Glee Club, Girl Friend and Garden Spider: Friday, 22nd August 2014

This has been a truly hideous week for me and although today was another hospital day, I was determined to spend at least some of it by the water enjoying my precious peninsula before checking in. If Cam gets word of this trip I’ll definitely come-a-cropper; he cannot fathom how the park is on my way to PRHC and absolutely does not approve. Connecting the dots (Cobourg to Brighton to Peterborough), Cam sees a triangle, I see a direct route…

Unfortunately, just like my last visit, it is an H-cubed weather day. The haziness is showing up in most of my photos including the lighthouse shot, below. Sign of autumn’s approach: Migratory water fowl are congregating preparatory to their flight to México (see the Green Herons at the tip of the spit?). Seems like only yesterday we were welcoming them all back again. 

Lighthouse at Presqu'ile. (Green Herons congregating prior to migration.)

Lighthouse at Presqu’ile.
(Green Herons congregating prior to migration.)

Part I: Glee Club

There are way too many sights and sounds at Presqu’ile for me to document them all but some are so much more astonishing and prominent that I cannot help but comment. Today was exactly such a day:

Goose Glee Club was very obviously holding auditions and rehearsals for their migratory formation flight!

No matter where in the park I found myself I could hear their enthusiastic honking. Overhead the mad flapping of their wings could be heard, their numbers blocking the sun/casting huge shadows as they flew past and, as evidence of their strenuous workout, there was an almost constantly falling shower of feathers all of which left none of us human visitors in any doubt that the geese mean business and that they’ve no time to spare in their practice schedule. True it’s early days yet, but I’m not sure who was most frustrated, their choir master or their choreographer.

Goose Glee Club Was Here!

Part II: Girl Friend

As usual, I ended up by the lagoon at the site of the old hotel, a spot I usually have to myself. Today though, there was a couple already enjoying their picnic. I parked L’Oeuf, got out my camera and coffee and began scoping out possible photos. The haze was discouraging, but I shot a few passable images of the lagoon itself. I laid down my camera, sat at the other picnic table and was sipping my coffee when the lady came over and offered to share her picnic. 

We immediately struck up a happy conversation as she portioned out some home-made fruit salad for us. She was, she explained, thrilled to be feasting on fresh Papaya, Mango and Pineapple, all of which are ‘scarce as hen’s teeth’ (her words not mine) in her home town of New Liskeard. It was delicious, juicy/sweet, drizzled with ‘her special mixture’ of honey and lemon juice and an oh-so-special treat for me, it being completely unexpected. She was delightfully friendly, and before long we were gabbing like we’d known each other forever, not mere minutes. Eventually her husband joined us and we spent a happy time discussing the pleasures of the park and the surrounding counties. Sadly, in order to make it to dialysis on time, I had to excuse myself but I left knowing I’d made a friend for life with this lovely lady from Ontario’s northland.

Lagoon Living Old hotel site, Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

Lagoon Living
Old hotel site, Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

Part III: Garden Spider

Do you remember my park buddy Evan? Today was “spider day” at the park and Master Evan was the facilitator. I stopped for a quick look at the ‘exhibits’ (urgh) and was just in time for the presentation of the final species, the Argiope aurantia or Black and Yellow Garden Spider. How can a name sound so exotic in Latin and so humble and ordinary in English? Argiope is Latin for “with bright face”; aurantia is Latin for “overlaid with gold”. Here is what I learned:

1.  Female bodies range from 14 to 28 mm in length (today’s sample measured the full 28).

2.  Habitat: Typically common in gardens, orchards, forest edges, old fields, and farms.

3.  Food: Prey is insects that jump or fly and are intercepted by the web. These spiders can tackle large prey such as grasshoppers and have even been known to capture small lizards.

4.  Lifecycle: An annual species, males die not too long after mating and females usually die off towards the end of the fall, or early winter. Studies have actually shown that the males’ death is triggered upon their second insertion into the female during mating. (Yikesabee! In front of wee kiddies. As you’d expect, all the dads made disgusting ‘sloppy seconds’ jokes and all the mums looked furious and embarrassed. My Evan, of course, was loving every minute of it.

Ladies and gents, presenting, Argiope aurantia:

Argiope aurantia:  Black and Yellow Garden Spider.

Argiope aurantia: Black and Yellow Garden Spider.

It was a lovely interlude, and I left Presqu’ile feeling happy and at peace with the world which is, of course, why I love my peninsula so very much.  

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Breezes, Blossoms and Breathing – Monday, 11th August 2014

This artificial vein and valve (dubbed v-squared) replacement has proven itself to be a much longer journey than predicted and a very tough battle to win. There are times I have been close to crumbling, to surrender, to giving up. Here we are, mid-August and I’ve hiked Presqu’Ile less than half a dozen times. True, I’ve driven the circuit on Presqu’ile Parkway ‘on the way to PRHC’ many times (Shhhhh… Don’t tell Cam!) – just no hiking. Like my recovery, my park adventure has been completely stalled.

In the beginning, I thought of the park as the secret ingredient in my recovery recipe; holder of the magical and mystical powers I needed to rejuvenate, revitalize, and restore my liveliness. Some days though, today in fact, my visit is less about recovery and more about finding the will to continue along that path despite all the setbacks. Today I want the park’s magic to fill my inner reservoir with courage, with determination, and as always, with joy. After this hike I hope I have found the want again. The want to happily soldier on, the want to fight another day for my full recovery. The Want. Today I will “carpe diem”. I am feeling entirely maudlin at the loss of Robin.  ‘Oh Captain, my Captain’…

Sharing my favourite ‘alone’ spot, the Hotel Lagoon, with this lovely chap, “Sam”.

Sharing my favourite ‘alone’ spot, the Hotel Lagoon, with this lovely chap, “Sam”.

Part I: Breezes

According to the ever-accurate weather man, today was meant to be the last good (read: dry) day of the week. I awoke feeling fabulous and decided to make the very most of it while the going was so good. After a quick shower, I grabbed my camera gear, jumped into L’Oeuf and sped away, Brighton-bound. Good grief! It was the perfect Triple H Vortex – hot, hazy and humid. The air conditioning in L’Oeuf could barely keep up and I began to wonder if I’d chosen the wrong day for my first hike in weeks.

Patterns, rhythms, routines are the substance of my life; I love them, live by them, hate to change them. This summer I have added a new touchstone to my repertoire: As I turn off Lakeshore Drive onto Presqu”ile Parkway, I always shut off L’Oeuf’s air and open the windows – better to smell, hear and feel the splendours of the peninsula. Today, though, I had a moment’s hesitation about letting in all that hot, heavy, humid air. Unwarranted, as it happens; there was a lively breeze off the lake and the air felt comfortably hot but not noticeably humid. I hiked, I sat and watched the antics of some birds and of some tykes, I ate my picnic lunch, I visited with Sam (pictured above) and the weather was perfect. I enjoyed every minute, extraordinarily happy I’d made the trip and thanks in part to the heavenly Lake Ontario breezes, I’d found my bliss!

Part II: Blossoms

Jobes Wood is one of the most beautiful parts of the peninsula. It does not, at any point, reach the lake (is, in fact, surrounded by the Parkway’s loop), but a prettier diversity of native flora would be hard to find. Today I hiked the blue (keeping it honest – shortest) trail. Most of my good days thus far have deteriorated by mid-afternoon and, above all else, I do not want to be taken ill in the park. My decision is to have a short, brisk walk and to document some of the blooms I find along the way. First I had to geek out: I slathered on the sunscreen, liberally sprayed myself with “Off”, perched my oh-so-chic LL Bean hat upon my head, hooked my camera strap around my neck… Have you assimilated? Are you giggling? Pfft!

The tree canopy is dense yet there is a lot of sunlight on the forest floor, dappled and sparklingly clean and shiny. Everywhere I look, plants are blooming in almost every colour of the rainbow. Despite having had one of the driest summers on record, everything is green and lush and flourishing. Gardeners work so hard at eradicating weeds, including wild flowers, from their beds and gardens, yet in their natural setting they make a truly glorious picture. Without stepping too far off the path (I am wearing capris and have a healthy respect for Poison Ivy), I soon have over one hundred images on my camera. I am amazed at the splendour, variety, and abundance. It is quiet – the birds are all resting in the mid-day heat and as far as I can tell, I am the only hiker in the woods today. The atmosphere is spiritually refreshing and I soak it all up.

There are bugs, bees, and beautiful butterflies galore. At one point, having crouched down to shoot a low-lying flower, not one but two butterflies landed on me. It is a touching and humbling experience tempered, of course, by the requisite mossies that also take that opportunity to touch down. Entomology is not my thing. Not. At. All. It nevertheless occurs to me that I might, one day soon, document all the creatures, tiny and not-so-tiny, flying and buzzing around in these beautiful woods.

Not today. Today is all about the delightful blossoms, a sampling of which I’ve collaged below:

Plants of Presqu'ile

Plants of Presqu’ile

Part III: Breathing

Presqu’ile inspires me to breathe – deeply. Upon arrival there is always that magnificent exhale, almost a sigh of pure, sensual pleasure. I have arrived.

Unfailingly (another touchstone) I choose to eat my lunch by the water. Today, despite the park being summer-time busy, I found a lovely, secluded, shaded rock and settled down to enjoy my picnic.

Do you know Lake Ontario? As vast and impressive as it is, it does ‘ripen’ come summer. Mid-to-late August there is always an odour to its water. It is the smell of decay, of decomposition, of mouldering fish, plankton and plants. It is repulsive to many people but not to me… I love that marine smell. As I relax on my rock I can feel my breaths deepening, lengthening. I can sense myself absorbing the lake’s solitude and tranquility.

Restorative Yoga focuses on very deep, very relaxing breaths. I realize I have settled into a restorative pose and I can hear my instructor:
… Breathe easy. …
… Keep your upper body still. …
… Allow your tummy to move as you breathe. …
… Prolong your exhalation. Slowly, now. …
… And pause. …

She also tells us to allow our entire bodies to participate in our breathing process. Truth? I haven’t yet figured this one out. I haven’t yet achieved that level of Zen awareness. But the rest, the rest is natural. Thoughtless. Comfortable. Effortless.

Yoga is a blessing. In the zone, my breathing was correct, I could feel relaxation seeping into every cell of my body, I was pain-free, I was peaceful and best, I knew the want had returned. Then I heard her. Anna Nalick. Singing to me:

“And breathe… just breathe. Oh breathe, just breathe.”