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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.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in August

Pink flowers growing right next to a brick building.

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, and July to read the earlier posts. It was a balmy 22 Celcius (72 Fahrenheit) on the morning I took this month’s photos.

August has been peculiar this year like that. Our hottest days so far this month haven’t been much more than 35 C (95 F), and we’ve even had a few days that were only about 28C (84F) at their peak. That’s about 10-15 degrees cooler than it was for much of July which is a welcome relief if also pretty unexpected.

This makes me wonder what autumn will be like. Will it be hot like it was last year, or are we in for a quick descent into winter? Only time will tell.

Here’s one big difference between last month and this one – it took me a few tries to get a clear shot of the front of the park due to the increase in vehicular and foot traffic. I ended up needing to go back at a different time to try again. That hasn’t happened since this photo project began. People must be working from home less and travelling more now.

Lanscape photo of a forest, World War I monument, and a crosswalk.

Once again, everything is green and growing so quickly you can practically see it sprout up taller. Okay, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but the vegetation in Ontario does grow very quickly at this time of the year.

A World War I statue in a park. The statute is surrounded by stone steps.

Winter is coming soon despite the heat of August. All of those seeds need to be dispersed and those roots grown deep and true before then.

A dirt running trail shaded by trees in a park.

The running trail was well used this month. Thanks to all of the thunderstorms we’ve been getting, it’s not very dusty at all either which is also out of the ordinary for August.

This next photo might alarm you all just a tad, but let us all clasp hands virtually and get through this fluffy menace together.

Green trees and a grass clearing in a park. There are white clouds peeking up over the trees in the background.
Actual footage of autumn sneaking up on us.

Yes, the sky was only 90% blue on this month’s visit! There were white clouds peeking out in just about every direction I looked.

A park lamp, several green trees against a blue sky filled with some puffy, white clouds.

Contrary to what this series might have lead you to believe, Toronto doesn’t always have blue skies. In fact, we spend half or more of the year with a permanently overcast sky. It generally happens in the autumn and winter regardless of whether there are storms in the forecast for that particular day, and it is a big reason why I love my light therapy lamp so much. Ha!

Keep an eye out for a dark, cloudy sky that seems to last forever soon. I’m guessing it will return in October this year, but it could be a little sooner or later than that.

Skyward shot of thick tree branches filled with green leaves.

But summer remains for now. I wish you all could hear the rustle of the leaves here. Like I’ve said before, it’s one of the most soothing sounds I know. You can hear it everywhere if there isn’t too much background noise.

A tree that lost half of it's leaves and branches in a winter storm last winter. The remaining half are green and lush.

Our tree friend who lost half of its branches continues to do well. There was a tent* and people nearby that I needed to avoid photographing, but the shorn-off section looks like it healed nicely.

*Some people who are homeless have set up tents to live in this park this year. From what I understand, shelters in Toronto don’t have enough space for everyone, there are many Covid-19 cases in them, and there are long waitlists for housing for folks from this demographic group. I’m not ethically comfortable photographing people in such precarious circumstances. If only I had the funds to get apartments for all of them. A tree that lost a third of its branches last winter. There is lots of damage in the trunk.

The much larger tree that lost a third of it’s branches and leaves is still around. I noticed what appeared to be some cracks in its trunk. I’m not an arborist, but I do wonder how it will fare with our next ice storm.

Hopefully, it has repaired itself enough to make it through this upcoming winter (or even the next bad thunderstorm), but I think I’ll avoid standing underneath all of those large, heavy branches in the meantime.

A sapling with dead leaves on it.

Some of the saplings that were planted earlier this year have developed brown leaves on them. It’s a couple of months too early for trees to start changing colour, so this isn’t a good sign. I hope these little trees do better in the future.

 

A green, leafy, shaded, area in a park.

In happier news, the vast majority of the trees in the park seem to be doing well. This is the time of year when it feels wonderful to stand in the shady areas this urban forest provides. It’s amazing to see how much of a difference it makes to experience August under a thick canopy of leaves versus standing in direct sunlight.

Young black squirrels sitting on a patch of grass in a park looking for food.

Even the baby squirrels agree! They’re hard to photograph because of how small and easily spooked they are, but these little guys were about half the size of a regular squirrel.

One of my goals for this autumn is to get some better squirrel photos for you. Sometimes they’re friendlier in the autumn when they’re gathering up last-minute food before winter. (No, I will not be feeding them, only hopefully photographing them).

A cobblestone-like sidewalk in a park. The sidewalk is heavily shaded by large oak trees.

This is the time of year when the park is best enjoyed from a quiet, seated position. Luckily, there are plenty of places to sit there.

And this is where I’ll leave our monthly visits of the park until September. Stay safe out there, everyone!

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.

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.

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen.… Read More