Learning to Slow Down in a Fast Paced 21st Century World

I must say, this has been one of the finest winters I’ve enjoyed in many, many years. There hasn’t been any freezing rain (sometimes called ice storms) which causes widespread power outages, and treacherous conditions travelling. There has been no major thaws, which makes for a messy outdoor environment. And then dangerous conditions when everything refreezes. We have had plenty of snow, and the daytime temperatures have continuously been below freezing.

We have had wonderful snowfalls between Christmas and New Year’s and constant below freezing temperatures since. It has made for a great Canadian winter!

Though I remember my childhood winters were much colder and with far more snow, this winter has been closer to the winter’s I experienced as a child in such a long time. Growing up on a farm, we never really travelled much anywhere. Life was a much slower pace back then. We stayed home, and made the most of the winter. When not doing our farm chores my siblings and I had so much fun going tobogganing, building snowmen, and (particularly for my older brother and myself) shooting hockey pucks around.

With my siblings over 50 years ago on the farm. I’m hiding in the middle.

For the past 30 or so years, my wife and I have lived and raised our family in a small village called Hillsdale. It has more than doubled in size since we moved here, and it currently has a population (as of 2019) of 1,033 people. With some new housing developments approved for this village, the population is expected to mushroom to an estimated 4,485 people over the next few years.

Image Source. My little community used to have a sign that said “Hillsdale Welcomes You”. The “Welcomes You” was removed and replaced with different wording.


All four main roads coming into Hillsdale had the “Welcomes You” replaced with the words, “Please Slow Down”. Since I have lived in Hillsdale, there has been one pedestrian fatality. A few years ago, a former next door neighbour was struck and killed while she was walking along the gravel shoulder off the side of the highway. She was returning from the community park on a stretch where there was no sidewalk.  The driver was driving under the influence of drugs.

As the local population continues to grow, so does the traffic volume. With no cycling infrastructure, and no public transportation available, our village is 100% dependent on the private automobile to get to our places of employment or grocery stores. I’m actually one of the very few people that live and work in the same community. Though there are now a few more people working from home with this pandemic. In addition, there are a few thousand commuters, other travelers and transport trucks a day that drive through Hillsdale on Provincial Highway 93 to get to their physical places of work, homes, shopping, delivery etc. This is where I have my crosswalk duties. Though some driver’s are conscientious as they travel through Hillsdale, speeding is often a factor for a certain percentage of the drivers. Driver’s trying to get to their destination on time will often travel through our little village dangerously fast. This leaves village residents feeling vulnerable and unsafe when they attempt to walk or cycle around the village. As a result our signage was changed from “Hillsdale Welcomes You” to “Hillsdale. Please Slow Down”.

Excess speed has not always been an issue. Retrieved from a January 19, 2019 from the Facebook page “Hillsdale Here and Now” this is what Penetanguishene Road (Highway 93) looked like back around 1920.


Photo taken at my crosswalk during a typical afternoon, Provincial Highway 93 is a very busy road.

Changing over the signs was a nice gesture, but I honestly haven’t seen any difference in people’s driving habits with the new signage wording.  The other day as I was walking by the Hillsdale border sign during our winter lockdown, it struck me that the sign really could actually have two meanings. The new signage was originally meant to remind drivers to literally slow down their vehicles and go the speed limit. Which is extremely important.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mentions that aggressive driving played a role in 56 percent of fatal crashes, with excessive speed being the No. 1 factor. There is a definite connection between aggressive driving, and an aggressive, over committed, full speed lifestyle. But as we have gone into our lockdowns and stay at home orders, the sign could also be encouraging us to slow down our lives. An article by Beezy Marsh, titled “Are You Living Life too Fast?“, quotes a survey that mentioned that “More than half of the respondents in the survey admitted to passing through traffic lights on red, while 58 per cent were that busy, they use their car for even very short journeys rather than walk.” As challenging as this pandemic lockdown has been for many families here in Ontario, looking around my little village it is refreshing to see there are many families trying to make the most of it.

Last March, when the 1st lockdown took place, other than that bizarre toilet paper buying frenzy, it was nice that jigsaw puzzles and board games were in high demand. If you wanted children’s playground equipment or a bicycle, they were also hard to obtain items. A lot of people were wanting themselves and their families to get outside for fresh air and exercise. As a lifelong gardener, last year I actually was unsuccessful in obtaining my garden seeds and bedding plants for my garden. Everybody and their uncle seemed to have gotten the gardening bug during COVID-19. Which actually was nice to see. I did however manage to get enough garden planted for myself, by using seeds I had saved from my garden in 2019. And also using old leftover seeds from previous years. I am glad people are getting back to their roots with gardening. Because in reality, I have observed there is a worrying disconnect in our fast paced modern world where so much of our crops are processed into “unplant” like substances called convenience foods, that people are losing the connection between the foods we eat and the plants that provide them. For the inability to recognize all the benefits that plants provide for us both physically and psychologically there became a term called “Plant Blindness“. It was coined in 1998 by American botanists and biology educators Elisabeth Schussler and James Wandersee. In our fast paced world, humans increasingly are failing to recognize that we need plants for survival.  Becoming so disconnected from the natural plant world will only exacerbate the rate of specie loss and climate change.

A very powerful illustration that accompanies an article titled “Plant Blindness is a Thing“. It is about “How some people can become so immersed in the corporate world they can recognize over 1000 corporate logos but can’t name 10 plants native to their region.” Are you able to name 10 native plants in your region?

During 2020, those who were requiring preserving jars for their fresh garden produce found them next to impossible to obtain. There has been shortages in baking ingredients such as flour and yeast.  With Ontarian’s sheltering in place in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities, there has becoming a home baking fervour in many homes. This is very refreshing to see. People are getting back to basics. During the lockdown, people are making great choices to try and get off this busy, stress filled, grab-and-go bandwagon by cooking more from scratch to eat healthier.

Enjoying some gluten free, vegan pancakes with local Canadian maple syrup and stewed dried fruit using steeped Rooibos tea as liquid.

This winter, as infection rates, hospitalizations, those on ventilators and COVID-19 related deaths have spiked from a second wave, once again Ontario went into another lockdown. This is Canadian winter, but I have been wonderfully surprised how many people are out walking to get some fresh air and exercise. Less traffic on the roads during lockdowns definitely has made it much more pleasant for walking. My wife and I have lived in this village for 30 years. and we used to joke that the winters here are hibernation season. You would never see people out walking on the streets until spring. But that has changed with this pandemic. There are so many people out for a daily walk. In the cold Canadian winter. This is so wonderful to witness.

Visual by Medzorb. The benefits of only 30 minutes of walking a day.

But it has gone beyond that. I have seen more snowmen on front lawns than I have ever seen in my 30 years in Hillsdale. As families shelter in place, they got gotten very creative of making the best of all that a Canadian winter has to offer. Hills on people’s properties have been converted into toboggan runs and luge tracks. There are a lot of homes that have converted a backyard or front yard into an outdoor skating/hockey rink. This brings back so many memories of skating ponds where I learned to skate and play hockey in my childhood days, and brings me such joy. Families are not just surviving the Stay at Home lockdown. They are thriving. They are making memories that will last a lifetime.

Lots of snowmen (and “snow families”) constructed this winter in our little village.


One of several family luge tracks in my village. Photo credit Janissa Wood.


Another family luge track. Photo credit Dave Dobson.


Don’t have any hills for tobogganing? No problem, you simply make one!


Here is a unique tool. For making the perfect snowball for snowball fights!


A front yard skating rink. Picture taken in February, most people this year have not taken down their Christmas decorations. A very different mindset this winter, which is beautiful to see.


A family from my church playing hockey in their back yard. Photo credit Alyssa Hicks.


Same rink, looking down from the upper deck! Photo credit Alyssa Hicks.


We’ve had an amazing winter for outdoor hockey rinks. The same rink, after being freshly flooded. Photo credit Alyssa Hicks.

In order to mentally cope with once again losing both jobs during lockdown,  I have been walking and running a lot of miles this year. It has been really wonderful meeting people on my walks and runs and having a socially distanced chat with many during my outings. Sometimes I am asked how far a distance I cover in a day. I do try to downplay my answer, but often mention I am involved in a yearlong challenge called “A Great Canadian Running Challenge”. This virtual is such a great incentive to get people moving and to change lives.

Facebook photo of A Great Canadian Running Challenge founder Jeannette Boudreau.

The amazing thing is that this virtual challenge, founded by runner and French immersion teacher Jeannette Boudreau, is that it was launched long before COVID-19 when virtual runs became an actual thing. A Great Canadian Running Challenge got its beginning in 2018 with 98 participants from coast to coast. This year, in 2021, there are over 3,100 participants coast-to-coast actively tracking their distances. There is no cost to enter the challenge, though if you would like a medal upon completion of 1,000 kilometers in 2021, there is a nominal fee. Supporting the Terry Fox Foundation through this challenge is greatly appreciated. Jeannette has a long-term goal is to raise $1 million for The Terry Fox Foundation over 10 years. Quoted directly from the “About Page”,  Jeanette’s goal for A Great Canadian Running Challenge “Is to build a safe, positive environment for people to come together for the good of their health and life journey. I love to inspire and motivate people! I genuinely believe that when we connect with people striving for the same goals, miracles happen. We become a community by building relationships and making connections. Bringing people together from our beautiful country makes our group strong and motivated!”

My personal target was to hit 1,000 kilometers in 2021 before the end of the 2nd lockdown. Perfect timing, as I reached my target on February 7th, and the next day schools reopened. Yeahhh, I am back on school crossing guard duty.


When I set my target to reach 1000 kilometers before the lockdown ended, I never anticipated I’d end up being in this high a position in the standings. As of February 19th (and 50 days into the challenge) am still sitting in 2nd overall. Since I returned to crosswalk duty on February 8th, my daily mileages have fallen. I know eventually my position will fall as well, which I am totally okay with! The one thing that I am the most proud of, is that every step of the 1235+ kilometers so far in 2021 has been from my front doorstep. Never once have I gotten in my car to drive to a starting place of a walk or run! 😀

I do feel Jeannette’s goal is definitely being fulfilled. There is so much positivity on the group’s Facebook page, with participants constantly encouraging one another. There is so much inspiration. Participants are achieving far more than I could ever hope and dream to. Front line workers coming home exhausted from working 12 hour shifts, and unwinding with a run. There are many parents who have been asked to work from home, while at the same the kids suddenly are doing virtual school at home. Somewhere in there they squeeze in a few miles for a run or walk. Some of the distance with the kids. There are participants recovering from knee replacement, hip replacement or back surgery. Yet still out running or walking daily distances. Or those fighting chronic physical conditions such as fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis, they are getting out the door to daily pound out the kilometers. These are the true inspirations that I have so much awe and respect for.

Meme taken off my Twitter feed.

I have appreciated the virtual running and the online friendships that come from them. It has been great for me during these times of lockdowns. But I really do miss meeting up and running with others. In all of 2020, I got one run in with another person. Last fall when restrictions loosened a bit, a Twitter follower named William Steele contacted me. I had never met him in person before. He lives several hours away in Caledonia, but was in my area. We had a wonderful long run together in Copeland Forest.

Each year it is always such a privilege to meet up with a few of my Twitter and blog followers for the very 1st time. Last year I got the privilege to meet up and go running with Twitter follower William Steele. He is a very strong runner, and the only person I ran with in all 2020.

With talk of a third wave of COVID-19, I am not sure if I will be running any “real” races in 2021. The one thing that is very likely to happen is the Monarch Ultra. Unlike real races which have large gatherings of people, the Monarch Ultra is a relay, with only 2 runners per stage. Because of COVID-19 (and border closings), the relay will not be travelling to Mexico this year. In 2021 the relay is 21 days, and will be held in Ontario, Canada. It starts on September 19th at Peterborough and ends 1,800 kilometers later on October 9th, in Barrie. Distances are either 30 or 50 kilometers. There are only 84 spots available in the 21-day relay run. Registration for the Monarch Ultra Relay Run opens on Monday, March 1st, 2021 on Race Roster. To get on the waiting list, please send an email to themonarchultra@gmail.com. I am so excited to be penciled in as a runner the final day of October 9th. It is right on my home turf.

Image Source. The 2021 map for this year’s 1,800 kilometer Monarch Ultra.


Image Source: Monarch Ultra Facebook

Once again, I am extremely excited and honoured to be an ambassador for this amazing environmental relay. Relative to the environment, last fall a new clock was unveiled on the Metronome, in Union Square in New York City. It is called the Climate Clock, which displays the time we have left before we burn all the carbon that will push the planet over the key 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Results are based from data obtained from obtained from the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). You can check the clock online, and currently the clock shows that the 1.5°C threshold will be breached in 6 years, 319 days and 20 hours. The Washington Post describes the clock as “How long does the world have left to act before an irreversible climate emergency alters human existence as we know it?”

Image Source. The climate clock shortly after it was unveiled in the fall of 2020 in New York City.

If there is anything good that has come out of this pandemic, is that we have discovered that we have it within ourselves to manage with a simpler lifestyle. For the benefit of our planet and future generations we have to slow down our fast paced lifestyles. We have to live simpler lives. The great news about the Climate Change clock is that it is not at zero. We still have a window of time to take action and make necessary changes. The clock is not static, it is not like a statue in a park. It is constantly changing. Though we have lost valuable time since the clock was unveiled, as we all do our part and emissions drop, more time can actually be added to the Climate Clock.

A beautiful Monarch butterfly on some red clover last summer.

A major part of the Monarch Ultra is our advocacy. Our project provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the Monarch butterfly and pollinators and their significance to biodiversity and food security. It is engaging with our communities to do their part to fight climate change and build a more sustainable world that is integral to the survival of the human species. This is a dynamic message, and one that we hope people will respond to. So it becomes a catalyst for action. This year we are raising funds for Camp Kawartha, a leader in outdoor & environmental education and stewardship.  As an accredited, not-for-profit organization offering a broad range of innovative year-round outdoor and environmental programming, Camp Kawartha trains educators and provides workshops on sustainability. They work with the whole community to foster earth stewardship through every age. Any contribution towards this amazing organization would be deeply appreciated. Here is my fundraising link.

Image Source. Honoured to give a presentation to the Springwater Township council on December 18, 2019 (pre-COVID) following the 2019 Monarch Ultra from Canada to Mexico. Excited to be running again in 2021. This time, through my home township on Oct. 9th. The final day of the Monarch Ultra.


Image Source. The ABC’s of going green. A lot of ways we can make small differences. And these all ad up.

Want to grow a garden or pollinator garden in 2021? Here is a list of on-line seed catalogues in Canada. While you are at it, here is a resource (taken off the Monarch Ultra website) on using  nature-friendly products and avoiding pesticides. Want to learn some creative ways to engage your kids with ecofriendly activities at home? Here is a great resource. You can add your voice to many environmental petitions that serve as a tool to hold governments and corporations accountable. Here is one I am involved with a lot. As we have been sheltering in place in our family bubbles during this pandemic, we have reduced our travelling, which is a major portion of our carbon footprint. Before I became privileged to become Hillsdale’s school crossing guard, part of my duties at my previous job at Busch Systems was Creative Writer. This article I wrote, called “The Carbon Footprint of Travelling” provides a lot of food for thought. Lastly, the website Footprint Calculator is a great resource to determine what our individual ecological footprint is.

This pandemic has been very challenging for everyone. It has forced us to alter our lifestyles from what we have become accustomed to. But when we all slow down, adjust our lifestyles, we actually are taking less away from the environment.  We make a positive difference. Another lockdown? Another stay-at-home order with our family bubble only? That’s okay. Let’s make 2021 our best year yet. When we all slow down, live simpler, reduce our stress, eat healthier from scratch and walk and exercise more, we become a healthier society living on a more sustainable planet. That is a winning situation. We got this! 🦋🌎

Every day we are bombarded in the news about the negative impact this pandemic has been on our society. Both financially and with our mental health. I have personally been hammered in both those areas, but on the flip side there has been wonderful positives. Has there been any positive things for you that has come out of the pandemic? Has there been any changes of priority in the way we spend our time and money, or the way we treat our health or the environment that you want to continue once things do “return to normal”. Thank for reading. 😀🙏



Categories: EnvironmentTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Wow, Carl, congratulations on your current second place in the “A Great Canadian Running Challenge”!
    Yes, it will probably drop due to your guard duties, but it is still an amazing achievement, especially considering the harsh winter conditions. Well done.

    So nice that the Monarch Ultra will be happening in Ontario! Right on your doorstep. This will be so convenient for you. Who will be your relay partner? And how will you be doing it with your accommodation?

    I think deep down, most people know that their fast-paced, detached lives are unhealthy. But they didn’t know how to step out of it. This pandemic helped many to opt for a slower and simpler lifestyle and to get in touch with nature again. That term “plant blindness” is so apt. That illustration hits the nail on the head. There must be so people who walk into a McDonald’s or Walmart and don’t even know where their food comes from. Thank you for highlighting that, Carl!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Catrina for taking the time to read, and for such a generous comment. You are always such an amazing support here.

      I am really excited about the Monarch Ultra being right on my doorstep. I am sure I will know better once it gets closer how it all will go on with accommodation. I will be teaming up with an ultrarunner lady named Michelle. She lives only about 35 kilometers away from my home, but I have yet to meet her. She reached out to me in a message and introduced herself. As we were talking on-line, we very likely have been in some of the same races, but have never crossed paths. Though I imagine she would have been way ahead of me…lol. Michelle has completed some pretty big races. I am really looking forward to meeting her this spring/summer for some training runs together.

      This article on “slowing down” has been swimming in my head every since the 1st lockdowns last March. It took this 2nd lockdown and seeing all the winter at home outdoor activities to help me put it together. Our food supply, which ties in with plant blindness is such a major concern for me. In Canada and the USA so much of our food is sourced from powerful corporations where it is profit at all cost. Every time we buy that convenience food, we are buying GMO grown and profiteering the company. It is scary what is in our food. I have such envy, Catrina, of Switzerland in the strong stance of not allowing GMO food to be grown there, and the strict labelling standards of anything that comes into your country. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Carl and so uplifting. I have seen so many friends and relatives slow down and spend so much more “family” time together!! Each aspect of your post is so spot on….thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a terrific read for us all in the house Carl, its very interesting that our community has the same issues as many other little communities. I hope when the light shines through tunnel, we can run together, maybe a race! That Ultra sounds appealing 🧐

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and sharing/discussing this with your family, Michael. Our communities really do share a lot of these issues.

      You would love the Monarch Ultra. It is much more than just another run. It is a run with a major purpose! 😀🏃‍♂️🦋


  4. I agree Carl that the past year has slowed us all down in many ways . Although there has been much loss, it has given anyone a chance to reassess priorities. Congratulations on your virtual running! Amazing and inspiring as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Sue, for taking the time to read and for your thoughtful and generous comment. There really has been some good things that has come out of this pandemic. Hoping these changed priorities will be a springboard for a more sustainable future! 😀🌎

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Carl. I also slowed down a bit last year (and continue to do so) and am amazed at frantically I was once living. I am all for a slower pace and have learned to delete those things that drained my energy and were not adding anything positive to my life. I think we would all do well to keep the lessons we’ve learned in this last year or so. Peace to you. I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are amazing, Lilka. Thank you for taking the time to read and for sharing. Wonderful and so important to delete those energy draining things. Which I know we all have. Have always looked up to you. Your garden articles have always been so beautiful. You do have a depth of appreciation for the simple things, that I think most people do not seem to possess. That was even before the pandemic, and the lessons we all learned. God bless you, Lilka. I appreciate you! 🙏😀🌻

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoy the stories and advice and photos, and all the positivity. I really needed something like this today. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really nice to meet you, Carl. I began to visit your blog and an hour later I am immersed in the interesting articles and wonderful photos. The first thing I did was find “Hillside” on a map. I had a great clue “Canuck” Carl.

    I appreciate Catrina’s comment “…opt for a slower and simpler lifestyle…” Your stunning photos depict “a great Canadian Winter.” We used to live in Northern B.C and the Yukon and enjoyed far more snow. We have lived on Vancouver Island 29 years.

    A priceless treasure to be able to share 50 years ago photos. Scary about drivers driving dangerously fast on Hwy 93. You make a great segue to how the sign “could also be encouraging us to slow down our lives.” From now on, I know I will think about this phrase every time I pass a ‘slow down’ sign. I just added some Canadian maple syrup to my tea. Another thing we have in common. I wholeheartedly agree about families making special memories this year and I have seen it all around us.

    Congratulations on the Great Canadian Running Challenge! You are inspirational, Carl. I look forward to reading more. Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Erica!

      Thank you so much for introducing yourself, and for such a generous comment. I am very humbled that you visited my blog for such a long time, There has been a lot of population growth in my region, particularly the past 10 years. I am about 100 kilometers north of Toronto. High housing prices in Toronto has brought a lot of growth in this region, because housing is a bit cheaper (though still expensive). And with comes a must higher paced big city type lifestyles.

      I have lived in this area all my life. Barrie (the city closest to where I live) had a population of 15,000 when I was a kid. It is around 165,000 people now. The last time I was in British Columbia was in 1984 and then again in 1985. In 1984 I was in a 3 month mountain climbing course based out of Clearwater. Some of the training was in Wells Grey Park and further up around Valemount (though this wouldn’t really be Northern BC). The ultimate dream destination in Northern BC for me to live (though I have never lived there) is Atlin. That town looks so gorgeous.

      Technically I have been to Vancouver Island, though it was only on a bus in 1984, which travelled south from Port Hardy, after taking a ferry there. Always thought Port Hardy would be an amazing place to live. So many options to visit a lot of places by ferry.

      You are doing so amazing on your Iceland Virtual Challenge. Thanks Erica, so much for connecting. Hope you have a great week ahead! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post!
    Congratulations on second place!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a great post and even greater reminder that life is short, we need to slow down and soak each moment in. One good thing I think came from this pandemic was the lock down and everyone spending more time with family. In the “normal” busy, crazy world we live in, we do forget and take for granted what is right in front of us – family! Sad it took something to this extreme to remind us. We all only get one life and we need to enjoy each moment before it’s gone. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your follow, Tiffany. Thank you for taking the time to read and share such a well thought out and articulated comment. It is beautiful, and reflects the message I wanted to convey. Family is the one thing I take way too much for granted. And yes, we only have one life. I’m 62, and my life has gone by so fast.

      You are welcome, Tiffany. And thank you for sharing what you shared.

      God bless,

      Carl Wright 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for finding me and following my blog! Again thank you for sharing your message! Life does go so fast, we need to take in each moment as each one is a gift! Have a wonderful, blessed week!

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome, Tiffany. You are very kind. Thank you! To help get your numbers up, I wish I could follow you also with my Christian blog. But I use the same log in and username for both blogs, and everything defaults to my main original blog. I did follow you on Twitter, however. Blessings to you this coming week! 😀🙏

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much! Appreciate your support, so kind! What is your Christian blog? Have a wonderful week!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are very welcome, Tiffany. Here is my church blog! Have a wonderful week yourself! 🙏😀


  10. Thank you for sharing a very inspiring story that most don’t even realize because they are so caught up chasing the world and people. Alive is to be able to feel the moments of everyday. It is to be able to see and experience time as it unfolds. Thanks you for sharing your stories. It makes the world a much kinder, safer place to be. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a wonderful post! There is nothing good about Covid with so much loss of life and jobs but there have been so many good things that have happened because of the situation as you have mentioned. People are cooking again, spending more quality time with the family, being a part with nature and so much more. It looks like a lovely little place you live in. We moved into the country to get away from the city.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Diane. My little village is a wonderful place to live. We have been in the same house for the past 30 years and have raised our family from babies to adults. So wonderful you now live in the country. It is a wonderful place to be. 😀


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