Tag Archives: COVID-19

A Photo Essay of Toronto in January

A weak January sun shining through bare tree leaves in a park. There is snow on the ground and an empty bench in the foreground. 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 twelfth instalment of this series.

Due to reader demand, it will not be the final one! Keep an eye out for another update on our two damaged tree friends a few months from now once we know how they fared throughout the winter.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September, October, November, and December to read the earlier posts.

It was 3 Celsius (37 Fahrenheit) but felt like 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) on this month’s visit. Once again, this temperature was warmer than we’d usually expect for this time of the year thanks to climate change. Typical January temperatures here generally remain below freezing all month long even before windchill is factored in. The somewhat sunny sky on this visit was also a bit out of the ordinary.

If you do decide to visit Toronto in January, pack warm clothing that you can easily wear as multiple layers and bring a pair of slip-resistant boots along with the usual hat, gloves, scarf, and a warm winter coat. Frostbite is a real risk here on much chillier days than this one, and it can happen quickly on the coldest days.

The weather was decent at the park this time. We really got lucky this year.

Shot of a World War I statute in an urban park. The skies are partly cloudy and the ground is mostly dry.

There is beauty to be found at the park now when everything is dead or dormant if you have a poetic mind. For example, such blue skies are a rare, precious gift in January!

A muddy, half-frozen running trail in a park in January.

The running and walking trail is once again unusable. This was one of the driest sections, and even it was muddy and filled with patches of slowly-melting ice.

A dirt running trail covered in ice.

This is a more accurate representation of the state of the trail in general. It’s icy, slippery, and muddy in the few places where the ice has begun to melt. Even people who don’t have any mobility issues must take care when walking on it. Running on it is nearly impossible now. The few joggers I noticed had switched to running on the sidewalks instead.

A landscape photograph of an urban park in January. Snow covers part, but not all, of the grass.

Some days are much snowier and slipperier than this one was! It’s common to see layers of snow and ice on all surfaces now. We were lucky to have mostly dry sidewalks on this particular day.

The snow is gorgeous when it sparkles in the winter sunlight in those moments, but anyone could easily slip and fall on the ice that is often hidden beneath all of that enticing snow.

There are other dangers in January park visits as well. We saw dozens of other visitors this time due to the nice weather, but this area can be isolated on colder, wetter days. Speaking as a woman here, I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting the park alone then. This is a very safe area of the city in general, but it’s far enough away from busier streets that finding help could be a little tricky if I slipped on the ice and got injured or if a stranger tried to harm me.

Do keep these things in mind and be cautious if you’re ever in southern Ontario in the dead of winter and decide to visit any of our lovely parks. The chances of anyone getting hurt are low, but it’s always best to be prepared.

A black squirrel running on a patch of dead grass in January.

In happier news, the squirrels were running around doing cheerful rodent things on this warm winter day.

A mostly melted snowman in a park.

And I wonder if this hunk of melting snow was once a snow person?

Snow lying on the grass in an urban park.

There certainly would have been enough snow for that before it started melting.

A skyward shot of bare tree branches against an overcast but somewhat blue sky

This scene is virtually identical to the one from last month.

A sapling that is still holding onto its brown, crunchy leaves in January

This one also seems to be the same as it was last month. It’s interesting to see leaves, brown and dead as they may be, in the middle of winter.

A petite woman bundled up for winter and standing next to a large tree
Yours truly all bundled up for winter. Tree for scale.

 

Another big change from our last visit had to do with how many layers I needed to be comfortable outside. I wore everything recommended at the beginning of this post other than the boots. I run a little cold in general, but boots would have been a bit much for the dry sidewalks I knew I’d be sticking to for the most part. People whose bodies run hot and who love winter might have been able to do without the scarf and gloves on this particular day if they don’t linger too long.

Face masks aren’t mandatory outdoors in Toronto, but they do help keep you a little warmer when that icy cold wind blows. I also find it easier to keep my mask on than to fiddle with it before going indoors again. The Covid-19 numbers have skyrocketed here this winter, so that’s yet another reason to be cautious and leave the mask on until I’m safe at home again.

A tree that lost half of its branches in a 2020 winter storm. It is now dormant for the winter of 2021.

Here is our tree friend who lost half of its branches in a storm from last winter.

A tree that lost a third of its branches in a winter storm last year.

Here is our tree friend who lost a third of its branches in a storm from last winter. This part of the park has many massive trees in it and therefore seems to hold onto snow a little better than other sections.

It’s still too soon to say how either of them are faring this winter. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

A stone walkway in a park. there is one evergreen and multiple deciduous trees lining it.

Finally, here is what the walkway looks like on a warm January day when most of the ice has had a chance to melt. The evergreen trees that provides such nice shade in the summer can keep this area slippery for quite a while after big winter storms, but it was pretty walkable when I visited this time.

Thank you all for taking these virtual walks with me over the last eleven months! You’ve now seen the park during every month of the year.

We will visit it one final time this spring when I check in on how those two damaged trees survived this winter after being so terribly damaged last winter.

Be well, friends.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Goals for 2021

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.

Due to the pandemic, I’m keeping my goals small, flexible, and open-ended this year. Right now Toronto is in lockdown due to our hospitals being overrun with patients suffering from life-threatening cases of Covid-19. Everyone has been ordered to avoid mixing with other households and to only leave home for essential purposes like grocery shopping or going to work (for those who can’t work from home).

Drawing of a person holding a thick lit candle in their opened, cupped palms.

I’m doing my best not to try to predict when the current vaccination efforts here will begin to reduce the pressure on our overwhelmed hospitals, much less when life will start to feel at all normal again.

These are the things I can control, so they’re the goals I’ve set for this year:

Meditate Daily. I meditated a few times a week in 2020 and am trying to make that part of my daily routine in 2021.

Exercise Daily. Not all of my workouts are strenuous by any means. Sometimes I simply go take a walk and enjoy the crisp, winter air! I notice both mental and physical health benefits from doing something active every single day, so I make a point of prioritizing it.

Look for the Good in the World. Honestly, I believe this habit is most important in times just like these. This doesn’t mean I ignore the difficult parts of life, only that I think humans sometimes need a little prodding to take note of what’s going well for them (or humanity in general).

Try New Things. Right now this must be limited to new recipes, TV shows, and movies, but I hope it will be safe to leave home and expand that list dramatically later on this year. Will I be able to take that dance class I wanted to try a year ago? Make new friends? Learn a new skill? End up with a job or volunteering gig as a result of saying yes to something I haven’t even heard of yet? The possibilities are endless, and I’m open to them all.

Finally, here is one final goal that is only somewhat under my control this year but still important to me:

Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19 . I’m in a low risk group for this illness, so it will be quite a while before there are enough vaccines for young, healthy folks like me. Still, I want to do my part to help end this pandemic for the sake of everyone who can’t be vaccinated and/or who is high risk for this illness.

Star Trek as Comfort Food

This post was inspired by my friend Megan Cutler’s series on must-watch Star Trek: The Original Series episodes.

Star Trek Enterprise D Transporter. Photo credit- Konrad Summers
Star Trek Enterprise D Transporter. Photo credit- Konrad Summers

These past few weeks I’ve been rewatching old Star Trek episodes from many different eras and series even though I have plenty of other shows that I haven’t seen for the first time yet.

I don’t know about you, but I crave certainty in uncertain times.

Star Trek has filled many niches over the years. Sometimes its stories are a reflection of controversial issues we deal with in the real world that don’t have simple solutions.

Other episodes might humorous, poignant, hopeful, silly, or any combination of these and many other themes.

There have been Star Trek characters and episodes whom I loved immediately, slowly grew to have a deep appreciation for once I got to know them better, or, in a few rare cases, honestly never connected with much at all. (Not everything appeals to everyone!)

Star Trek itself is comfort food for me, and it’s been this way since my first experiences with it through reruns of The Next Generation. No matter which episode or series you pick, there are some things that almost always remain the same in this franchise.

Hope

There are many excellent science fiction books, stories, and TV shows out there that do not necessarily hold a hopeful perspective of human nature or the future. This isn’t one of them.

While Star Trek writers have occasionally strayed from this theme in the more modern versions of it, this franchise in general takes a hopeful stance on what we are capable of and what our future might hold.

Perfection doesn’t exist in this or any other universe, but human society has changed for the better in so many different ways between our era and theirs.

Every time I see characters greet living beings from other planets, order a meal from a replicator, or be treated for an illness or injury that would be fatal in the twenty-first century, I feel another pulse of hope that we’ll someday create versions of these futuristic wonders for ourselves in the real world.

Certainty

Photo of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock from the television series Star Trek on May 2, 1967.Yes, there are plenty of obstacles along the way in just about any Star Trek story arc, and they can be difficult to resolve depending on the series and the specific conflict in question.

Sometimes these conflicts are so complex they take up multiple episodes or seasons (see also: Deep Space Nine), but viewers always know there is a solution on the way eventually if they stick with it to see what the characters do next.

That certainty is a breath of fresh air now more than ever.

Call me an idealist, but I believe there’s something to be said for losing yourself in a storyline that will be resolved satisfactorily at some point.

Humour

By far the biggest reason to think of Star Trek as comfort food is all of the humour tucked away into it. No matter which series we’re talking about, there are reasons to smile when watching all of them. Yes, even Picard and Discovery if you look closely enough!

You may have noticed that I avoided mentioning specific Star Trek episodes in this post until now. That was done on purpose in order so that I could talk about the over-arching themes of this universe. Discussing a particular episode was less important than knowing there are many options to choose from when you’re a Star Trek fan who wants something warm and reassuring to watch after a long day.

With that being said, I’ll now provide a short list of my favourite humorous Star Trek episodes and provide one reason each for watching them. If you’re also a fan of this franchise, feel free to add your own suggestions below.

Episode: The Trouble with Tribbles

Series: The Original Series

Why You Should Watch It: Not only was it the funniest TOS episode in my opinion, it’s also aged the best since first airing. The idea of Kirk being outsmarted, if only temporarily, by what are essentially extremely fertile hamster-like creatures called Tribbles makes this a must watch for anyone who hasn’t seen yet.

The benefits of owning a tribble.

 

Episode: Trials And Tribble-Ations

Series: Deep Space Nine

Why You Should Watch It: The only thing better than tribbles is revisiting them vis a vie time travel!

Trying to blend in while time traveling.

 

Episode: Qpid

Series: The Next Generation

Why You Should Watch It: After being transported to a Robin Hood storyline, Worf dryly exclaimed, “I am not a merry man.” Watch the expression on his face below. It’s comedy gold.

Worf is not a merry man.

 

Episode: Tinker, Tenor, Doctor Spy

Series: Voyager

Why You Should Watch It: The doctor singing for Tuvok is priceless regardless of how well you do or do not already know these two characters.

The doctor sings for Tuvok

Take a Walk This Thanksgiving

Close-up shot of a leaf-littered autumn path. Both sides of the path are surrounded by trees and bushes that are still half-full with their autumn leaves and colour. This post will meander much like my Thanksgiving strolls do.

One of my favourite things to do on Thanksgiving or any other holiday that has decent weather is to take a walk.

If the big meal of the day is scheduled for the evening or if the weather is expected to turn chilly later on, I’ll wander off in the afternoon when the temperature is as its warmest.

Ideally, someone will join me, but there’s also something to be said for walking quietly with your thoughts on a day like this one.

Thanksgiving is one of those big holidays that temporarily shuts down the usual rhythms of life here in Ontario. This is even more true this year due to our government asking us to celebrate it with other members of our households only and avoid all unnecessary in-person interactions with other people now that the second wave of Covid-19 is surging.

Yes, there are advantages to gathering with kind relatives during the holidays. I miss my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews and dream of the day when my spouse and I can be together with them again.

But there are also advantages to quiet holidays at home, and a walk at the nicest part of the day is one of them.

Our slice of the world is a fairly still place on Thanksgiving even during ordinary times. If they’re lucky enough not to be working, most folks stay home and rest on that day or go visit relatives.

The streets are nearly as empty as they’ll be a few months from now at Christmas. Very few restaurants and other places of business are open today, and I tend to avoid the ones that are to encourage them to give their employees a break.

A walk doesn’t require anyone to put on a uniform, miss out on time with their loved ones, or clean up after you. At most, you might need to find something delicious to nibble on in the kitchen when you return back home.

Walks are meditative. There’s nothing like looking at the beautiful world around you, whether it is a forest painted with all of the colours of autumn, a suburban park filled with curious wildlife, or a quiet urban road that somehow feels like a poem that’s about to begin whenever you unexpectedly see a car drive by.

Parent and child taking a walk on an autumn-leaf-strewn path. Taking a walk is a gentle form of exercise that most people are capable of doing. A pet, small child, senior family member, or loved one who might have a disability that makes more strenuous forms of exercise difficult may be able to join you.

If the pets in your life are anything like the dogs my family had back in the day, they will insist on joining you and might just keep you out of the house much longer than you were expecting to be gone!

Good conversations can happen on walks. Yes, this can include conversations with yourself if you’re walking alone. I am not ashamed to admit that I occasionally talk to myself on walks to sort out a problem or figure out what to do with my stories next.

Walking is non-competitive…unless you’re my siblings who genuinely find joy in making everything a competition between them. Ha! For the rest of us, it’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require any scorekeeping or picking a winner.

It’s tempting to overindulge during the holidays. I find it helpful to go take a walk before I decide whether my stomach truly needs another slice of pie or serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Whether the answer to that question is yes or no, there’s definitely something to be said for giving your body some time to start digesting what you’ve already eaten before digging into another plate. I’d rather be stopped at the point of satiation than cross that line and end up uncomfortably full.

Have I convinced you to go take a walk yet? I hope you enjoy it if I have.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canadians!

A Photo Essay of Toronto in September

A red leaf lying on the ground. 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 eighth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, and August to read the earlier posts. It was  13 Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) and slightly cloudy during this month’s visit.

September is a wildcard month like March. This was one of the cooler days in it so far, but we’ve also had days that were about 30 C (86 F). Last year, our September was just as hot and humid as August was.

If you ever visit southern Ontario in this time of year, remember to pack for both extremes of temperature. You might shiver one day and perspire the next. Even locals can’t assume anything about next week’s weather based on what we’re wearing today which is why my wardrobe currently includes everything I own other than my thickest winter sweaters in it. Ha!

Two things make September look and feel different from August other than the unpredictable temperatures swings that happen as the seasons change. One, the humidity generally goes down. Two, a few trees begin to change colour before the dramatic shift that will come in October.

But before we talk about that, I sadly must show you our Covid-19 protests. This shot was taken at a distance so you can also see the greenery at the park.

Landscape portrait of a park in September. There is a road in the foreground and green trees in the background.

Are they protesting for better wages for the doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers saving lives? More personal protective equipment for frontline workers? A stronger social safety net for everyone who has suffered financially during this pandemic? Free counselling for anyone who needs it?

Shot of World War I memorial at a park. Sign on the memorial says "Covid-19 survival rate 99.8%"
The sign said: “Covid-19 survival rate: 99.8%.”

No, they’re protesting because they don’t want to wear masks, prevent the spread of disease, or listen to the experts on public health, epidemiology, and medicine. I respect everyone’s right to protest, but please note that most of us are taking this pandemic seriously and are embarrassed and annoyed by the small percentage of Canadians represented here.

This shot was taken from a distance in order to protect the identities of the protestors. May they and their loved ones stay healthy and never learn the hard way just how dangerous this virus is.

In more cheerful news, look how green the trees remain!

A tree-lined running path in a park.

You could almost think it’s still August here. The running path remains as busy and dusty as always for this time of year.

A park filled with green, lush trees.

Many portions of the park look as green and lush as ever.

A thick, green canopy of leaves under a blue sky

The canopy of leaves is nearly as thick as it was last month. Have you noticed any of the subtle changes yet?

A humongous tree whose leaves have just begun to turn yellow.

Maybe this will help. Most trees are still 100% green, but some of them are showing the first signs of their autumn colours. It can be fairly subtle like this tree…

A sapling whose leaves are 70% green, 30% red.

Or a bit more advanced like this sapling whose leaves seem to be about 30% red…

A tree that is more than 50% turned into its autumn colours

Or well ahead of the curve with about half of its leaves changing….

 

A tree with one-third bare branches, one-third red branches, and one-third green leaves still on it.

Or even like this oddity that is simultaneously bare, covered in red leaves, and still hanging on to the green ones. My spouse and I wonder if this is normal for large, towering trees in a forest. Maybe they get the lion’s share of strong winds that rip off their leaves as soon as they’re the tiniest bit loose?

A tree that had half of its leaves shorn off in last winters storm now growing strong in september

Our tree friend that lost half its branches last winter seems to be thriving. All of its leaves are still green, and its trunk looks as solid as can be expected given the damage it sustained last winter.

A tree that lost a third of its branches. It's remaining branches are drooping, and the trunk looks like it will split in half

But the tree friend that lost about a third of its branches doesn’t seem to be doing well. Many of its branches are bent over now, and the crack in its trunk seems to be widening and creating new, smaller cracks in its wake.

I’ve avoided walking underneath its branches for some time now. Many of them are large and quite heavy looking.

Close-up shot of a badly damaged trunk of tree with deep cracks in it.

This was as close as I dared get. As I’ve said before, I’m not an arborist, but this tree really doesn’t look healthy to me. I hope I’m wrong about that and it wakes up stronger than ever next spring.

A bare tree against a green one

On a lighter note, this is the time of year when you can see a tree that has lost all of its leaves right next to one that’s still green. That juxtaposition always makes me smile.

A bush whose leaves have begun to turn red.

Do you remember how I told you all to look at the ground six months ago when seeking out the first signs of spring? That rule doesn’t really apply in the autumn.

Bushes and trees alike are showing the first hints of their autumn colours. Whether you look up, down, or all around, you’ll find them with a little bit of patience.

A shaded stone path through a park.

The famous stone walkway remains more or less the same shady, green spot its been since May for the time being.

Ontario seems to have entered our second wave of Covid-19 infections, but I don’t expect that to interrupt this series.  Our parks always remained opened for socially-distanced walkers and joggers even when the first wave of cases was as its highest and all other park amenities were closed (including benches for a brief time last spring!) If I get sick or if Toronto’s bylaws unexpectedly change in ways that require this series to be paused, I will let you all know about it as soon as possible.

Next month will bring dramatic and, in my opinion, breathtaking changes for our foliage. I can’t wait to share it with you all! Stay safe, friends. I cherish these virtual walks with all of you.

Why I’m Starting My Light Therapy Sessions Earlier This Year

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A Summer Without Tourists

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… Read More