Spring’s symphony


Spring is a delight for the senses, especially sounds. For the past few weeks on my nightly walk, I’ve been serenaded with the symphonic sounds of spring.

The first movement begins with the dolce sounds of a songbird, introducing the sweet melody in the opening sonata. His solo transitions into a chorus of sopranos and altos: spring peepers and chorus frogs whose peep, peep, peep and crick, crick, crick fill the night air with fanfare.

The staccato sounds of a woodpecker pierce the night air, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. A barred owl takes centre stage in the spotlight demanding, “who, who, who cooks for you”. The final movement builds in intensity, as the drumming beat of a grouse drives the last few refrains. Quiet descends.

A perfect performance on nature’s stage.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and enjoy the symphonic sounds of spring.

Hear the sounds.

Watch these videos to learn more about the performers in spring’s symphony.

Western chorus frog

Spring peepers


Get your hands dirty

IMG_1439I moved to the country about 20 years ago. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to like it, having lived in the suburbs most of my life. Much to my surprise, I fell in love with this area, its vastness, beauty, community spirit and the freedom we have to roam and explore. I feel like I can breathe here.

Country life isn’t for everyone, and this post is not meant to wax poetic on the joys of country living. But I do believe that in today’s urban culture, we have become separated from the land that sustains us physically, emotionally and spiritually.

We have moved from a society of hunters and gatherers, to producers and manufacturers, to knowledge workers who use screens and devices to do our work. What toll does this have on us as human beings? Have we lost basic skills of survival? Have we lost a respect for our land and its sustainability? Have we suffered spiritually or emotionally from not being firmly grounded with terra firma?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I know is when we drive back from Toronto and pass the final townhouse in Oshawa and see the open fields, I sigh a big sigh of relief and rejoice in the sights and smells of the land on my way home.

This week’s Happy Act is to get your hands dirty and plant something. Saturday, May 3 is Community Tree Planting Day in Ontario. I’ll be planting trees twice this week. My kids’ public school is having a work bee to build a new garden as part of the school’s Eco Schools initiative (a big shout out to Union Gas for donating $1,000 and volunteers to help with this project). On Saturday, my entire family will be at Lemoine’s Point Conservation Area planting trees for the Cataraqui Conservation Area. If you go to the Trees Ontario website, you can find out where you can plant trees in your community this Saturday.

NOTE: Apologies for the late post this week for you Sunday morning regulars. Our home internet was down for the last five days–country living!

Here’s some pictures from the tree planting: Volunteers from Union Gas with a young helper, and my family at Lemoine’s Point in Kingston.

Union gas volunteers planting trees



Swinton family planting trees

Listen to the lull of a waterfall

At our secret waterfall

Like most Canadians I long for the sounds of spring. The returning honks of Canadian geese gracing the sky on their flight path home, the high pitched chirps of spring peepers in the early evening, and the sounds of rushing water as our lakes, streams and rivers run free, washing away the remains of winter. They are music to my winter weary ears.

As I write this, I look out at my lake and it is still frozen, covered with a fresh skiff of snow. Most people think ice breaks up on the lakes. It doesn’t. It turns blacks, and then honeycombs before sinking, so one day you come home to the marvelous sight of open, shimmering water and the promise of warm, summery days ahead.

One of our favourite walks in the spring is to our secret waterfall. I don’t know how many people on our road know about it. We are the only people we ever see there. It only runs for a few weeks during the spring run off, but it is magnificent. We throw sticks at the top and watch anxiously to see if they navigate the rushing waters and make it over the crests of the rock to the pools below. The kids make forts and splunk in the channels, getting soakers but not caring. The dogs splash and drink from the cool, fresh water. It is a magical place.

This week’s Happy Act is to go for a hike to a waterfall and be lulled by its soothing sounds. Here is my list of favourite waterfalls in our region and some farther afield for you to discover.

  1. Jones Falls on the Rideau canal: a beautiful afternoon hike off of Highway 15, featuring a stone arch dam built in the 1830’s. Park in the upper parking lot and follow the trail along the dam down to the canal below.
  2. Bedford Mills cascade: small, but spectacular scenery off of Division Street north of Kingston half way to Westport. We’ve done a family photo shoot here.
  3. The Waterfall Tearoom in Yarker—yummy homemade fare overlooking a gorgeous little waterfall, open from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving.
  4. Frontenac Park, Slide Lake Loop—a challenging 21 km hike that passes Labelle Gorge and a series of waterfalls.
  5. Montmorency Falls just outside of Quebec City. It’s been many years since I’ve been there, but I still remember its magnificence.
  6. Cataract Falls in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park in Caledon—lots of great memories here as a child.
  7. Elora Gorge on the Grand River—my girlfriends and I had lunch in the restaurant overlooking these falls a couple of years ago on one of our girls’ weekends.
  8. Niagara Falls—never disappoints, I’ve never seen them from the American side though…maybe next visit

WaterfallRushing waterMoss on rocks