Butterflies have been plentiful this year. All day they flutter by my office window, flaunting their exquisite dance moves and the kind of freedom that is only possible if you have wings. Lured by their charm and hoping to finally capture them in their glorious multitudes, I grab my camera and head to Colonel Samuel Smith Park near Lake Ontario. After an hour of unsuccessful wandering around, I am finally rewarded with a butterfly mosaic clustered in a tree. And while they don’t amount to millions, like in this story from University of Ottawa biology professor Jeremy Kerr about his visit to the monarchs’ overwintering site in Mexico, it is still a mesmerizing sight.
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
It is a beautiful November afternoon. We are on our way to Scarborough Bluffs, one of Toronto’s famous natural attractions that I have heard so much about but never got time to visit. As we drive through the east end, my friend and I listen to Queen and talk about our cell phone obsessed culture and Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods. My son falls asleep in the back seat. It is a long drive. Sometimes it feels we are in a different city altogether.
We finally turn onto Brimley Road South. It winds its way downhill through the fall-coloured parkland, half of the trees already spot bare branches. We round another turn, and the blue waters of Lake Ontario come into view. I can hear my friend gasp next to me. I must admit that even though I knew the lake was coming at the bottom of the road, this inundation of open space and water is startling.
Every year as the fall rolls in, we find it more and more difficult to get out of the city. School, work, homework, extra-curricular activities, Halloween costumes, piles of tests for my husband to grade, somehow these activities take up more and more space and all of a sudden we can’t go camping every other weekend anymore. But it is not necessarily a bad thing because it frees up a lot of time for local explorations. Lately, I realized that quite often when I think about nature and adventures I cast my eyes far beyond the horizon to places up north or parks south of the border. Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and The Last Child in the Woods, calls this phenomenon ‘place blindness,’ a tendency to overlook the beauty of nature close to home. Don’t get me wrong, I still need my quiet and solitude that can only be found in remote places. However, by embracing microadventures, I discovered that lots of beautiful natural spaces can be found close by, even in a big urban area like Toronto.
If I could go camping every weekend, I would. Things tend to get in the way though. Swimming and art classes for our younger kid, university assignments for the older one, grocery shopping and laundry, not to mention piles of tests to grade and report cards to write for my husband. So January went by without a single opportunity to get out of the city. We did go for walks around the neighbourhood but without any snow and temperatures well below freezing, it wasn’t as much fun as an outing in the woods would be. Last week, it finally snowed in Toronto so we spent the weekend rediscovering nature next door.
Colonel Samuel Smith Park
The park is located in Toronto’s west end right by Lake Ontario. Beautiful views of the lake and nice walking trails attract lots of visitors. In the winter, the park has a popular skating loop and a pretty big tobogganing hill. People bring their skis to do some cross-country skiing along the water. We also watched guys kite skiing on the frozen marina. It looked like a lot of fun, although I am not sure if I would put it on my bucket list.
Since we didn’t bring any equipment for skating, skiing or tobogganing, we had to find some other ways to entertain ourselves. Our son got excited about ice-covered boulders by the lake and spent a good hour exploring them in search of a perfect icicle. Even as it started getting dark, he was refusing to leave with the words: “I am sorry, mum, but I am having too much fun.”
Centennial Park is famous for its tobogganing hills so on Sunday morning we grabbed our sled and headed over there. There is a trail running not far from our building all the way to the park. It’s great for cycling in the summer and takes about 15 minutes to get to the park. Walking through the snow with frequent stops to break ice on the nearby creek and watch a group of extremely cute ducks required way more time but it was all part of the fun. After all, it’s all about the journey as they say.
The destination was just as exciting though. The hill was ringing with laughter and screams from children and adults alike. After about an hour of sledding experiments (forward, backward, sideways), we headed home treading through the snow and breaking more ice along the way.
Ok, Waterloo Park isn’t exactly near our home but it is close to Waterloo University where our older son is currently a student. So on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, as we drove him back to Waterloo after a weekend at home, we decided to explore the nearby park. There is a small lake right in the middle with a pretty boardwalk and gazebos along the shore, a few walking trails and a small river (you guessed it, more ice to break). The park also has a small zoo and some historic buildings, like the first school house and an old mill. The best thing was finding some snow since Toronto was pretty much snowless at the time.
It was all great fun but now I am looking forward to the Family Day weekend when we can finally spend some time in the woods. Only a few more days to go!