314 days ago, Lisa Corbett over at A Little of This, a Little of That started a walking challenge and invited me to join in. The goal was to walk every day from Victoria Day (May 18, the week before Labor Day in the US) to Canada Day (July 1) – at least, I think that was the initial goal. It seemed like a fun idea and something to do during those early days of the pandemic, so I joined in. Once we’d finished that, someone suggested extending the goal until the end of the summer, and then until Halloween, and here we are, 314 days later, still walking every day.
When we started, I set myself a minimum goal of 1.5 km (ok, secretly 1.6 because that is a mile and I am, still, American in so many ways and apparently because I also like rules) and I walked. Mostly I walked around my neighbourhood and the more I walked, the more I started to notice things. By May 24, I was taking pictures on my phone as I walked. By June 3 I started posting them because I thought they were pretty. Soon my walking challenge was a walking & photography challenge.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this during March because, obviously, I’m doing another challenge. Given that I’m doing three challenges at once, and one of them is *entirely* self-imposed, apparently I am a challenge person. This is not something I knew about myself. I am not a race person: I’ve tried a few and mostly find myself on race day annoyed that my walk or run is so crowded and that everyone seems to think that a timer is a reasonable motivator. I’m a selective group-joiner, often preferring groups that allow me to attend or not attend based on my own needs. So, basically a selfish group member. Sigh. I *am* a perpetual class-taker, though I often end up frustrated in the middle and regularly swear never to take another – and then I sign up for another one the next summer.
Doing the Slice of Life Challenge got me started with regular writing four years ago, and every year March makes me dig deep to write through whatever comes at me. I have signed up for this challenge even when it made no logical sense and I have always written & commented every day for a month (and almost every Tuesday the rest of the year). As a result, I am a much more confident writer than I was four years ago. I am more comfortable writing in front of my students; I am more versatile (hey, I’ve written poems!), and I think I am more effective. I can’t say that the walking challenge has made me a better walker – what would a better walker be? – but I can say that it has gotten me out of the house every day this year, something that has *never* happened in my previous 13 winters in Ottawa.
I’m thinking about all of this today because today’s walk was in a cold gray rain. Days like today make me a) not want to walk and b) not want to take pictures. What sort of beauty can I find in late March muck in the middle of the city? After 314 days, you’d think I would know better, but I don’t. Even as I headed out the door, I had the same conversation with myself that I’ve had dozens of times this year, “There aren’t going to be any good pictures today, so you might as well capture what you can. You realize how often you think this? There’s always something. Sure, sure, but today… today’s going to be just like yesterday. Might as well just use something left over from yesterday’s batch…”
But there’s always something if I’m looking for it. Always. Today, I found myself fascinated with droplets, entranced by rain and the minutiae of the leaves pushing through the soil. Sure enough, I took pictures; when I got home and looked at them, I had a realization: I have gotten better at photography. This is improvement I can see. And you know what? I’m proud of my pictures and I’m really proud of my growth. That goes for all of these random challenges and maybe this is why I like a challenge – for me, the consistent practice that comes with a challenge helps me get better.
Here, enjoy a few of today’s pictures. Not bad, eh?