Singing Sands

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, Bruce Peninsula National Park, June 2013

Last month, on the Bruce Peninsula, we went to Singing Sands twice.  As I’ve mentioned, it’s part of Bruce Peninsula National Park, off of Dorcas Bay Road on the Lake Huron side of the Peninsula.  I loved walking on the beach among the rocks and footprints of the birds, seeing the tenacious plants that grow there, the patterns of water on sand, hearing the gulls and terns.  In past years, I’ve seen killdeer and sandpipers, but none this time. I wondered if there were fewer of them or whether I was there at the wrong time of day for them.

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, June 2013

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, Lake Huron, Ontario, June 2013

Singing Sands

Singing Sands, patterns of water on the sand, June 2013

Todmorden Mills on a Cool June Evening

Todmorden Mills in June

At Todmorden Mills, June 5, 2013.

I went to Todmorden Mills in Toronto in the early evening yesterday.  It was cool and sunny and my preoccupations of the day left me as I got closer to the trees, freshly mown grass, birds and flowers in this bit of preserved nature. The irony of its being so close to the Don Valley Expressway is never far from consciousness.  

Todmorden Mills in June

Todmorden Mills, June 5, 2013

There’s a wildflower preserve at the site—a short trail through forest by ponds.  There I saw yellow and violet irises growing by the water, plus many wild phlox.  I came upon a man and his beloved dog having a walk as well as a jogger.  Many robins, sparrows, red winged blackbirds and cardinals were with me.

Todmorden Mills in June

Yellow irises by the pond at Todmorden Mills, June 5, 2013

Todmorden Mills in June

Iris by a pond at Todmorden Mills, June 5, 2013

In that short hour my mood went from preoccupied and low to extremely peaceful. 

Todmorden Mills in June

Wild phlox in the wildflower preserve at Todmorden Mills, June 5, 2013

Nature at Yogaville

Swallowtail on Azalea

Swallowtail on azalea bush, Yogaville, Virginia, April 2013

In April, when I was in Virginia, we drove south out of Charlottesville to Buckingham.  Along the way, the woods were dappled with pink/lavender redbud trees and the occasional white dogwood.  We spent two days in Buckingham at Yogaville with friends.  Yogaville is a spiritual centre devoted to the teachings of Swami Satchidananda. 

Swallowtail on Azalea

Swallowtail on azalea bush near Nataraja shrine, Yogaville, April 2013

Yogaville View

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Nataraja Shrine at Yogaville, April 2013

The grounds of Yogaville are very beautiful.  One day we climbed to the Nataraja Shrine atop a hill.  There we saw the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance and looked out over LOTUS, the shrine to all faiths.  On the hilltop we saw vibrantly pink azaleas with many swallowtail butterflies alighting on the flowers.


Light of Truth Universal Shrine, Yogaville, April 2013

At another time, surrounded by the sounds of abundant bird song, I saw the first red bellied woodpeckers I’d ever seen.  They came to our friends’ bird feeders outside their woodland house. Many goldfinches also came to feed as did downy woodpeckers, titmice, ruby throated hummingbirds and, of course, squirrels.  These were some of the plumpest I’ve seen—healthier looking than their urban cousins in Toronto.  


Red Bellied Woodpecker at feeder, Yogaville in Buckingham Virginia, August 2013

While in Charlottesville


Woods and stream in Charlottesville, Virginia, April 2013

Last week when I was in Virginia, I stopped in Charlottesville.  Off the main roads, we walked in a wooded area accompanied by the melodies of song birds.  The trees and plants had put forth spring yellow-green foliage.  This was wonderful to see after travelling south from Toronto where only the first buds had begun to show.  Not that those hadn’t been welcome too, just that spring was at a more abundant stage in Virginia.


Dwarf irises in the woods, Charlottesville, Virginia, April 2013

 In the woods, I came upon wild violets and pale lavender dwarf irises arising through last autumn’s leaves.   A small stream flowed nearby and the temperature was in the upper 70s.


Redbud tree in Charlottesville, Virginia, April 2013

 To and from the woods, we walked across landscaped ground.  Redbud trees were in bloom with tulips and azaleas in a garden plus another pale green flower I have not identified. The dogwood in flower is from a nearby location.


Dogwood tree in Charlottesville, Virginia, April, 2013

In the Snow at Kortright Centre for Conservation

Snow on Conifers at Kortright

Snow on Conifers at Kortright Centre, Feb. 10/13, Ontario

On February 10th, the Sunday after the significant snowfall in Toronto and all of southern Ontario, my husband and I drove to Kortright Centre for Conservation to walk in the snowy woods.  We belong to a car sharing company and had fortunately reserved a car for the day in the hopes of having a snowy outing.  We’d missed being in the snow at Kortright the previous year when so little snow had fallen.

Snow in Woods at Kortright

Snow in Woods at Kortright Centre, Feb. 10/13, Ontario

 In the morning, we walked through deep snow.  We don’t have snow shoes, so the going was strenuous but very beautiful.  Our afternoon hike was on trails that had been cleared or walked on and was easier going, but no less lovely.  The afternoon light was diffused and the snow seemed to shine from within as it softly covered the ground.  The blue grey shadows of the trees and logs washed across the warm white.  What a miracle snow is.

Snow in Woods at Kortright

Snow in the woods at Kortright Centre, Feb. 10/13, Ontario

As I often write, the poignancy of this beauty in light of human contribution to the warming of the planet was with me.  I took solace in the day: in the chickadees, woodpeckers, finches, mourning doves and cardinals we saw and heard, in the trees, the stream and frozen marsh and so much that is life-giving and calls out to be seen, heard and valued deeply.

Kortright snowy woods

Kortright Centre, snowy woods on Feb. 10/13, Ontario

Field, B. C.

Field, B. C.

Field, British Columbia, Sept. 2012

Back to  the Rockies.  When we hiked in Yoho National Park, we stayed in Field, B. C.  Field is a tiny town of around 100 people on the eastern border of British Columbia with beautiful views of mountains.  Our one sighting of a black bear was in Field.  We were eating at the Truffle Pig Restaurant one evening (and greatly enjoying our meal) when another patron pointed to a small bear by the railroad tracks.  Most of us got up to have a look.  The next day, signs were posted that a young bear had been seen searching for food by the tracks, apparently separated from his or her mother.  We were cautioned, for the bear’s safety and our own, not to approach the bear if we saw it again.

Truffle Pig Restaurant in Field

The Truffle Pig Restaurant in Field, B. C., September 2012

Mountain, Field B. C.

Mountain seen from Field B. C., Sept. 2012

Mountains, Field B.C.

Mountain seen in Field B.C., Sept. 2012

Field is on one side of railroad tracks.  Directly on the other is the National Park Office which we went to several times to check on conditions before hiking.  We heard about the Burgess Shale fossil finds for the first time at the Park Office.  And this was, in part, responsible for my interest in the ancient history of the land.  I’ll come back to this in a future post.  In the National Park Office’s parking lot, we encountered many magpies walking about, likely also in search of food.  Though magpies are common in the Rockies, we had never seen these birds before our trip and, to us, they were beautiful.

Magpie in Field, B. C.

Magpie in the Yoho National Park Office’s Parking lot in Field, B.C., Sept. 2012

During our time in Field, the temperature fell to highs of 8 degrees Celsius with clouds and showers.  But, after bundling up, we enjoyed our hikes to Wapta Falls and Emerald Lake which I’ll also tell you about in future posts.

Mountains, Field B. C.

Mountains seen from Field B. C. in Sept. 2012.

Meanwhile, in Toronto

I’ll be adding many more posts about my time in the Canadian Rockies.  I think of the mountains every day and miss them.  Meanwhile, in Toronto it’s autumn.  The turning leaves are beautiful and bring me solace as I travel around the city.

Autumn Oak Leaves in Toronto, Oct. 2012

Autumn leaves through Mocha Mocha cafe’s window, Toronto, Oct. 2012

Autumn in Kensington Market, Toronto, Oct. 2012

Today, it was very warm and sunny.  I returned to the Brick Works—passing milkweed in luminous seed by the railway tracks.  Other people strolled about on this lovely day and I spoke to a woman who had seen eastern bluebirds at the Brick Works yesterday.

Milkweed by the railroad tracks, Toronto, Oct. 2012

Brick Works–reflections of autumn, Oct. 2012, Toronto

Brick Works, Oct. 2012, Toronto

I saw and heard red winged blackbirds, chickadees and mallards.  Also, I heard what I believe were finches or warblers of some sort.

Chickadee at the Brick Works in Toronto, Oct. 2012

And at the Brick Works, I read a sign about the geology of the land here.  It was good to relate my new found interest to the land close to home.  And to contemplate, as I had in the west, that we live off of life much older than ourselves.

The sign reads:

The rock of this west quarry wall is shale with harder layers of silty limestone.  It originated in a tropical sea around 448 million years ago.  If you look closely you may see some fossils…The presence of easily accessible shale made this site valuable as a brick making operation.

Autumn on a warm day at the Brick Works in Toronto, Oct. 2012

Autumn in the Parks

Hemlock Bluffs Lookout in Algonquin Park, Ontario, September 29, 2012

Hemlock Bluffs Lookout in Algonquin Park, Ontario, September 29, 2012

Before writing about the time we spent in the Rockies, here’s a side trip to Algonquin and Arrowhead Provincial Parks in Ontario.  I travelled north this past weekend to see the fall colours.  The oranges, reds and yellows were at their peak contrasting with pale greens and the deeper green of conifers.  We hiked in Algonquin Park, coming upon other nature lovers, among them families with young children.  As before, we were gladdened to see parents introducing their children to nature.

Bat Lake Trail in Algonquin Park, September 2012

On Bat Lake Trail in Algonquin Park, Sept. 30/12

Saturday and Sunday were cloudy and cool, but the rain held off until late afternoon each day when we had just finished our hikes on the Hemlock Bluffs and Bat Lake trails.  I felt blessed to be among the trees and rocks, by lakes and streams.

Hairy Woodpecker in Algonquin Park, September 2012

Hairy Woodpecker seen on Hemlock Bluffs trail in Algonquin Park, Sept. 29/12

We saw chipmunks, many chickadees, blue jays, hairy woodpeckers and a great grey owl on Sunday.  This we found in the comical way we often do in parks.  We came upon a large crowd of people pulled over by the roadway, with their telescopic lenses and smaller cameras all looking intently off to the side.  We thought we’d see a moose when we joined them, but no, this was a much rarer sighting we were told.  I had never seen an owl in the wild and was happy to see this bird who rewarded us at one point by spreading his or her huge wings and floating out of the tree toward the ground, perhaps in search of prey.

Stubb's Falls in Arrowhead Provincial Park, Ontario, 2012

At Stubb’s Falls in Arrowhead Provincial Park, Ontario, Oct. 1, 2012

Our last day, Monday, we spent at quiet Arrowhead Park, taking a gentle walk to and from Stubb’s Falls.  Monday was sunny and warmer than the weekend.  We walked among the bright trees and onto boulders at the side of the falls.  The deep colours, loud rushing water and the reflections in the river were a tonic and a joy to see before returning to the highways and the different rushing of Toronto.

Parallel Worlds

The Don Valley Parkway running through green spaces in Toronto, Canada, 2012

I went for more walks on the weekend and mid week to the Brick Works in Toronto, Canada to be in a natural setting.  Each time, I took the usual route down a hill, then beside railway tracks.  This part of town is very close to the Don Valley Parkway, a busy expressway.  Yet there are natural settings all around: trees, parkland and shrubs.

Dried thistles and shrubs by train tracks near the Don Valley Expressway, Toronto, Canada, 2012

I love seeing the flowers and grasses that grow wild along the edges of railway tracks–those discarded places reclaimed by nature.  The wildflowers here were profuse, with the yellows and whites now joined by purples.  I could hear birds singing above the din of cars and the buzzing of cicadas.  I was struck by what seemed to be the parallel worlds I was walking through: the thundering traffic where we are insulated in cars and trucks and the natural setting of plants, birds and insects.  This is not a new observation; many people must feel this.  However, it struck me more dramatically than it had before.  I felt I was walking in a corridor between two worlds.

Wildflowers by the side of train tracks in Toronto, Canada, 2012

Milkweed growing near train tracks in Toronto, Canada, 2012