Living in a Natural World

Readers of a certain age will recognize that this post’s title evokes but also contradicts a line in a pop anthem of the mid-Eighties. It wasn’t the music of my youth, but rather of my early adulthood. Lately numerous events and encounters have kept reminding me of the natural world I live in.

The Eclipse

Yesterday a partial solar eclipse passed over Toronto with maximum coverage of 80 percent of the sun occurring exactly at dawn. I remembered that I have mylar eclipse glasses, last used for the 1991 total eclipse over Baja California, now sitting in a basket of detritus on the home office credenza. Just before dawn I drove to a nearby park to have an unobstructed view. With my eyes protected by the glasses I watched the moon’s shadow slowly receding from the rising sun. Though much of the sun was in the moon’s shadow, the growing brightness of the sky was undiminished. The experience of watching the shadow moving across the sun’s face was awe-inspiring.

The Golf Course

My last walk on the Don Valley Golf Course before it reopened exclusively for golfers was in mid-May. Blossoms and leaves were on the trees and I was aware of the dense forest surrounding the manicured but empty greens and fairways. Geese and ducks had taken over the course’s two ponds. I asked myself what would happen if we stopped fertilizing and cutting the grass and let nature take over. Within a few years it would revert to forest.

The Neighbourhood

Working on a presentation, I pasted in the University of Toronto’s acknowledgement of land and remembered that the Huron-Wendat and Senecas, whose ancestral land the university occupies, were traditionally forest people.

We have the good fortune of living in North York, close to several of Toronto’s parks and ravines. It is very different from paved-over downtown ‘hoods. Our green and leafy neighbourhood makes it possible to imagine what this area looked like before Europeans settled and urbanized it.

My wife puts out peanuts in the backyard for the squirrels, chipmunks, and cardinals. A few other animal visitors – one which I will post in a few days on Facebook – are also taking advantage of her largesse. Foxes, coyotes, and deer can often be seen in Toronto’s ravines, and sometimes visit nearby streets.

The Garden

We have a garden and I work on it, weeding the front yard and growing morning glories and vegetables in the back yard. I’ve started posting pictures on Facebook of what is growing.

The Future

Now that I’m retired and have fewer work-imposed deadlines and obligations, I’ve begun to turn my mind to the natural world. I am noticing and contemplating things I previously overlooked. I don’t know where this will lead me. Doing more with the garden? Learning more about various aspects of nature? Environmental activism? I don’t have answers yet, but I’m starting to ask these questions.

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