Tag Archives: COVID-19

A Photo Essay Update on Damaged Toronto Trees

Last year I shared photos from one of the parks in Toronto once a month to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is an update to two trees in that series that were badly damaged in a winter storm in early 2020.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September, October, November, and December, and January to read the earlier posts and see what the park is like throughout the year.

Welcome back to this photo essay series! This post will be shorter than previous instalments in it since I’m only focusing on the two damaged trees that some readers requested an update on after the winter of 2020-2021 ended.

Photo of a damaged tree whose branches are curving downward.

Let’s begin with the tree that lost a third of its leaves in that storm last year.

Look at how nearly all of its branches continue to bend down. You rarely see anything like that here.

 

A large branch that has fallen off of a sick tree.

A week or two ago, I noticed a branch that was taller than me lying on the ground next to it. I suspect that it fell off during a recent storm due to the lack of cut marks on it and the way the bark was peeled off, but I can’t say for certain.

A large bare tree branch lying on the ground.

On a more recent visit, I saw this. I thought it was the same branch but also couldn’t confirm it.

A possibly rotting trunk of a tree.

The trunk looks like it’s beginning to split open, and something appears to be growing inside of it. Maybe it’s mould or a fungus of some sort?

I worry about the survival of this tree as well as the possibility of someone getting hurt if a large branch falls on them while they’re standing near it.

Closeup of a tree that lost half of it's branches.

In happier news, the tree that originally lost half of its branches and a good chunk of its trunk is not showing any signs of mould (or whatever that stringy stuff was) growing in it. The wound on its drunk appears to be dry. There are no deep cracks in the wood, and all of it’s branches are as straight as the branches on healthy trees nearby. Landscape shot of a tree that lost half of it's branches in a storm in 2020. It's just beginning to bud again.

And to think I originally assumed this tree had been killed in that storm! Nature is full of surprises.

Side view of tree that lost half of it's branches in a 2020 storm. The branches that still remain are just beginning to sprout many new leaves.

 

May it stick around for many years to come.

I’ll continue to keep an eye on these trees and will provide another update in this series if either one of them experiences a dramatic change in health for the better or the worse. My hope is that any future update in this series will only contain good news, but we’ll have to see what happens.

If you’ve ever seen trees in your area go through similar injuries, I’d love to hear about your experiences there.

My reduction in blogging time will continue on for now. As much as I miss interacting with all of you more often, I’m enjoying the quieter schedule and using that writing time to focus on my speculative fiction.

Why I’m Reducing My Blogging Frequency

Content warning: this post includes references to seasonal depression, people who died from Covid-19, and people who are permanently disabled from Covid-19. 

I’ve been blogging for many years now. It’s been my experience that blogging can be a cyclical hobby or profession.

Sometimes bloggers have plenty of time to write and so many topics we can’t imagine how we’ll find room in our editorial calendars for everything we want to say. In other seasons of life, things change.

I Need to Rest

Brown and white bunny in a wicker basket on a bed
Not my bunny or basket, but I grok this feeling.

In some ways, it has felt like March of 2020 never ended. All of the events and trips I looked forward to when the long, dark days of winter feel never-ending were cancelled last year and they are beginning to be rapidly cancelled again this year.

To be perfectly clear, I completely understand why this is necessary for public health and safety and in no way sympathize with the anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and anti-science protestors.

Honestly, I have had a much easier experience during this pandemic than many people out there. I have safe housing, a loving marriage, plenty of food, and money to pay the bills.

Out of all of my relatives who have caught Covid-19 so far, only one distant relation has passed away from it and only one or maybe two closer relatives have what are probably permanent health effects from it.

I’m very grateful for my and our good fortune in these troubled times. So many people are dealing with much harder situations.

With that being said, I’m also bone-tired. For anyone taking notes out there, the winter blues do not mix well with pandemics at all. This combination should be avoided at all costs in both real life and fiction. I’d give it zero stars out of ten even if you have somehow personally have managed not to know anyone who caught Covid-19. It’s exhausting.

I Need to Write Fiction

Closeup photo of person typing on laptop keyboardMy other reason for trimming back on new blog posts here is a cheerful one.I need to preserve more energy and creative juice for writing my speculative fiction stories!

It’s been several years since my last tale was published. That must change. I have pages of notes and rough drafts for future stories. All I need is the time and creative juice to bring them to life.

It is my hope that this new blogging schedule will facilitate that once my mood perks up in the spring.

Longterm readers might remember that I’ve gone through similar periods of cutting back on blogging here before. It’s something I really don’t like doing, but sometimes it’s necessary even if it makes me want to go sit in the Naughty Blogger corner for daring to change my posting schedule. LOL!

I’ll revisit this decision later on this year to see how I’m feeling and how sustainable the new blogging schedule is.

The New Blogging Schedule

Snapshot of an iPad that is opened to a page that says "my weekly priorities" and has a numbered list on it.
My hope is to eventually return to my usual Monday – Thursday schedule, but I’m cutting out all Monday posts for now. They generally tend to take up as much writing time as two to three of my other weekly posts combined.

If you follow me on Twitter, I will continue to share several posts from my archives each Monday for #MondayBlogs. Thank goodness that past me wrote plenty of them to cycle through while current me rests.

(Some? Most?) Tuesdays – Top Ten Tuesday posts. I love the TTT community, so I’ll do my best to stay connected to it when my energy levels and other commitments allow for that.

Wednesdays – Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge posts

Thursdays -speculative fiction book reviews, but probably only for short stories.

This is the hardest part of the year for me even during non-pandemic times. April is always better for my mental health, especially once I’ve had multiple long walks in the warm sunshine and my brain realizes spring truly has arrived.

If only I had a crystal ball that could tell us all exactly when this pandemic will end and life will feel more predictable again.

How has Covid-19 impacted your blogging and writing habits? How are you all feeling now that we’re over one year into this pandemic? Do you also feel guilty about changing your blogging routines?

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

A Photo Essay of Toronto in September

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, March, April, May, June, July, and August to read the earlier posts. It was  13 Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) and slightly cloudy during this… Read More

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

I am not a doctor, and this post is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider to see if light therapy lamps are right for you. Last winter I talked about how much light therapy helps me with my winter blues. When I stopped using it during our… Read More

5 Homeschooling Tips From a Homeschooler

I recently read that there has been a surge of families interested in homeschooling thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. As someone who was homeschooled for several years, I have some tips to share for anyone who is planning to or thinking about homeschooling their kids this year. Before we dive into the meat of this… Read More

I’ll Show You My Drafts Folder If You’ll Show Me Yours

Why, yes, I did write the same sort of post last summer! It was such a smashing success that I’ve decided to do it again. Last year’s peek at upcoming posts has since been edited to include links to everything that I ended up writing. Some of the stuff listed below are ideas from last… Read More