In­stant Tran­quil­ity

Es­cap­ing the city streets into hid­den green spa­ces is eas­ier than it seems in the big city

More of Our Canada - - My Hometown - By Richard Woolsey, Toronto

As a fan of hid­den gems and a true ad­mirer of na­ture’s per­fec­tion and beauty, I want to tell you a se­cret about the big city of Toronto.

Toronto has ap­prox­i­mately 10.2 mil­lion trees, with a tree and shrub canopy that cov­ers 26.6 per cent of the city, ac­cord­ing to a study called “Ev­ery Tree Counts: A Por­trait of Toronto’s Ur­ban For­est.“Not a bad chunk of ur­ban for­est com­pared to other big cities in North Amer­ica.

In Toronto, even the most densely pop­u­lated areas are blessed with havens of cool, moist, green for­est. In many lo­ca­tions, you can take just a few steps right off a sub­way train and find your­self in the trees, ab­sorb­ing the sounds of the wild along with a wel­come si­lence.

Mostly hid­den from street level, these green spa­ces are walked, hiked, biked and deeply loved by many vis­i­tors and sea­soned Toronto city slick­ers. Toronto’s ravines of­fer easy ac­cess to in­stant tran­quil­ity any time of year, free for ev­ery­one.

I try and ex­plore as many of these won­der­ful spa­ces as I can, three or four times a month, with a cou­ple of friends who have dogs. We all head out to­gether, with sand­wiches and lots of wa­ter for the dogs.

I tend to go to the ravines clos­est to where I live, but there are many more that I have not seen or ex­pe­ri­enced…yet!

My favourite things to do when ex­plor­ing Toronto’s ravines are to sim­ply walk or sit and lis­ten. It’s amaz­ing that in only a few steps from the crazy streets you can sud­denly be in a place where you feel the crack­ling of twigs un­der your feet, see a tiny spot­ted chip­munk dis­ap­pear in a blink or hear a big-winged drag­on­fly buzz by. Don’t panic, drag­on­flies don’t sting!

In the sum­mer, I like

get­ting in the wa­ter. There are some deeper pock­ets of wa­ter, like lit­tle round pools. I sit in them and just re­lax.

Even dur­ing win­ter, I love to go out and ex­plore. Once, on a par­tic­u­larly cold day, my friend Larry and I were walk­ing on the ice in a ravine. The ice be­gan mak­ing crack­ing sounds—and we fell through, right up to our shoul­ders! Oddly enough it was fun and the wa­ter didn’t seem all that cold. Laugh­ing, we got out and started run­ning for home. As it be­came colder, our win­ter clothes started turn­ing to ice!

As cities grow and ce­ment re­places green­ery, I won­der if we shouldn’t ease up on all this ex­pan­sion and try a lit­tle “less is more.” This nat­u­ral world hid­den within Toronto whis­pers and breathes all around you, ca­ress­ing your senses from ev­ery an­gle, telling you it’s okay to slow down in Canada’s big­gest city. It calms and soothes the speed of our mod­ern day minds. En­joy its splen­dour with good peo­ple and smil­ing dogs and count­less free walks, any time of year, in Toronto’s many tran­quil hid­den ravines. ■

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