Acrobat Cat & the Flagstones

26 June 2014 — There is no reference to flagstones in the caption for this drawing — one of the many iconic cat images created by English cartoonist Ronald Searle back in the 1960s.

Searle "Acrobatic cat"

Instead, the caption reads: “Acrobatic cat discovering quite unexpectedly that it is too old for the game.”

The cartoon is a wry illustration of one of those defining moments in life, a moment when an unavoidable fact — which until then you have managed to avoid — up & smacks you between the eyes.

Or in the small of the back.

Which is where it smacked me, a little while ago, when I lifted a rather heavy flagstone during a gardening spree in my back yard. “Walking woman discovering  quite unexpectedly that she is too old for the game …”

The back became worse not better over the next while, and I’ll spare you the details because what could be more boring? When I grew sufficiently tired of creeping around like an aged snail, I went to see my physio & massage therapists. Both helped me hugely & were kind enough not to scold, limiting themselves to the gentle comment that walking is not enough.

Time to get back to the Y.

I found my workouts really exciting when I was preparing for the Iceland trek — I’m on a mission! But, post-Iceland, they lost their allure. The flagstone incident taught me there are things in life with even less allure. Creeping around like an aged snail, for example.

So… as of last week, I’m back at the Y.

And, honestly, what am I moaning about? Quite apart from the eventual physical payoff, there are many immediate rewards. Some take place at the Y; others, enroute.

To get there I cut through Allen Gardens. First I admire yet again All My Relations, the Anishnabe mural art covering some construction hoardings in the park …

Women's Memorial Wall, "All My Relations,: Allen Gardens

… and then I enjoy the way the 1910 cast iron & glass conservatory plays peek-a-boo with the trees …

Allen Gardens glass conservatory

… and then I stand behind Green Dog, guardian spirit of the park’s off-leash compound, to watch the woofs at play. (Green Dog is more than a pretty face. His ear, as you can see, doubles as a leash hook.)

Allen Gardens off-leash dog park

Soon I’m up at Church & Alexander, where I get to dance across the pedestrian walkway, all spiffed up for WorldPride 2014.

Church & Alexander painted for WorldPride

So I’m already amused & up-energy when I hit Central Y‘s main doors on Grosvenor St., just west of Yonge.

Central YMCA, Grosvenor St.

I check in, climb the stairs 3 levels …

main staircase, Central T

… and look to see if I’m in luck. I am! There is an empty squash court, my preferred spot for tai chi.

squash court logo, Central Y

After tai chi, I climb the remaining flights of stairs, right up to the Green Roof. Central Y is surrounded by high-rise condos & office buildings …

towers surrounding Central Y

… but the Green Roof itself is an oasis.

Central Y Green Roof

The running oval (a glimpse on the right) is the only carry-over from the original all-concrete roof. We’ve added an open-air studio (its lattice “walls” are on the left) and lots & lots of plants & shrubs. I tuck into a shady corner with a mat, and do my program. (Just rehab phase, at the moment.)  From mat level, I can see flowers & grasses & tumbling ground cover, and I can hear — louder than the backgound big-city hum — the splash of water jets on stones.

detail of water feature & solar panels, Central Y Green Roof

Early & late, there are some classes up here, but at this time of day, there are only a few of us. Walking, stretching, running, sun-bathing, reading.

I don’t know what Acrobatic Cat did after his big discovery, but for me… there is definitely life after flagstones.






Leave a comment


  1. “Creeping around like an aged snail” – I am so familiar with that particular posture. Thanks for the nudge.

  2. So far I’m fooling myself that doing work around the barn will build my core strength enough but time to down the shovel and wheelbarrow and look for a gym too! Do you do tai
    Chi on your own in the squash court?

    • I bet you could turn a lot of that work around the barn into very effective core-strength exercise by using certain stances & motions — it might be interesting to get a sympathetic personal trainer to help you devise the moves! Yes, I do tai chi on my own even though they have lots o classes because it’s convenient to weave it into my own morning routine, but I’ve taught tai chi myself in the past & keep checking back with my video & illustrated book to help make sure I don’t get off-track.

  3. Well gardening is full of traps! Today a friend had a wall slab fall on her leg – lots of blood and a visit to A & E.
    I keep have defining moments and I remember someone saying that you can do things in your mind – one moment I bought a new bike – reluctant to give it up but roads here are quite narrow and I didn’t enjoy riding. At least you have your sense of humour – hope you enjoy your tai Chi especially on the roof!
    Thank you for sharing your woes and your humour.

    • I’m much better now, and don’t heave flagstones around any more! Will be back at the physio today, think I should resume my old habit of monthly visits, just for a tune-up… I do bike here, but in helmet & with care. Toronto has more bike lanes now (NOT leading the world in this) & biking becomes safer as well as being so practical


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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