Tag Archives: Summer

A Photo Essay of Toronto in July

marigolds growing by lush, green plantsEach month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the sixth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchAprilMay, and June to read the earlier posts. It was a blissful 27 Celsius (81 Fahrenheit) and sunny on this morning visit.

July was an incredibly hot month, so I jumped on the chance to show up earlier in the day and snap some photos before the temperatures soared to 35 C (95 F) or more again.

Let me be honest with all of you. The photos for this month, August, and maybe even September are going to be pretty similar to June’s photos. Everything is green, lush, and growing furiously.

The true difference between June and the rest of the summer has to do with the temperature. June still has mild, pleasant days, but that becomes a rare treat between now until October most years.

A World War I memorial surrounded by green, lush trees in a park.

Welcome to the park in July. If you were actually walking here with me, I would have recommended you bring a water bottle and put on some sunscreen. The sun is quite powerful at this time of the year, and I wouldn’t want any of you to get burned or dehydrated.

A close-up photo of the World War I memories. It's green

Anyone who comes here later in the day might see the air shimmering in the heat. For now, it’s warm but still pretty comfortable in the shade. Some of the weeds are starting to take over the steps on this monument. I suspect this is due to city workers not having as many resources for park maintenance as usual.

A dusty running trail at a park. The trail is lined with large, healthy trees.

The running trail is firm and dustier than usual due to our dry summer so far.  It’s heavily used in the morning and evening, probably because running in 40 C (104 F) heat at midday is at best miserable and at worst a recipe for heat stroke.

I love seeing all of the walkers and joggers out and about early in the morning or after the sun begins to set and the weather is less hot. (Even if you choose to jog at 3 am, you probably won’t find overnight temperatures lower than 28 C (82 F) or so for the next couple of months).  Everyone seems to be incredibly polite and kind even when the trail is overflowing with users which makes me proud of my city.

Large, green branches of a tree against a bright blue sky

You all knew this shot was coming! I love the bright blue skies of this time of year. We won’t see much of that in the autumn and winter when I return.

A skyward shot of many overlapping tree branches filled with leaves. They're so lush you can only see a tiny sliver of the blue sky.

But now it’s less common to see blue sky between the branches of nearby trees. They’ve grown so much that they block out a refreshing amount of heat and light.

A sun-dappled park. The grass is heavily shaded by the leaves of the enormous trees growing there.

Here’s another example of what that looks like. Most people who visit the park now flock to these shady areas. Sitting in direct sunlight for longer periods of time is simply too hot, especially with the high humidity we tend to have now.

A tree that had half of its branches shorn off last winter. It is green and thriving now.

Our tree friend that lost half its branches last winter is thriving from what I can tell.

A tree that lost about a third of its branches in a storm last winter. It is green and thriving now.

And so is our bigger tree friend that lost about a third of its branches. I’m still amazed at how well they heal.

A sapling growing in a park.

The saplings that were planted last month seem to be doing really well, too. A heavily shaded stone path in a park

I am seeing a decrease in visitors to the park like I expected last month. Given the steamy weather and the increasing number of places in Ontario that are reopening as our numbers of Covid-19 cases continue to decrease, this is completely understandable.

And that’s all until August!

A Summer Without Tourists

Toronto, Canada skyline. The famous CN Tower is one of the buildings in this shot. The foreground is of part of Lake Ontario There are a few things about Canadian and, more specifically, Torontonian culture that I should explain here for anyone who isn’t already familiar with them before diving into the meat of this post.

I am speaking in broad generalities here and this is a large, diverse country, so please make friendly allowances for that if your Canadian cousin/acquaintance/coworker etc. has had other experiences. There are no secret Canadian meetings where we come to a consensus on this stuff, and it’s just about impossible to get 38 million folks to agree on everything anyways.

With that being said, people make less small talk here there than do in my birth country, the United States. It’s good manners to nod and say hello to neighbours and other folks you’ve seen around before, but you generally don’t talk to strangers unless you have an excellent reason to do so.

At least in large cities here, sidewalks are serious business. Locals walk briskly and single file unless the sidewalk is large enough for larger groups to walk side-by-side. Loitering should only be done in places where you won’t slow down the flow of traffic, especially at lunchtime and in the early evening when the sidewalks are filled with nonstop crowds.

Tourists are the exceptions to these rules. If a stranger asks you for directions or advice on visiting your neighbourhood, you always stop and help them to the best of your ability. Sometimes a large group of tourists will walk slowly down the middle of the sidewalk while trying to figure out where to eat dinner or which attraction to visit next . This, too, is okay. Guests should always be treated with respect and kindness. Just turn the corner and take another street if you’re truly in a rush. If not, slow down and savour the moment.

Now that you know a little bit about how things normally function in urban Canada, let’s continue.

Toronto was eerily quiet in March and April when the Covid-19 lockdowns began. It’s slowly grown more active again as our public health agencies have given our premier permission to reopen certain businesses and relax the quarantine and physical distancing rules.

Yet this still isn’t like any July I’ve known in all my years here. Just like everywhere else, there are no tourists here.

The sidewalks by the busiest roads are beginning to fill up again, but they’re much quieter than they should be. Some streets are still completely empty even at what should be the busiest portions of the weekend.

No one has asked me about good local restaurants and whether the trendy, expensive ones are worth the money. (Some are, but most aren’t in my opinion unless you’re a diehard foodie and Instagrammer. Let me direct you to an awesome hole-in-the-wall down the street instead if what you really want is a full, happy belly).

Nobody wants to know whether they should visit the Toronto Zoo or the Royal Ontario Museum. (They’re both fun, but save the zoo for a day with nice weather when you’re not planning to do much else at all. It’s 90% outdoors, requires hours of walking to see it all, and really isn’t close to any other major attractions at all).

People don’t approach each other much at all these days. We generally keep our distance whenever possible for disease prevention reasons. With the exception of the occasional person asking for spare change, I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a stranger.

In short, it’s quiet here.

How to Be Mindful During a Heat Wave

Woman relaxing in hammock outdoorsThis has been an unusually hot summer so far here in southern Ontario. Our current heat wave has lasted over two weeks and is showing few to no signs of letting up.

With temperatures hovering around 35 C (90 Fahrenheit) every day and soaring into the 40s Celsius range (100+ Fahrenheit) regularly, my air conditioner can’t keep up with the heat and humidity. I count myself lucky when it pumps out cool air!

It is for these reasons that I decided to blog about mindfulness and heat waves today. Feel free to play around with this format to best suit your needs depending on where you’re performing this exercise and what your senses detect while you’re doing it.

As you notice the feeling of sweat beading on your skin or the heat from the sun reaching your body, try to take note of these sensations without judging them. Simply acknowledge them and move on. 

Note the sensations of the surface you’re sitting, lying, or walking around on. Are your bare feet touching a patch of soft grass? Can you feel the heat of the sidewalk through your flip flops? Is the hammock you’re lying on moulding to your body? Is the bench you’re sitting on a smooth one? 

If possible, close your eyes and listen to the sounds of everything around you. Do you heard birds chirping? Car engines revving? A distant conversation? The wind rustling through the trees?

It’s perfectly normal to feel distracted during one of these sessions. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back into focus again. Keep your eyes open or closed as you wish for the rest of it. Soak in every part of this moment you can. 

A drop of water falling into an otherwise still pool of water

Feel your skin’s reaction to the heat. Are you perspiring? What other sensations on that part of your body are currently happening?

Breathe in and out slowly. Notice how your breathe changes the sensations you’re experiencing. Is it cooler or warmer than the outside air?

How is your mind functioning in this weather? What thoughts are rolling through your head? Some people may feel less energetic on days like this. If you can, rest for a little while at the warmest part of the day. 

Gentle acceptance and curiosity is key. How is your experience in this heat wave shifting as a result of this practice? It will probably take multiple sessions to notice changes, but everyone is different. 

Breathe in, breathe out. 

May all of us in hot, summery places stay as cool and mindful as possible.

An Exclusive Interview with Summer

Over the past year I’ve interviewed  springautumn, and winter. Today I’m back with an exclusive interview with summer!

pineapple wearing sunglasses and a party hatLydia: …

Summer: …

Lydia: So about the pineapple head. Didn’t we agree that you’d show up in human form today?

Summer: Technically, yes. Since pineapple heads are more interesting, I decided to improvise.

Lydia: Okay, will I be talking to a pineapple for this entire interview?

Summer: Maybe, maybe not. But at least I’m not perpetually late like spring is! I even showed up early this year.

Lydia: I can’t even argue with that. You made your presence well known in May and June. What have you been up to?

Summer: Growing and stuff.

Lydia: Yes, that is what you’re known for. Can you tell me more about how that process works? Spring and Autumn have both talked about how much effort you three put into the growing season.

Summer: The plants are the ones doing most of the heavy lifting there. We mostly just need to keep them on task. Jack Frost and Mother Nature used to help us set the schedule there. It’s gotten trickier now that the climate is changing so quickly, but at least some of the plants like heat waves.

Lydia: You don’t seem very concerned. I’m surprised. Some of your coworkers had a very different approach to this problem.

Summer: I’m concerned about my heat-sensitive plants and animals, but I can’t fix anything. It’s up to you humans to figure out how strong you want your summers to be. You do seem to be improving lately, though.

Lydia: Yeah, we’ve been staying home more as a species.

Summer: Well, that’s good! I hope it lasts. Winter hasn’t been looking too good these past few decades. I work better when I have a stronger foe.

Lydia: Is that how you think of the other seasons?

Two pineapples floating in a poolSummer: Obviously. Isn’t this all a contest to figure out why summer is the best season of them all?

Lydia: Yeah, I don’t think that’s how any of this works.

Summer: Okay, so we grow food, too. But mostly it’s a contest and I’m winning. That’s all that matters.

Lydia: Don’t you ever think about the paperwork or logistics involved? Do the other seasons know this is how you act?

Summer: What’s understood doesn’t need to be explained.

Lydia: Wait, why are there two of you now?

Summer: Technically, you’re not talking to a pineapple anymore. You’re talking to two of us which means I’m following the rule.

Lydia: You like to look for technicalities, don’t you?

Summer: It’s by far the best way to spend your summer. I mean, how else are humans going to count ice cream sandwiches as dinner or decide they don’t need to wear sunscreen at the beach after all?

Lydia: I don’t even know anymore.

Summer: Now you’re getting the spirit.

Lydia: This wasn’t what I was expecting, but somehow you’re exactly who you needed to be.

Summer: Thank you.

Lydia: No, thank you. This interview has been very illuminating.

Summer: I aim to please.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in June

A park filled with large oak and other trees. Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the fifth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchApril, and May to read the earlier posts. It was 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and sunny this time which I think is the perfect weather for a park visit.

June is a transitional month that includes large temperature swings. The early part of it can see high temperature of 10 to 15 Celsius (55 to 60 Fahrenheit), while a few days to weeks later the hottest point of the day could leap to 35 to 40 Celsius (95 to 104 Fahrenheit).

That is to say, keep your shorts and sandals handy in June….but don’t put warmer clothing into storage quite yet! The nights can still be chilly, and this can be a stormy time of year as well.

Landscape snapshot of a healthy, green forest at the edge of a park.

Let’s take a look at the park from a distance. Isn’t it green and vibrant? Every tree that survived the winter has sprouted its full complement of leaves now. The effects of all of that greenery is stunning.

World War I statue surrounded by luscious green trees.

All of the bushes, trees, and other plants around the statue at the front of the park are green and vibrant.

Top half of world war I statue surrounded by the peaks of tall trees.

There was a time when you could see through to other parts of the park from this vantage point. That time has passed for now.

A dirt running trail in a park.

The running trail is dustier now then it was in May. See also: my new shoes that got covered in dust while I was exercising there the other day. Luckily, they wiped clean again easily.

This trail is otherwise about the same as last month. Barring thunderstorms, I expect it to remain firm and dry until the rainy autumn begins. This is even more true this year due to the fact that the longterm prediction for Ontario’s summer weather is calling for less rain than usual.

Shot of various canopies of leaves from trees against a bright blue sky.

I think you all knew this shot was coming. There’s nothing like standing underneath a canopy of thick, healthy leaves and hearing them rustle in the wind.

 

A sun dappled sidewalk in a park. There is an empty bench in the background.

And another sun-dappled sidewalk. I’m so grateful for the massive trees that provide all of this shade. The rest of my summer visits will probably happen early or late in the day to avoid the full brunt of the midday heat and humidity, but even then standing in the shade makes things much more comfortable outdoors.

Stump of a tree that's been cut down.

Sadly, not every tree survived the winter. One huge change I noticed between May and June is that city workers have finally cut down the dead trees and carted away all of the broken branches I shared in previous posts in this series. That was a welcome surprise!

A tree that lost half of it's trunk in a winter storm. The left half that remains has sprouted green, vibrant leaves.

But our two tree friends who were badly damaged last winter are doing incredibly well.

A large tree that lost about a third of its branches in a winter storm. It is now green and vibrant at the end of spring.

Seeing all of the healthy leaves they’ve sprouted this season gives me a lot of hope for their longterm survival.

The park has been quite busy this month in general. While restrictions on what people can do continue to be lifted, folks seem to be spending more time outdoors this year due to all of the news reports we’ve heard about it being safer to spend time outdoors than in stores or other places where everyone is constantly breathing the same air.

I do expect park activity to slow down as it gets hotter and more humid outside, but it’s quite possible that won’t happen. So much depends on if the rate of new Covid-19 cases continues to drop in Ontario and which entertainment venues, if any, will be deemed safe to reopen before autumn arrives.

Stay safe, friends! I look forward to showing you Toronto in July next month.

3 Things I Love About Summer Strolls

It’s time for the third instalment in my series about hiking – or, in this case, strolling –  during the various seasons. If you’re a new reader or would like to reread my previous posts, I’ve also written about the things I love about spring and autumn hikes. Eventually, I’ll finish this series off with a… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favorite Things to Do in the Summer

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. I’ve been looking forward to this prompt for ages! I can’t wait to get to know all of you a little better. While spring is my favourite season in Toronto, the wonderful thing about summer here is how many different types of events are scheduled during it. I’m frugal… Read More

Summer Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Last January I blogged about the winter worlds I wish I could visit. Now that we’re well into the month of August and temperates are soaring, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic from a summery perspective. One of the differences between this list and the one I did for winter… Read More

What to Read When It’s Hot Outside

Last winter I shared a list of books that I’d recommend checking out when it’s cold outside. All of them were set during the winter because sometimes I like to match the settings in the stories I read to what the weather in Ontario is like at that a particular time of the year. Now… Read More