't wake up. Fodder for Dr Jordan Peterson.