My alarm usually goes off somewhere around 5:15 am, and I ease myself out of bed and into the kitchen. The kettle goes on, I feed the cat, and I quietly try to empty the dishwasher while the coffee brews. Mug in hand, I walk upstairs to my desk and start to write. There aren’t all that many pages left now, and the pencilled in defence date in my calendar will be ready to be inked soon. The sun comes up as I work, and it is bright in the sky by the time I manage to drag myself away from the computer and back into the kitchen for breakfast. Moving from writing to getting ready for work never gets any easier, and I almost always want just a few more minutes at the computer. It usually results in me scarfing breakfast with one eye on the clock and resigning myself to still having cat hair on me somewhere, lint roller be damned.
I step out my door at 8:30, and for the next thirty minutes, I’m neither here nor there, neither Melissa the researcher nor Melissa the research administrator. I’m Melissa in motion, just me and my backpack and my feet. I ease into my working day. I walk along Harbord Street, inhaling the sweet, yeasty smell of challah and danish from Harbord Bakery, the heady whiff of chlorine from the university pool. I watch students playing soccer on the back field, listen to the Tower Road bells playing carols and hymns and show tunes. I cross the hustle of Queen’s Park Circle into Queen’s Park, and listen to the sudden hush once I step away from the traffic. I watch the fat squirrels and dogs and runners, admire the snow covered statues and black-barked trees. I always look up to marvel at the gold tiles on the roof of the government buildings on Wellesley, the last quiet spot before I step into the middle of the people and cars and noise and energy at College and Bay. I look out for the man reading while he walks past the pink elephant, also known as the McMurtry-Scott Building. One more block, and I’m through the doors and inside my office.
On days when I’ve had the hardest time walking away from my computer, from my writing, you’ll find me talking through my ideas as I walk to work. With my headset in and voice recorder on, you’d think I was leaving someone a long voicemail. And I am–only that someone is myself. I talk myself, walk myself, through the ideas and connections that come to me as I stride through the city. I get to go back to my writing, back to my thinking. I don’t have to snip the threads of my thoughts quite so soon, and I get to set the stage for doing it all again tomorrow. I do some of my best thinking during those thirty minutes, even better than when I’m running, and by the time I’ve gotten to the office, I’ve talked myself out and I’m ready to move on to the very different work that is my day job.
On the way home, I do the same walk in reverse — from busy to quiet, work to home, shedding stress and responsibility as I walk. Some days I stop in at the bakery for a loaf of that fragrant bread and a tub of ruby beets, or pick up a bunch of tulips at the corner. I walk into the house footloose and fancy free, ready to be home, be relaxed, be productive in different ways. I feed the cat, put the kettle back on. Later, I’ll ease back into bed, and I sleep like a stone. Work waits for me, but I’m home and it stays there. My walk that does that, and so much more.