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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.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Types of Exercise I Enjoy

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

There are quite a few types of exercise I enjoy.

  1. Weightlifting
  2. Swimming
  3. Dancing
  4. Power Walking
  5. Canoing*
  6. Hiking*

Animated Figure lifting weights*Although I haven’t done either of these in a long time and definitely would need to recondition my body for them. That is to say, let’s pick the easiest versions of these things if you want to do them with me.

What all of these activities have in common is that they’re non-competitive, fairly easy on the joints in most cases, and can be done solo or in a group.

When I was a kid, the vast majority of my exposure to exercise was team sports.

I’ve never liked team sports, so it took me a while to realize how many forms of exercise are out there that don’t require competition, keeping score, or having winners and losers.

Kudos to those of you who thrive on competition and being the biggest, strongest, and/or fastest person in a group.

But to me, exercise is most enjoyable when it’s about doing something cool either by myself or with a few other laid-back people.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Person reading a book.I’d never heard of a book hangover until Jana mentioned them in this week’s prompt.

Most of the strong attachments I formed to books happened when I was a child or teenager. It was fairly rare for them between that point in time and my current age until pretty recently for reasons I haven’t figured out yet.

So this list is a short one, but a few years ago it wouldn’t have existed at all. The links in this post will go to my reviews of these books.

1) The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The imagery in this book was so strong that reading it made me feel as if a movie were playing out in my mind. I sure hope this gets made into a film or TV show someday. We’re overdue for an aquatic show, especially one that tackles as many important themes as this one does.

2) Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

There’s something about reading about pandemics that comforts me every flu season. I still need to read the rest of this series, but, wow, was this a good introduction to this universe! Jumping around among so many different characters really drew me into this world.

3) The Testaments by Margaret Atwood 

I’ve been a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale for many years now. It was immensely satisfying to finally get a sequel to it. I can’t wait to see how the updates on so many characters from the first book are integrated into the TV show based on this series, too.