Here we are. Despite Covid, despite Trump, nature has blessed us with another spectacular show of fall colours in Eastern Ontario.
I find this time of year, I bring my camera with me wherever I go, longing to capture that perfect shot, but rain and clouds have been my nemesis this fall. Every time I head out, the clouds roll in and the trees seem to transform from a brilliant debutante into a dowdy old maid.
I was paddling in our back lake the other day, and here’s the good news, the heron is still here.
Herons are the first to arrive each spring, and the last to leave each fall. In the spring, you’ll see their majestic return as the first creeks and streams open up, well before the ice has melted from the main part of the lake.
In the fall, after the loons fly south, the turtles stop sunning themselves on the logs, and the beavers stop being so busy, it is the solitary heron standing sentinel over the chilly waters.
Some people say it’s not over until the fat lady sings. I say it’s not over until the heron leaves, so get out and enjoy the last of this brilliant fall weather.
Here are some photos from my fall photo essay Autumn ablaze last year and from my latest outings. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny”—Lao Tzu
For the better part of 2020, many of us have been alone with our thoughts, and understandably, those thoughts have been more dark, troubled and worrisome.
I think this quote in large part explains what is happening in the United States right now. Alone with their thoughts, people have lashed out and acted out. It makes me wonder about America’s destiny. I truly believe they are at a turning point in their history.
Every event of historical significance has begun with a thought or difference in thoughts: the American civil war, Aryan supremacy and the Holocaust, communism.
Our thoughts can be a friend, giving us hope, comfort and fortitude, and urging us to do and act better.
Or they can be our enemy, closing our ears and hearts to differing opinions and causing us to act in shameful ways.
We may feel like the world is out of control right now. But we always have control of our thoughts.
We may not be able to travel right now, but you don’t need to go far to find some amazing places to explore.
I live north of Kingston in South Frontenac township, and while I’ve always known how amazing this area is, many people may not be aware the United Nations thinks it’s amazing too, which is why they have designated the Frontenac Arch a UNESCO designated biosphere.
In Ontario, we have three UNESCO designated biospheres, Long Point, Georgian Bay, and Frontenac Arch. You can read all about them and their amazing sites at visitamazingplaces.ca.
There are 686 UNESCO world biospheres in 122 countries. Biospheres are protected areas that are significant for their biological diversity and ecological systems and that exhibit a balanced relationship between people and nature through sustainable development.
The Frontenac Arch extends from Sydenham and Westport, down to Gananoque and over to Brockville. It is where the grandeur of the Canadian Shield meets the St. Lawrence River valley. It is home to windswept pines, shimmering waters, boreal forests, trails and fields and such diverse and at risk species like barn swallows, blanding and mapped turtles, bald eagles, and black rat snakes, all of which we’ve seen on our lake.
Here are some of my favourite places on the current “most amazing places” list*
Brockville Railway Tunnel: Dave, Clare and I visited the tunnel just a couple of weeks ago. Canada’s first railway tunnel, it opened in 1860 when the Brockville & Ottawa Railroad (B&O) was incorporated to link Ottawa with the Brockville waterfront. The tunnel has been outfitted with an impressive light show, making it a must-visit spot in Eastern Ontario.
Mine Loop Trail at Gould Lake: mica, a thin shiny silver mineral was mined in this area at the turn of the century. Mica was used by the electrical industry as an insulator in items such as toasters, and as windows in items such as lanterns. The mine at Gould Lake is exposed, but there’s an even more amazing one you can explore at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park (closed right now due to COVID).
Rock Dunder*: probably one of the most popular hikes in Eastern Ontario, this former scout camp property takes you past beautiful lakes to a summit with a breathtaking view of the Rideau canal.
Jones Falls: be sure to start this leisurely stroll at the top of the falls at the stonearch dam, an engineering marvel, then meander down past the locks and buildings that date back to the 1840’s.
This week’s #HappyAct is to explore an amazing place in your region.
More happyacts on some of the amazing places to explore in the Frontenac Arch
I have been spending more time in my screened-in gazebo this summer. Not only during the evening cocktail hour, but as day turns to night. It is one of the best times to sit back, listen, and watch the show.
There is that magic time when the sun sets and the daytime creatures tuck into bed and the nighttime creatures wake up.
The crickets get going first, then the creepers and tree frogs. Next, the whip-poor-will calls out….and if he is close by, he goes on and on and on. Anyone who has heard one knows exactly what I mean. They are very difficult to see as they are masters of camouflage, but you can’t miss their call. Around our place, they like chatting with their friends and we often hear them calling back and forth in the night.
As I sit still and listen to the nighttime symphony, you can also tune in to all the bugs that are busy buzzing in the night (definitely glad to be in a screened enclosure!) I’m not sure what different species there are–not a real bug lover–but I can confirm the mosquitos are alive and well.
The best part of the evening is the call of the Great Horned Owl. We also have a few in the area that like to chat with each other. I find their call peaceful and soothing, not like my whip-poor-will friends. When you hear the owls, you get to know each has a distinctive call and they do sound like wise owls as they calmly chat with each other. I wonder what they are saying?
This week’s #HappyAct is to eavesdrop on nature at that special time from dusk to dark the next time you are in the country. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Editor’s note: We are very lucky to have several owl species in Eastern Ontario. While Alison may be hearing Great Horned Owls, she may also be hearing the popular Barred Owl, which is famous for its “who cooks for you” call. If you are ever lucky enough to see these shy magnificent creatures, the Great Horned Owl has yellow eyes and tufts of feathers protruding above the eyes, to make it look like they have horns. Barred owls have brown eyes and no tufts. This is a picture of a barred owl I took at Lemoine’s Point Conservation Area–not a great picture, but he was still a handsome fellow. You can see the difference between him and the Great Horned Owl, pictured below. Happy hooting!
Tesla has finally come out with a new electric truck. If you haven’t seen it yet, it looks like a space-aged DeLorean and costs roughly $50,000. While many of us may not be in a financial position to be on the first buyers’ list, there are things we can all do now to do our bit for the environment and climate change.
Here are ten super simple things you can do in 2020 to help save our planet:
When grocery shopping, place loose fruits and vegetables in a reuseable shopping bag instead of using the thin plastic bags in the store—there’s really no need to bag green onions, lettuce, peppers, etc.
Use recyclable travel mugs instead of disposable cups.
Stop using drive-thru windows to reduce idling and emissions—you’ll also get more exercise if you walk in to get your coffee or treat.
They’re saying grocery prices will skyrocket in 2020. If you’re a meat eater, try reducing your meat consumption by 10-20% and save on grocery bills too.
Stop buying bottled water.
Recycle clothes by donating old clothes to local clothes initiatives. Why not shop there too? Some of my favourite finds have been at used or community clothes places.
Get crafty: instead of throwing household items out, see what you can make with them instead. I have a couple of friends at work who make gorgeous furniture and household items with recycled stuff.
Don’t buy or use plastic straws or cutlery. At work, keep a mug, plate and fork and spoon on hand for work celebrations and potlucks.
Get serious about commuting—if you live in the city, try taking the bus or biking to work. If you’re in the country, see if you can ride-share a couple of days a week with a neighbour or co-worker. Or, negotiate with your employer to see if you can work from home from time to time.
Compost. I’m shocked at how many people don’t compost. Not only does it redirect items from landfill, you get beautiful, rich soil for your garden.
This week’s #HappyAct is for all of us to start making little changes in our buying and consuming habits, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we all need to take action now. I pledge to focus on #1-3 and #9 this year since we’re already doing most of the others.
What are you doing to save the planet? Leave a comment below.
It has been inspiring to see how reconciliation has finally become more than just a word in this country.
Every conference and event now starts with an acknowledgement of the First Nation territories and their land upon which the event is being held.
When I was at Queen’s University a few weeks ago to hear presentations from graduate students in their school of public health, covering one wall was a string of flags hung by the students declaring their personal act of reconciliation.
I was especially proud recently to view a special work of art done by the students of Loughborough Public School, where Clare goes to school. The piece called “From What Dish Do You Want to Feed Your Grandchildren From” is 13 feet long and spans one of the foyer walls. The artwork was chosen as the Ontario entry for a special gathering in Winnipeg as part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
It was inspired by a treaty signed between the Anishinaabe, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee First Nations in 1701 where they agreed to share the territory and protect the land, its animals and bounty around Lake Ontario. The philosophy these young students are trying to pass down to future generations is we all share the same land and eat from the same bowl with the same spoon. We must respect the land, its inhabitants and take care of it so it continues to thrive and reap bountiful harvests for future generations.
There are no knives at the table—an equally powerful message about acceptance, harmony and living in a peaceful society without war.
I’m always amazed at the creativity and talent of young people. They used natural elements like beaver pelts and birch bark stitched together with modern symbols of how we are harming our environment in a beautiful tapestry, then overlayed personal messages and artwork for a powerful mosaic that reflects Canadian and First Nations values and principles.
This week’s #HappyAct is to ask yourself and answer the question these young minds are challenging us to answer: what will be your personal act of reconciliation?