We are nearing the end of Isabel East Side Trail at Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Reserve when vigorous splashing coming from the creek stops us in our tracks. This is not our first time on this trail. In fact, this park just north of Orangeville has become a bit of a fall-back microadventure destination for those times when I fail to do research and find a new place to visit. This is one of those times.
Why? is the question we often get when we mention our next camping trip. Here are some answers to that question.
My canoe trip to Killarney: The magic of being alone (in two parts)
“…when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.”
Mary Oliver “How I go to the woods”
I spot two loons gliding across the lake as I push my canoe off the shore. The sun made a grand entrance about half an hour ago but then slipped behind the clouds. The lake is so smooth I am almost hesitant to break its surface with my paddle. I follow the trail left by the birds, and as I turn around the bend I drift into what looks like a loon party.
“One, two, three…,” I start counting under my breath. “Eleven?!” A camping trip is never complete without seeing loons, and their calls are a perfect accompaniment for a backcountry experience. They, however, usually show up in pairs, occasionally there are three. Last year, we ran into a family with two chicks. Eleven seems like a minor miracle. I am bursting to shout, “Do you see this?” But I am by myself and no one around can share my excitement.
Waking up early has its perks: getting to see a crowd of loons is one of them
Close-up magic or my search for a fern flower
July 7th is Ivana Kupala, a traditional holiday celebrated in some Eastern European countries. That is according to the old Julian calendar, which is still used for holidays (that’s why Christmas is on January 7th and there is such thing as old New Year where I come from). According to the Gregorian calendar, the one we use today, that would correspond to June 24th making Ivana Kupala a summer solstice celebration. So no surprise that most of the activities happen on the night from July 6th to 7th, one of the shortest of the year.
Ivana Kupala (roughly translates as John the Bather) is a pre-Christian holiday associated with fertility and purification. Many of the rituals involve water and fire, which have sacral qualities on this night. Once Christianity was introduced, the day was renamed St. John the Baptist (I guess both have John and bathing in common). The old traditions, however, never fully disappeared. The holiday is still often referred to as Ivana Kupala fest and many of the rituals, like making flower wreaths and letting them float down the water or jumping through a bonfire, are featured at celebrations in Ukraine and other places in Eastern Europe.
Ivana Kupala festivities aside, many Ukrainian religious celebrations incorporate pre-Christian traditions. On this day, for instance, my grandparents decorated their house and gates with flowers. Pentecost is called the Green Fest and involves bringing branches of linden into the house. The centrepiece at Christmas Eve dinner is a wheat sheaf called Diduch symbolizing the spirit of our ancestors. Some of it could be explained by a relatively young age of Christianity in Ukraine. Most probably, it’s because our connection to nature is impossible to eradicate since we are part of it. My childhood visits with my grandparents involved many trips to church but religion, somehow, never really took root. Instead, forests and meadows became my cathedral and I learned to look for God in nature and see miracles between blades of grass and flower petals.
One of the activities on Ivana Kupala features a search for a fern flower. It is rumoured to blossom on this night only and will bring luck and happiness to the one who finds it. And while it’s not scientifically possible, it is a beautiful metaphor for our quest for magic, which is all around us if only we look close enough.
About our trip to Gatineau, inspiration and reasons for getting outside (with video)
Back in March, we headed to Gatineau to enjoy a well-deserved break and wrap up the winter glamping season. More than two months later, I still haven’t managed to put together a post about our trip. The reasons for those struggles have been plenty, with finding time near the top of the list. There was also the writer’s block that has been following me around since last year, failure to find a new angle for writing about the park we have already visited several times before and continuous attempts to perfect the video we filmed for my final video course project. And the more time passed since our trip and spring slowly but surely continued to establish its presence, the sillier it seemed to write about a winter trip.
Bringing the outside in – one overnight stay at Pinery at a time
How often do you hear people say: “I wish I could do more of x (in my case spend more time outdoors) but life gets in the way”? I am not a big fan of that expression – “life gets in the way.” It’s right there with “time to return to real life.” Both imply that time spent outside is nothing more than a frivolous pursuit or, at best, an escape from our productive and important lives filled with jobs, chores and responsibilities.
There are days when I daydream about ditching the so-called “real life” for a life of outdoor adventures. I know, however, that right now it is not realistic. So instead my goal is to incorporate outdoors into my everyday life as much as possible, whether by making sure I take a walk during my lunch break, skipping the bus and walking part of the way home, growing a container garden on my balcony and filling my apartment with plants, or making weekend getaways and microadventures a priority.
And the Sunshine Blogger Award goes to…
A few weeks ago WordPress sent me a note to congratulate me on my blogging anniversary. Apparently, it’s been five years since I started sharing my thoughts with the world. That includes a couple of years on my previous photo blog, but still half a decade feels like a substantial amount of time. For the most part, it’s been a fun ride. Occasionally, however, I have my moments questioning the whole purpose of this endeavour. A fifth-year anniversary seemed like a good moment to indulge in some re-evaluation.
Last week, the bloggoverse sent me the answer: a fellow blogger from Justabitfurther nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.
Forest Bathing at Hockley Valley
For me, the forest has always been a magical place. Not a scary locale of many fairy-tales and horror films, but rather a trove of endless wonders. As a child I spent many summer days wandering through the woods behind my grandparents’ house, listening to the trees whisper to each other, their branches touching tenderly up above, their roots in a tight embrace breaking through the ground under my feet. What thoughts ran through their trunks, I wondered. What dreams nestled in their canopies?
The art of being
A few years ago, during our road trip across the U.S., we stopped at the Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota. The cave is currently the third longest in the world and is best explored with a guided tour. So we joined one. Following a park ranger through a maze of passages and tunnels, I tried not to think about metres of rock above my head. As our tour was nearing the end, we stopped on a large platform. Our guide explained that she was going to turn off the lights for a few minutes and encouraged us to listen to the sounds of the cave. Seemed like an easy enough challenge. Once the lights went off and we plunged into complete darkness, I could hear a distant drip of the water. There were other sounds close by: the shuffling of feet, the rustling of clothes, whispers and giggles. On our way back out of the cave, the ranger shared her observation: over the past few years those three minutes of quietness are getting louder. It’s as if people forgot how to be still. Continue reading
Great Lakes Water Walk: #BecauseOfWater
Nibi, Gizaagi’igo, Gimiigwechiwenimigo, Gizhawenimigo
Water, we love you, we thank you, we respect you
Nibi Nagamowin (The Water Song)
We make our way through J.C. Saddington park to the waterfront where beautiful Lake Ontario stretches before our eyes. Bathed in early morning light, its waters glisten and melt into the coral sky.
Lake Ontario bathed in morning light, one of the reasons we joined Great Lakes Water Walk Continue reading
Canada 150 and camping: Whose land are we on?
It’s an overcast day, the steeliness of the sky reflected in the lake. Our canoe is bobbing up and down on the waves. We try to paddle as close as possible to the rocks along the shore to get a closer look at the pictographs. Red ochre outlines. People in a canoe. A bird in flight. Antlers. Thousand-year-old stories recorded on the land. It starts to rain and we set out to find a campsite before Quetico’ s moodiness engulfs us.