Tag Archives: Winter

Stay Home and Read

Woman holding a book and smilingA 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 cold and flu season. While I have some mixed feelings about how they’ve reported on this new outbreak in particular, it’s difficult to ignore all of the new information pouring in about COVID-19 and how regularly new cases have been diagnosed in Ontario lately.

Like the rest of the world, Toronto is nervous about this topic. There have been so many folks stocking up on toilet paper and other supplies that some stores here have actually put limits on how much of those items you can buy at a time.

I happen to be part of an age bracket that is at very low risk of developing complications from Coronavirus, much less dying from it. I also don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions that would make it harder for my body to fight this illness. If I were to develop it, chances are excellent that it would be no worse than a bad cold or the flu for me if I even developed symptoms at all.

Three piled books on a white wooden table. Still, I’ve found myself staying home more often these days. I’d hate to accidentally spread this illness around to people at high risk of complications if I’m one of those young, healthy people who have it while showing few to no symptoms of it.

When I do go out, I’m noticing that our libraries, stores, and malls feel a bit quieter than usual. My guess is that other folks are cutting back on spending time in large crowds when possible as well.

Since most of my favourite places to visit are outdoors and I’m trying to reduce my time spent in crowds, reading seems like the perfect solution.

March is a chilly, sloppy time of year in Ontario anyways. Might as well read until the weather improves and the spread of this disease is hopefully slowed down while scientists work on a vaccine for it.

This means that you may be seeing more book reviews on my site over the coming weeks. I love writing them, but they take up so much time and energy that I generally can only get through a certain number of them in the average month.

There are only so many TV shows I can watch and hours of Minecraft I can play before needing to do something else with my free time, though, so reading it is.

I already have my first review of this semi-quarantine season ready to go for next week! Thank goodness I still have a big pile of library e-books to plow through as well.

How have your daily routines changed this cold, flu, and coronavirus season? How are your countries and communities reacting to COVID-19? Are you all staying home and getting more reading time in than usual these days, too?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in February

The idea for this new series came from two places.

Terry Tyler’s year-long photo series on what her local park looks like in each month of the year.

And Marianne Arkins’ comment on a post I wrote last month in which she asked me to share more of my photography.

Once a month, I will share snapshots of one of the parks in Toronto so my readers can get a feel for what the climate is like then and what the foliage is (or isn’t) doing. I may share bonus photos of other parts of the city, too, once the weather warms up and I’m spending more time outdoors.

February used to be a colder and snowier month in Toronto than it is in this century. I didn’t grow up here, but the weather in my childhood home state of Ohio is similar enough for me to make the comparison between them.

Climate change has shifted those historical weather patterns. February now acts like March in this part of the world. By that I mean that it’s unpredictable and often stormy. One day you could have a blizzard and overnight lows of -20 C (-4 F) or colder. A day or two after that it could warm up to 10 C (50 F) and sunny.

Landscape photo of a park. Image on left is of a World War I statue. There are numerous trees in the background and a road in the foreground.

My visit happened on a warm day when it was about 7 C (44 F) outside. The sun was shining, but there was still some snow on the ground.

The orange fence you see is the background is part of a city project to revitalize this park. It’s a heavily used area and the ground had been pretty trampled before city workers started to cordon off areas to let them rest.  Close-up photo of snow sitting on the steps of a World War I monument.

A park monument covered in snow and ice.

Photo of trees in a park. There is a bench and walkway in the foreground and a large patch of snow covering the grass in the background.

All of the plants are dormant or dead at this time of the year. You can see a few straggling leaves from last autumn still holding on, but the trees’ branches are bare other than that.

Notice that you haven’t seen any people here yet. While I do my best to avoid taking photos of strangers, this isn’t a popular time of year for going to the park in general. I didn’t see anyone in the distance while I was there.

Close up shot of a pile of snow beside a sidewalk and the trunk of a tree.

There is generally some snow on the ground in February. It melts on warm days, but we’ll probably continue to get more snowfall and to see patches of old snow hanging on in shady spots until April. A running trail covered in slushy snow and half-melted ice.

The photo above is of a muddy running trail that is flooded with half-melted ice and snow. Normally, it would have a flat, solid dirt surface.

One of the reasons why people don’t visit our parks as often, or at all,  in February has to do with what the land is like now. The cycles of freezing and thawing creates less-than-ideal conditions in the park for many common activities like having a picnic, exercising, or otherwise straying from the sidewalk.

We get so much precipitation in Toronto that it’s hard for the ground to absorb all of it when it’s cold outside. This sort of flooding is normal and generally keeps happening until April when everything thaws out and the soil can absorb more water.

The park actually looked pretty good when I visited it. It can be much more flooded than this at the end of the winter. There have been times when the entire sidewalk was covered in ice if we’d recently had a big snowstorm that melted and then refroze overnight.

I will pick this series up again next month when we’ll see what March is like here.

On Mindfulness, Light Therapy Lamps, and Being a Human Houseplant

A desk lamp shining down on a houseplantMy name is Lydia, and I’m a human houseplant.

Or at least that’s what it feels like at this time of the year. You see, I get the winter blues. While other people are outside revelling in the snow, ice, and cold weather, I’m inside quietly counting down the days until spring.

If winter in Ontario included as many bright, sunny days as spring and summer did, this post might be quite different.

But our winters include months of long, dark nights that make me half-forget what it’s like to feel warm sunlight on my face.

And having access to enough bright light is important for my mental health. It boggles my mind that some people on this planet live in places that don’t see the sun for months on end. I wouldn’t be able to cope with that well at all unless someone invents a way for humans to go dormant for the winter like real plants do.

Luckily, there are light therapy lamps for wilted houseplants like myself. I’ve been basking in the glow of that artificial sunshine this winter.

Sometimes I sat there and surfed the Internet on my cell phone. It was an especially good way to pass the time when I first accepted the fact that I needed to use one of these lamps but was skeptical about if it would do any good.

If actual plants had opposable thumbs, they might look at cute animal pictures while soaking up light, too, so they didn’t have to count down how many weeks left until spring or how many weeks after that it will take the weather systems in Ontario to shift from cold, wet, and slushy to anything that bears the faintest resemblance to true spring weather.

Then it started to work.The sadness began to lessen. I could concentrate better, I felt less sluggish, my energy levels slowly began rising, and my quality of sleep improved.

Am I back to my old self yet? No, but I’m doing better. That’s something to celebrate, especially as we inch into the time of the year that is the most challenging for me to get through.

For now I sit next to my lamp and chuckle at the fact that I react so much to the lack or the presence of sufficiently strong light. I am entirely human-shaped, and yet somehow I still need to bask in light like a plant to function properly.

When that thought passes, others don’t take its place. In this moment, I am surrounded by light. I breathe in and out as it shines onto me, the desk, the chair, and the floor.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It’s that simple.

An Exclusive Interview with Winter

Person standing in a 6+ foot tall tunnel built into thick walls of snow and ice. Last year I interviewed spring and autumn. Today I’m back with an exclusive interview with winter!

I’ll conclude this series with an interview with summer later on this year…that is, assuming winter eventually decides to concede their post.

Winter: Hey, I heard that!

Lydia: My apologies. I didn’t think you’d join us quite so soon.

Winter:  Well, I was a little tardy showing up this year. And spring did warn me about you. 😉

Lydia: Heh, I heard a few things about you from spring as well. How have you been?

Winter: Things are changing rapidly for me. I’m sure you’ve all noticed how winter is different than it was in generations past.

Lydia: Yes, we sure have. How has climate change affected your work? It sure seems like your season has changed the most as a result of it so far.

Winter: I’ve noticed the same thing. Of course there have been shifts in our patterns in the past, but never this severe or rapid. It’s one thing to switch off duties with spring or autumn during the transition periods, but now it’s happening in the middle of my shift!

Lydia: That must make managing the weather pretty tricky.

Frozen Rose covered in frostWinter: It sure does. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even finally going to meet Summer one of these days. Spring and summer say we have oddly similar personalities.

Lydia: Hopefully, that won’t happen. Summer has been dealing with extreme temperatures, too.

Winter: What, you don’t want a heatwave and a blizzard in the same day?

Lydia: As tempting as that would be in the heat of August, I think the plants wouldn’t like that.

Winter: Well, I don’t like the plants!

Lydia: Wait, what?

Winter: I’m totally joking there. I forget that not everyone gets my frosty sense of humour.

Lydia: Okay, good. I was quite surprised for a second.

Winter: I’m not actually supposed to know the plants. Most of them die or hibernate by the time I show up, and the few stragglers left aren’t the best conversationalists.

Lydia: Does this mean all of the seasons are able to talk to the plants?

Winter: Yes, but humans weren’t supposed to know that. Forget I said anything.

Lydia: No worries, I won’t press the issue, but I’m going to keep this in mind for my conversation with Summer.

Winter: Just don’t tell them I said anything. Proprietary secrets of the trade and all. So what else do you want to know?

A frosted windowpane. Lydia: What can you tell me about Jack Frost?

Winter: He moved to Alaska recently for the balmy weather, but he’s still keeping his main home in the North Pole.

Lydia: That’s fascinating. Do you speak to him often? How would you describe your relationship with him?

Winter: He’s a serious, hardworking guy, but I know almost nothing about his personal life. You should interview him after you’ve talked to summer.

Lydia: I’ll do that! Thanks for stopping by, winter. This conversation has been very illuminating.

Winter: The pleasure is all mine.

3 Reasons Why You Should Try Mall Walking

Person wearing brown boots and blue denim. The're standing on snow and their boots are caked in snow. Mall walking is a form of exercise involving people walking briskly through the long corridors of shopping malls before the stores open for the day when there are very few other folks about.

This is the time of year when I begin to yearn for spring. It’s one thing to experience snowstorms in November and December when the memory of summer is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Winter weather somehow feels even colder and snowier when it’s been happening for a couple of months already and can be expected to keep popping up for at least two more of them.

Luckily, Toronto has plenty of malls to walk around in while the temperatures plunge and snow falls outside. There is definitely something to be said for taking advantage of all of that dry, temperature-controlled space until April arrives.

If you haven’t tried mall walking yet this winter, here are three reasons why it might be a good idea to give it a shot.

It’s Scaleable

Child running up a flight of stepsWalking can be made as easy or as difficult as it needs to be to meet your current fitness goals.

It can be a short, gentle stroll through the mall for someone who is brand new to exercise or just coming back to it after an accident or illness.

A long, brisk power walk might be a good choice for someone who has been exercising for a while and wants to increase their endurance.

I’ve even seen people run up multiple flights of stairs while on walks in order to give their muscles and cardiovascular systems a bigger challenge. Note: I don’t recommend this one on busy days at the mall or other public places!

It’s as Sociable or Solitary as You Prefer

Two people walking indoors. There is a large wall filled with glass windows behind them. I’m the sort of person who loves walking with a partner or group of people. There’s something about walking and talking that makes both of those things much more appealing to me than they’d be on their own.

The nice thing about walking at a mall is that either of these options is perfectly safe and acceptable.

There are certain places like parks that I don’t feel safe visiting early in the morning and late at night when few other folks are around because I am a short, petite woman. This is even more true during the winter when the sun rises late and sets early.

Malls always have security guards patrolling them, and no matter how early I might show up in the morning I’ve always seen other mall walkers there as well.

I really like being able to get a walk in at the mall by myself or with someone else without needing to think about safety factors like these.

It’s Warm, Dry, and Indoors

People walking around in a brightly lit mallTaking an outdoor walk on a warm, spring day in Ontario is a pleasant experience.

In February? Not so much. Our winters can be beautiful, but they’re also generally wet, icy, and freezing cold for months on end.

While I definitely prefer walking outdoors, it is nice to have a place to go during the winter where you can unzip your coat and walk around without slipping on any ice or snow.

Malls have plenty of flat, even surfaces to walk on. The ones I visit are kept very clean and dry, especially if you visit early in the day before the biggest crowds show up.

There are times during winter and early spring when I impatiently wait for the weather to warm up again. I doubt I’ll ever look forward to this part of the year, but I do appreciate having such nice places to move around in while the weather outdoors is cold, icy, snowy, muddy, rainy, and sometimes all of those things at once in a single day!

If you live near a mall, how often do you go there to exercise?

3 Things I Love About Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This post is the final instalment of a four-part series I’ve been slowly working on about walking during each season of the year. Click on the links in this sentence to read about the things I love about spring hikes, summer strolls, and autumn hikes. Winter is my least favourite season. The  cold temperatures, short… Read More

How Winter Has Changed Over My Lifetime

Lately, I’ve been thinking about climate change and how the expectations of what winter, or any other season, will be like in the average year are changing. The official graphs and charts that show how rapidly the average temperatures are climbing from one decade to the next are obviously quite important, but I think there’s something… Read More