Tag Archives: COVID-19

A Photo Essay of Toronto in May

A tree filled with beautiful pink blossoms. This is the fourth instalment of this series.

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. Click on February, March, and April to read the earlier posts.

May is by far the most beautiful time of the year in Toronto in my opinion. It was a balmy 17 degrees Celsius (63 Fahrenheit) according to my weather app when I visited this month. The sky was bright blue and there was a warm, gentle breeze in the air.

The restrictions on park usage are slowly beginning to be lifted here. We are now allowed to use picnic tables, basketball courts, tennis courts, and soccer fields so long as everyone you use them with belongs to the same household and you maintain at least six feet of distance from other folks. Going to the park to walk, jog, or sit on a bench is still permitted as well.

It was quite busy there during my visit this month, so you’ll see some strangers in the distance in a few photos. Keeping all of them out of my shots simply wasn’t possible.

Landscape shot of an urban park. There is a monument surrounded by green trees.

This is the time of year when you don’t have to look closely for signs of spring. They’re everywhere. While not every tree is obviously green yet, I’ll get into that later on in this post.

Close-up shot of a moment. There are green trees in the background and green bushes in the foreground next to the steps on the monument.

Look! The bushes in front of the monument are turning green now. There are also plenty of wild plants like dandelions growing between them.

Photo of a dirt jogging trail at a park. It is flanked by vibrant, green trees that have recently awoken from their winter dormancy.

The jogging trail is firm and dry once again. (It tends to become muddy after spring and summer thunderstorms, although generally not at much as it is in late winter and early spring). This summer it will be a dusty place to exercise if we go through long dry spells, but the trees lining it will provide some relief from the hot sun for determined joggers.

This trail was once again in heavy use due to the gorgeous weather and the fact that the majority of our stores and other destinations are still closed to help contain the spread of Covid-19. I’m glad I was able to get a clear shot of this area of the park for all of you.

 

A tree whose leaves are still in the budding stage. There are partially and fully green trees in the foreground of this park shot.

As I hinted at earlier, about ten percent of the trees don’t have leaves yet. This isn’t due to sickness or injury. If you look closely at them you’ll see the buds of their future flowers and leaves.

I’ve often wondered if these are the same trees that hold onto their leaves in November when most other trees are bare. Let’s see if that’s true in six months!

A canopy shot of white, red, and green tree leaves against a bright blue sky.

Every winter I yearn for moments like this. There’s nothing like standing underneath a thick canopy of leaves from multiple tree species and hearing them rustle in the breeze.

A skyward shot of large, healthy tree branches filled with leaves against a bright blue sky.

I’ll indulge all of us with a similar shot. If there’s anything more peaceful than moments like these, I couldn’t tell you what they are.

One thing I haven’t covered yet in this series is the size of the trees we’re talking about. Some of them are saplings that have roughly the same circumference I do as a slim, petite adult woman.

Woman leaning up against a massive elm tree, smiling, and pointing at it.
Yours truly for scale.

But we also have trees that are much larger than that. It’s amazing to feel the difference in the air temperature immediately below the biggest trees in the park when compared to standing in direct sunlight on a warm day. I’d bet it makes the temperature feel ten degrees cooler on warm days…and more than that on the hottest ones!

There were two marvellous surprises at the park this month. Do you remember those two trees I blogged earlier about that were severely damaged in a winter storm? They’re somehow still alive. A tree that has lost half of it's trunk but somehow managed to grow green leaves again this spring.

This is the tree I photographed over the last few months. About half of its branches were ripped off in that storm, and its trunk was badly damaged as well.

The half of a tree that was ripped off in a storm. It's sitting on the park ground next to the remnant of the tree that has begun to grow leaves again.

Here’s another shot of it so you can see just how serious that damage was. I have no idea what its longterm chances of survival might be, but I was thrilled to see it growing leaves again. May it live to see many more springs.

There was another, much larger tree that suffered a similar injury in that storm as well. I’d estimate that it lost about a third of its branches.

A massive tree with four huge branches, one of which has been shorn off in a storm.

It’s looking quite healthy…

A branch larger than half a dozen full-grown humans that has been shorn off a massive tree in a storm.

…especially when you consider just how badly it was damaged. This photo captures most, but not all, of the dead branches from it. If any arborists read this, I’d love to get your opinions on the chances of these trees healing from their injuries.

And, yes, it’s odd for gigantic branches like these to remain in the park months after a violent storm. As I mentioned back in February, branches this large and potentially dangerous for folks who may climb on them would typically be cleared away within days in non-pandemic conditions.

 

A sun dappled sidewalk in a park

I’ll end this post with a lovely shot of a sun-dappled sidewalk. A month or so from now we’ll all be quite grateful for the shade these trees provide on hot, humid summer days!

Let’s Talk About Vivid Quarantine Dreams

 

As COVID-19 continues to dominate news coverage and social media feeds, it’s no surprise that the pandemic has also started affecting people’s sleep routines. Many people are reporting vivid, sometimes stressful dreams…

From Why You’re Having So Many Weird Dreams During Quarantine, According to Sleep Experts

Six clouds digitally altered to spell out the word dreams against a blue sky When I first read that article last month, I didn’t think it applied to me.

My sleeping and dreaming habits have remained more or less the same since this pandemic began.

As always, the dreams I remember are vivid and exciting. The dream version of me often does things that real-life Lydia would never dare to. I’ve heard this is something that’s more common for us introverts, although I don’t know how true that is.

Then my brain decided to kick into overdrive. I should note that I’ve dreamt about various versions of this mansion for at least a decade now. The exact layout of the rooms change, but it always looks Victorian, is filled with heavy, wooden furniture, has poor lighting, and has more floors than I can generally manage to explore before I wake up. Oh, and it’s always haunted, and not by friendly ghosts.

On the rare occasions I make it all the way up to the attic, some pretty exciting stuff happens there involving me getting into long intellectual discussions with various deities and mythological beings. But this dream was typical in that it ended long before I thought to walk up all of those flights.

In the dream, my spouse and I decided to take a long weekend trip to visit this mansion. There were only a few other folks who had booked rooms, so we thought we could adhere to the physical distancing requirements well while still having a nice change of scenery.

A ghostly hand attempting to push through a Victorian mirror.The mansion was as beautiful, dark, and Victorian as ever. There was an old-fashioned library in it this time, and I ached to read all of the books. The problem was that the ghosts made their presence known long before I finished exploring the house, much less settled down to read for a while. 

I was singing “Henry the VIII I Am” when one of them suddenly appeared on a staircase. 

We’re never happy to see each other. Normally, the dream ends with me racing upstairs to find the attic before they catch me since that’s the one place in the mansion they don’t seem to be allowed to go.

This time, I realized there was a second safe place to run to: the bedroom my spouse and I had been given for the weekend.

He and I ran to it, slammed the door shut, and locked it with the ghost on our tails. 

What made this dream unique was that the lock and door kept her out. She could ask us nicely to open it and let her enter, but she could do nothing else without an open door and invitation. We were safe, albeit trapped in a much smaller space than we’d been expecting to enjoy for the weekend. 

Now if that isn’t a quarantine dream, I don’t know what is! Yes, she was definitely a ghost and not a vampire. I wish the story had continued so I knew what happened next.

What vivid things have you all been dreaming about this spring?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in April

Green plants growing in a concrete planter. This is the third instalment of a photography series I started earlier this year.

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. Click on February and March to read my earlier posts.

Shortly after my March post went live, a long list of restrictions were also placed on what Torontonians are allowed to do in our parks.

No one is currently allowed to use any of their facilities including dog parks, playground equipment, pools, sports fields or courts, zoos, and similar places.

The use of park benches has also been curtailed. You could sit on them for a brief rest if necessary when I visited, but people received fines for lingering or sitting too close to strangers on them last week. (Those fines seem to have ended now).

We are still allowed to walk or run through the park as long as we adhered to the six foot physical distancing rule that has been put into place to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. I have always respected the law when writing these posts and will continue to do so.

The temperature on the day of my visit in April was 11 C, one degree warmer than it was in February and March. We’ve had some cold days this April, but I do expect the average daily temperature to rise by five to ten degrees by the end of May.A photo of a statue in a park. There are steps leading up to the statue and the bushes around it are still dormant from the winter.

Upon first glance, the park honestly didn’t look that much different now than it did last month. Anyone who looks closely at this photo might see a few green weeds growing next to the dormant bushes, but that’s about it so far.

A flat, dry running trail at a park.

But the running and walking trail is completely dry and firm now! I’ve seen multiple people using it while (mostly) following the physical distancing protocols. Getting this picture took some patience so I could show you the trail without taking photographs of strangers.

A photo of a bare tree in April. There is a bird's nest in the uppermost branches.

Some of you might be surprised to hear that many of the trees in southern Ontario don’t have leaves on them yet at all. The ones that do have only just begin to show their first hints of green which you will see later on in this post.

Spring is a slow process here that requires patience, but there are many signs that things are changing if you look down instead of up.

 

Buds on a small tree.

Before you have leaves, you must have buds! And the majority of the trees and bushes here are budding now.

You’ll also notice some little blue flowers in the grass. I think they were Blue-Eyed Grass, and they make my heart sing. Winter is finally over in ways that are more tangible than a date on a calendar.Blue flowers growing in a park.

Here’s a closer shot of the flowers. They only bloom for a few weeks in April from what I recall from previous years.

It’s interesting to see last autumn’s leaves interspersed among them.

A red breasted robin sitting on a green lawn.

Squirrels and red-breasted robins are everywhere in the park now. You can hear many other birds chirping in the trees, too.

Bushes covered in green leaves and yellow flowers.

There are other splashes of colour now, too. Soon the trees will be as eye-catching as these bushes.

A city park landscape. The grass is green and covered in blue flowers. The bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look bare.

Here’s a shot from another part of the city that shows the ground-up transformation of Toronto in spring so you can put it all into perspective. The grass and flowers are vibrant, the bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look dormant unless you’re standing right next to them.

Other than the obvious changes in human behaviour, there was one sign of Covid-19 at the park that I found interesting. A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

 

City workers have not been able to clear away any of the fallen branches or the dead trees from the park. (I noticed a second dead tree on this visit but couldn’t get a clear shot of it). This stump and all of those branches are still covered in caution tape.  I’m reusing last month’s photo since it looked exactly the same.

Normally, this would have all been cleared away weeks ago. Toronto is a tidy and punctual city when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic. I totally understand why that isn’t possible right now, but it’s a reminder of how much this virus has interrupted everyone’s routines.

My hope is that everyone will respect the physical distancing rules so that parks will at least remain open to walk through. We will see what happens over the next several weeks.

Stay safe, everyone!

10 Meditative Virtual Nature Walks You Should Take

A paved road through a park. The sides of the road are lined by tall trees and other greenery.Lately, I’ve been feeling the effects of cabin fever. This is typically the time of year when I’d begin spending much longer periods of time outdoors each day now that the weather is warming up.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the outdoor places I’d normally be visiting now are closed. Torontonians have also been asked to only use public transit for necessary trips like going to work, buying groceries, or seeking medical care.

In addition, all of the amenities in our parks are closed. That is, no one is allowed to use their playgrounds, washrooms, basketball courts, tennis courts, swimming pools, or dog parks. Even the benches are becoming off-limits for most folks!

I’ve been very fortunate so far during this pandemic in many other ways, but I am sure am missing those nature visits right about now. Yesterday was a bit of an antsy day for me which lead to the compilation of this list.

Some of these videos last a few minutes. Others go on for a few hours. Feel free to pick the ones that best suit your time availability and interests. They are roughly arranged from the shortest to the longest walk.

Forest Walk Meditation

There was very little speaking in this video. It’s mostly first-person footage of someone walking through a forest. I especially loved the bird calls in the background. They really made me feel like I was there!

Mountain Stillness

Wow, this was a beautiful scene! It included background instrumental music.

 

Spring Awakening 

There was upbeat instrumental background music in this one. It was cool to see the birds floating around in the pond.

Beach Trip Meditation 

Like the forest walk, this one involved no background music. There was some guided meditation here and there, but the rest of it only included the sorts of sounds you’d hear at the beach. The gulls in the background were so relaxing. I could almost taste the salt in the air.

Walking in the Hoh Rain Forest

All of the sounds in this 20 minute rain forest walk were natural ones. I heard many birds chirping in the forest. Sometimes there were also the sounds of the camera person walking on dead foliage or of running water.

Relaxing Virtual Walk Around the Chilterns

I’ve never been to England, but this looks like a very relaxing place to visit. It was a 25 minute walk that only includes natural sounds from the scenery. Most of the sounds the microphone picked up were of the wind.

Zion NP Utah Riverside Walk Trail

Wow, these red sandstone cliffs were gorgeous! This 53 minute walk does include some narration by the camera person. The portion of the walk by the stream was my favourite.

Secluded Beach at Sunset 

Several years ago, my spouse and I went on a beach vacation with a few dozen of my relatives. Other than catching up with everyone, of course, the nicest part of it was walking up and down the beach when there were very few other folks out and about.

I’m a morning person, so for me many of those times were early in the day when the tide had gone out. What a calming experience it was to hear nothing but the sound of the ocean lapping against shore and the cry of seagulls in the distance. This one hour walk reminded me a lot of those ones.

Kruger National Park in South Africa

There was so much wildlife during this 90 minute walk! I liked the lions the most. Their roars made me shudder.

2.5 Hour Virtual Nature Walk in the Redwood National and State Parks

There was some classical music playing in the background of this piece. The scenery was stunningly beautiful.

What are some of your favourite virtual walk videos?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen. I will do my best to visit it again if I’m still healthy and we’re allowed to walk through the park at that point. 

This is the second instalment of a monthly photography series I started back in February. Each month I will share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year.

As I mentioned last month, this is a slushy, muddy, and unpredictable season that has only grown sloppier and more unpredictable as climate change has disrupted our traditional weather patterns.

The  interesting thing about this part of the year is that we never know in advance what to expect. Will there be a blizzard? Will we have sunny, spring-like weather? Everything can change in a day or even over the course of a few hours while winter is slowly giving way to proper spring weather.

It turns out that the temperature on March’s visit was 10 C, exactly the same as it was on the day I visited in February. That wasn’t so much as coincidence as me not wanting to do this photoshoot when it was 0 C and raining outside. Ha!

Photo of a World War I monument at a Toronto park. There are bare tree branches in the background and dry steps leading up to the monument in the foreground.

The monument I blogged about last month had a reprieve from the snow and ice of February.

A dirt running trail at a park. Part of the trail is filled with mud and a little water.

The running trail I shared earlier has changed as well. It was less muddy when I visited it this time, although this is something that will continue to fluctuate quite a bit for at least the next month.

If you look at the background, you’ll see two people using that trail! Other than the reduction of snow piles, the biggest difference between last month and this one is that there were about a dozen other people and a few friendly dogs using this park during my visit.

Bare tree branches against a blue sky.

You’ll notice no changes in the foliage this time. Everything is brown and dead or dormant now. April is the absolute soonest I’d expect to see any greenery in Toronto, and it generally remains somewhat rare for most species until closer to the end of that month. Dead leaves on the ground.

You can still see leaves on the ground from last autumn.

A tree that is still covered in brown, dead leaves.

And some trees still haven’t released their leaves from last autumn. I hope this little one survived the winter.

A bird's nest in a dormant, leafless, tree.

One of the really cool things about March is that you can see last year’s bird nests in the trees. I’ve read that some species here return to the same nest every spring to raise another brood of chicks.

Sights like this aren’t possible once the trees have leaves again. You can hear the chicks peeping sometimes if you walk right underneath their home tree, but it’s hard to spot their nests in May or June. A dirty patch of snow on a sidewalk. There is a blue glove and many leaves stuck in the snow.

Yes, we still have snow here and there. If anyone is missing a blue glove, I know where you lost it!

Toronto can get snow in April, too, although it generally melts fairly quickly.

A photo of a park in March. The trees are bare and the ground is brown. But there is no snow on it.

We definitely have less snow than my previous visit, though. Look how clear the ground is. In month or two, I’ll be able to walk on it without getting mud all over my shoes. For now, I’m sticking to the mostly-dry sidewalk.

A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

My final photo is a sad one.

One of the trees in this park didn’t survive our winter storms. I saw a couple of other trees that had sustained minor damage, but this one is unfortunately gone for good. The last time this happened, the city cleared away the stump and debris before planting a new sapling in its place several months later.

I hope to share photos of that new sapling whenever it arrives. If this happens after the conclusion of this series, I’ll write an addendum to it.

Stay Home and Read

A few days ago, Toronto learned that someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 had taken several trips on the TTC, our  public transportation system, after they began coughing and showing other symptoms of that disease. Our local media has been publishing many stories on the Coronavirus outbreak these winter alongside their regular winter features on… Read More