By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident
Sometimes my days seem filled with numbers. It starts with those on my bedside clock. Then the ones on the outdoor thermometer, the stove, and the microwave. The timer, calendar, and kitchen radio.
It continues throughout the day as I confront some of life’s tasks. Account numbers and dollar amounts on monthly bills. PIN numbers. My credit card and CVV numbers. Social insurance and BC Care Card numbers. A 16-digit access code to complete the census. Zoom log-in codes for virtual gatherings. A freight tracking number so I know if my little grandson’s first birthday gift has arrived.
Of course, since the start of the pandemic, the volume of health care statistics in the media has ballooned. Two metres of distance. Twenty seconds of hand washing. Hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol. Variant cases. B.1.526. B.C.’s four-phase vaccination program requiring registration and confirmation numbers. Studies suggesting at least 80 per cent protection after the first shot. More than 1,600 COVID deaths in British Columbia. Over 24,000 in Canada. 160 million cases worldwide and more than 328 million people fully vaccinated by the second week of May.
Of course, all these numbers matter. Some help us make sense of historic events; others allow us to navigate the virtual landscape from the comfort of our own homes. They keep us informed and safe.
But some days, it seems there are far too many of them. So I avoid the news, turn off the computer, and head outdoors.
Yesterday, I went walking near my West Creston home with my five-month-old pup. We wandered together over mossy slopes and dark earth shaded my tall cedars. Like me, my young dog was happy to be outdoors. She trotted about, her black nose sniffing invisible trails, and chewed a few tasty looking sticks. She scratched around at the base of a large tree and looked up at a crow that cawed down at us.
Like many others who enjoy nature, my young pup was living in the moment. Eckhart Tolle’s popular 1997 book, “The Power of Now”, describes what my young dog, like most animals, instinctively knows. It’s important to be aware of our surroundings, to be present in the moment, and when that’s happening, statistics don’t matter.
Eckhart Tolle would likely give my young pup an enthusiastic thumbs up. As she bounced about, she wasn’t thinking about the date of her next vet visit or the number of kilojoules she might be burning. She wasn’t tracking her daily step count, and she certainly didn’t stop to snap a selfie. Nope. She was simply in the moment and enjoying it. We both were.
I like to think time on my bicycle is another example of this in-the-moment experience. Cycling for me is about focusing on body awareness, breath control, the terrain, and passing landscape.
But I must admit, my cycling experience includes a reliance on technology and numbers. Like many other riders, I’ve attached a small cycling computer to my handlebars and enjoy checking its data when I’m done. The handy gadget records a host of information including my speed, trip distance, average speed and riding time. Statistics matter when I’m on my apple-red road bike.
I often cycle alone and all those numbers motivate me to go a little further or a little faster. Like the figures on apps and fitness trackers such as Strava or Fitbit, the how-long, how-far, how-fast numbers help me to set goals and push myself a little harder.
Yes, we benefit from technology. It has allowed us to run our households, access employment and education, and to stay safe, healthy and connected during these challenging times. It’s my own learning curve and impatience that are the problem some days, my ongoing effort to maintain a healthy balance.
A balance between plugging into the information highway and stepping back from it, between the buzz of media and the quiet beauty of nature. And in Creston Valley quiet beauty is not hard to find.