Walking with a Purpose

Last summer in Ireland, I noticed that whenever I saw a woman going for a walk along the very narrow country roads of the beautiful west coast, they walked with purpose. Their arms swung. Their gait was strong. It was just an observance on my part, but something to remember. When we heard about the woman’s march shortly after the November election, we immediately made plans to attend the Washington DC march, and I imagined myself walking strongly just like those happy Irish women. At that early point this past November, we did not hear of other local marches–wow, what an outstanding piece of history that so many marches ended up happening in cities around the world–in all continents, including Antarctica.

Though this is a running blog, you will find my political thoughts often, along with story ideas and other facets of everyday life. To me, running/hiking/walking is a wholesome experience, which incorporates all other parts of life to some degree, even if it means letting go of all of it to suspend oneself on the trail and away from society. For the record, I did get one run in this past Sunday, at the Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. It was a run to reflect on the incredible experience of the march itself.

As I try to recall this experience, the memories enter with spirit and energy. From the time we boarded a plane in Seattle (our one layover to Baltimore, from Vancouver), we realized nearly everyone on the plane was headed to the march in DC. The conversations were lively and kind. If there was anything to take away from this trip, it was that these women and men dearly value life and were very friendly and excited about sending a strong message to the president (who, really, we do not identify with as our president). And, trust me, this exuberance carries over into a movement that will continue to stand up for civil liberties, equality, and scientific integrity for all. We will not be silenced and muzzled, nor will we give up. Nor will we succumb to alternative facts submitted by the current government as part of some propaganda-building regime. It’s very freeing to keep one’s mind clear and strong despite a wannabe despot. And yes, I’d have to say most of us voted, despite his alternative facts, and that most of us, if not all are “legal”–in every sense of the word we are all human. Updated note: Check out plans for a March for Science. Yes!

From the time we stood in an hour and a half line at the Greenbelt Metro station to being crammed like sardines on the train itself–it was so backed up from the crowds backing up to the train platforms in DC, that it took a very long time to get to the city (and we got off early at the Archives station and walked)–to the time we stepped into the city for our first time ever and saw endless miles of pink-hatted women and colorful grandmothers and snug babies and supportive and unfettered men and lively children and people of all color and genders and nationalities and faiths–we knew this was the birth of something realer than anything the inauguration represented the day before, something stronger (definitely in numbers, and in determination).

On one hand, what we could see with our own eyes was that we could not see the forest for the trees. Oh, we could see that every major road was full of marchers, but what we could see with the naked eye was not the entire view; we only saw later from photos on the news how the march filled the city proper, filling its streets. How the route had gotten changed due to so many more people showing that imagined. Final numbers were estimated at between 500,000 and a million, far more than attendees at the inauguration the day before, and many more than estimated. I’m sorry, but aerial photos and Metro tickets don’t lie. And this number spread into the millions if you count in all marchers in various cities around the world. And add to that the many who desperately wanted to go but simply could not. I know two of them in my own family–and during the day, I got texts about whether I was safe.

Was I safe? I felt safer in this womb of marchers than I did a night later at our hotel, when some partiers next door stayed up all night and were yelling obscenities throughout the night and into the morning. At the march itself, I saw no police in riot gear–only friendly cops with smiles. Of course, the rally itself was not pitched as a protest but a peaceful rally and march, and the organizers called for no violence. And it was peaceful. Even conservative Facebook friends were impressed by it, questioning why maybe they would vote for some man for actual president who had been so demeaning toward the disabled, women in general, etc.

I wore my pink kindness shirt, and instead of a pink knit hat, wore my red toque with maples to represent my country, Canada. I am still a US citizen, however. The day was cold and sunless, but warm and bright with laughter. Teenagers climbed in trees to view in the distance. Signs of all kinds sparked the day like bright pinwheels–with statements of love, kindness, climate change, reproductive rights, women’s rights, human rights, and so on. We spent most of our time near the United States Capital and on the arteries from the metro, and then extending onto Independence and Pennsylvania Avenues.

A day later, we went back to the city to view some sites such as the National Air and Space Museum, Washington Monument, White House, Lincoln Memorial, and so on. What drew the most attention, however, were the many signs leftover. No, there was no mission to ignore the environmental impact by leaving behind signs: A) the city was not prepared for so many people, and trash was overflowing in bins by 11:00 am, probably earlier, and B) the signs were left on fences around the Trump Hotel and White House to send a message. I didn’t even notice the White House at first because I was reading all the leftover signs. Signs were the major tourist attraction, it seemed, and, despite the terrible incident of such a wrongly elected person to be president, I am always interested in the history of democracy and politics in this country. It has always been a tug-of-war between right and wrong, fair and unjust, and so on. It’s the way of life. We just got a very bad year, a terrible president, and probably now are on a descent into some kind of madness that may or may not end us–but, for me, I need to work and speak up for fairness, equality, and science for the rest of my days.

Oh, and I had a great time reading Emily St. John’s Station Eleven during downtimes these past few days. I also made some progress on my newest novel, however, given Trump’s lousy idea to dismantle/reorganize the EPA and environmental regulations, and push oil sands, I have decided to first finish my novel about an oil spill down South. I am further on that particular book than any other, and though both of my novels-in-progress are relevant, I am going to get that one out first and will talk about it later. But for now I am continuing with my life’s work in promoting stories that care about our planet. It’s interesting to me how life events can help shape one’s writing choices.

My mother-in-law had come to babysit our cats and ended up going to the Vancouver march, so I have included her photos as well below.

Thanks to all the sisters and brothers out there, from those who I never saw to those I not only viewed but those I talked with, including that nice woman at the BBQ restaurant in historic Laurel on Friday night, who talked at length about the march and texted me a helpful app!

Yes, we walk with a purpose, and that purpose does not end, nor does it make us weary. Like running, it energized me to no end. So I come back to Canada with a lot of inspired thoughts and goals. Photos below:



  1. Thank you for this wonderful article and so many inspiring photos of the Washington and Vancouver marches, Mary! The shot of the Annapolis run was so leafy and calm too, a lovely contrast to the energy and camaraderie of thousands of people congregating and marching together. With a Purpose, a higher purpose, for the planet’s health and women’s rights and the future of us all. Thanks for reporting and walking and running too!

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