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.
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?
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!
You could almost think it’s still August here. The running path remains as busy and dusty as always for this time of year.
Many portions of the park look as green and lush as ever.
The canopy of leaves is nearly as thick as it was last month. Have you noticed any of the subtle changes yet?
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…
Or a bit more advanced like this sapling whose leaves seem to be about 30% red…
Or well ahead of the curve with about half of its leaves changing….
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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 sixth instalment of this series.
Click on February, March, April, May, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our tree friend that lost half its branches last winter is thriving from what I can tell.
And so is our bigger tree friend that lost about a third of its branches. I’m still amazed at how well they heal.
The saplings that were planted last month seem to be doing really well, too.
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.
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.
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