Yesterday, I had about 20 minutes to spare before picking up my husband from work so I decided to swing by Cullen Bryant Park in East York for a nature pause. It is my second week into a new job so I have been putting most of my energy into trying to get the hang of it and haven’t had much time for nature pursuits. The lack of vitamin N has started to take a toll: I could feel a spring inside me get tighter and tighter. But the moment I stepped into the park the spring started to uncoil. It was a very short walk along the Taylor Creek Trail (although it did include a pretty steep stair climb) and the boots I was wearing weren’t suitable for a slippery winter trail, but I emerged from the ravine feeling like a different person.
When I started this job, my new co-workers tried to help me adjust by sharing information about good places to eat in the neighbourhood but my only question was if there were any nature spots in the area. As it turned out, not too many or at least not close enough. But I am not giving up. In the past two weeks, I have discovered two small parkettes, which are nothing more but clusters of trees. Yet they still work for a nature pause: you know, those times when you need to stop the flow of information and all sorts of to-do lists flying in your head and just breathe. Once it gets warmer or I feel more settled in my job (whichever comes first), I will expand my range.
I also found a beautiful mural along Lawrence Avenue. It is not exactly nature but it is an inspiring piece of urban art about our planet and human impact. Turns out some people living in the neighbourhood were unhappy with the mural and even demanded its removal because it was making them uncomfortable. But that’s the point of good art: it should make us uncomfortable and inspire action.
I should say not everyone in our family has been nature deprived. Our lucky younger son went skiing at Hockley Valley with his class yesterday. Last week, he also spent three days at an outdoor education centre at Lake St. George, where together with his classmates he learned outdoor survival skills, tried to build shelters and cook over the fire as well as do a bunch of other nature-related activities, like Scavenger Hunts and Photo Orienteering (pictures below were taken by the teachers).
He came back home with lots of great memories and a new hobby – geocaching. Now everywhere we go, be it in the city or out of town, we look for hidden caches. So far he has found three but knowing our son it is just the beginning. This new interest brings back memories of our first trip to Porcupine Mountains when he discovered letter-boxing. I won’t go into details (you can read more about it here) but our two days in the park turned into a hunt for letterboxes. There were 14 of them in total and he was determined to find them all (need I say he succeeded?). There are way more geocaches around the world so we are in for a long treasure hunt.
Now, when it comes to our Saturday microadventures, we had to skip last weekend because of our son’s dance performance and extra rehearsals. But we did manage to go on a hike at Kortright Centre for Conservation a couple of weeks ago. Located just north of Toronto, it has an extensive trail system. We took a walk along the Tree Patrol Trail reading about different trees along the way, studying the texture of their trunks, and, of course, hugging them because that’s what tree-huggers do. My favourite was a beech because it reminded me of my home country. The region we come from has so many beech trees that it is called Beechland.
Once we finished our tree walk, we just kept going wherever the trail took us: across boardwalks, past red pine plantations, through foggy hollows, over melting snow and under dripping branches.
This weekend, we are hoping for some winter and more season appropriate activities but mainly just lots of nature time.