The Path Less Travelled

There’s a certainty to nature, I think to myself as I walk along a trail with my family on Thanksgiving weekend. So many aspects of the outdoors are unpredictable—grey skies can brighten in seconds and, similarly, a sunny day can turn stormy before you even have a chance to produce an umbrella—and yet, something about nature does seem so inevitably grounded in an unchanging reality. Maybe it’s the way that, year after year in the fall, the leaves turn crimson and flutter to the ground; maybe it’s the way I watch the fiery leaves every year at this time with the same awe.

Roots cross the path I walk, creating a kind of haphazard staircase covered in pine needles, fallen leaves and the occasional fern. Massive, mossy rocks line one side of the trail; the sparkling shoreline on the other side is framed by red and orange leaves. It is beautiful, and fleeting, because while the forest hasn’t completely turned to fall—many of the tall trees are still green—in the grand scheme of time I’ll blink and the trees will be skeletons sitting in pools of coloured leaves. But it is in that certainty, that time will pass and the trees will do what they do every autumn, that I find solace as I walk.

Somehow on our afternoon hike, my family and I have traversed off the trail we meant to walk. We planned to take the short route, soak up the scenic sights before heading into town for a bit. But we’re on the longer route now—something we discovered only when we realized that the walk was taking a lot longer than we had thought it would. We laugh about this as we continue walking, past a little waterfall trickling into a stream, past fallen birch trees with white bark.

Nature might be sure of itself, certain that the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening and life will carry on—but as humans, we aren’t always as certain about our own lives. Sometimes we end up on the wrong path (both literally and figuratively). When this happens, we have to look at where we came from, figure out how we got to where we are and decide where to go next. Because sometimes, we’re actually on the right path—we just, for whatever reason, doubt that it is truly what is right for us.

We’ve all had those moments in life where we feel as if we are standing at a crossroads, looking at two paths, imploring one of them to show itself to us as the correct one to travel down. There is no way to be certain in life that we are going in the right direction—we have to trust ourselves and the decisions we make, and be brave enough to turn back when we’re wrong or forge ahead when we’re right. As poet Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”


Happy fall! | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’ 

Algonquin Escape

As I write this, I am sitting on an empty bag of firewood with my back up against the base of a tall, twisted tree. I’m writing in a notebook, my cursive letters tripping over each other like the tangled roots of the trees around me. By the time you read this, I will have typed my words; but I don’t want to think about that in this moment. Right now, I am content where I am—on a hill facing a lake, listening as loons cry out and waves gently lap against the rocky shoreline.

I go to school in a big city, and I love the skyscrapers and bustle. But I also love where I am now; camping in Algonquin Park. Here, tall glass buildings are replaced by soaring trees and the craziness of the city is replaced by, well, the solitude of fleeting nothingness. I say fleeting because I will not be here forever—tomorrow, my family and I will pack up our tent and canoe back to where we started out from. But for this moment, I am here, and I am happy.

Now, a week later, I am on my couch, typing the words I wrote as I sat against the tree at my campsite. I could write about my camping trip all day, but I think photos capture the essence better. Since I’ve been getting into photography recently, I brought my camera on the trip. I wanted to capture a bit of everything; the big lakes which reflect the trees in the water, and the small branches and water lilies. 

These photos bring me back to where I began this post: breathing in the scent of campfire mixed with pine. In that moment, I was peaceful and content. Even if you’ve never been to Algonquin Park, I hope looking at these photos of the floating fields of lily pads and fiery flames of a nighttime fire fill you with that same feeling.


Thanks for reading!| Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’ 

Spring Nostalgia

There is a certain nostalgia, I think, in the way the seasons turn. We revel in the autumn trees, red, orange and yellow like a campfire captured in leaves; then one day the leaves are brown and falling to the ground, leaving us with the memory of the fiery forests that stood what seems like only yesterday. We sometimes forget the true beauty of the season around us—fall leaves, freshly blanketed snow, flowers beginning to blossom or the feverish heat of the summer sun—until the weather shifts and we are left with memories.

This spring I was struck by the simple elegance of the flowers that sprouted around my house. My wonder is nicely summarized in this passage from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: “There is something subversive about this garden… a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently.” I love those words because they paint flowers as more than delicate pink petals on green flesh. Flowers are a subtle sign of nature’s strength; that a seed can be buried and then grow bravely, deliberately, through the soil and towards the sky.

Back in April, I published a post of photos on a whim; I had just arrived home to find a colourful sky and flowers still with raindrops from a storm. I loved photographing the flowers so much that I continued throughout the spring. Now, although I am enjoying the warm summer weather I find myself missing the bright yellows and painted pinks. In case you, like me, are having a nostalgic moment for the beauty of spring, here are some of my favourite photos of flowers; bursting up, wordlessly, to show themselves to the world, if only until the seasons inevitably turn.


What’s your favourite season? | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’

Fleeting Moments

A bowl of citrus fruits was smeared across the sky, deep oranges and smoky yellows blended together like paint on an artist’s canvas. Then someone threw a shower of glitter on top of the fiery mosaic sky. It was a long weekend at the cottage and, over the lake, fireworks were exploding into the sunset. I wanted to run and grab my camera, but I paused. Could I have captured the beauty of the sky, without the camera altering the colours? Maybe. But I was less confident in my ability to change the camera’s settings and press the shutter at the perfect moment to photograph the fireworks. So I stayed by the window and watched not through the lens of a camera, but with my eyes.

The next day, I was struck by a similar situation. It was a sunny afternoon, the kind that feels too good to be true. I was in a kayak, enjoying the rippling water in the otherwise calm bay. In front of me there was a pathway of sorts, an arch of tree trunks bending over the water. I passed a cluster of lily pads as I paddled under the hanging trees. The trees, the water and the sun gave way to pure serenity. If I had my camera, could I have taken a photo that reflected the absolute silence of the bay? Could I have immortalized, in pixels, the clear water and the reaching branches? Maybe, but maybe not. I stopped wishing I had brought my camera and started to soak in the scene, sans technology.

Believe it or not, the evening after the fireworks display, the same thing happened again. The sunset had come and gonepink this night, not orangeand outside it was pitch black. But then the sky lit up. Someone was setting off a spectacular firework display from a raft. Red lights flew into the sky; then green, then what appeared to be purple. Then dazzling white lights erupted, stark against the black backdrop of the evening. This time, I grabbed my phone. I didn’t worry about taking the “perfect shot”; I used Instagram’s “Boomerang” feature to capture short videos that reversed themselves. In my videos, the fireworks exploded spectacularly and then retreated into themselves.

Oftentimes the moments we want to saviour are fleeting. We sometimes have a tendency to try to make those moments immortal; in other words, fool ourselves into thinking that we can make them last forever. Taking a photo is one way to make a moment last forever, but there are so many things that a photo doesn’t capture: the scent of fresh air on the open lake; the feeling of complete calmness when the blue sky fades into a painter’s palette; the screeching sound that the fireworks make as they soar into the sky, and the crackling sound they make as they fall.

Sunsets fade to black. People run out of fireworks. Moments end: this is an inevitable fact of life. But the fact that these moments exist at all is what makes life worth living. Because the sun rises the morning after it sets; because there is another firework-filled holiday to look forward to in the future. If we capture a beautiful moment, however imperfectly with a camera or however hastily with our eyes or other senses, we can find something to remember it by. And maybe, then, in a way, we really can make a moment last forever.


Thanks for reading! | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’ | Header image source

 

A Glimpse of Spring

Today was one of those too-beautiful-for-words kind of days. It was warm and sunny during the day, but by early afternoon dark clouds had set in. The clouds gave way to rain and a tiny thunderstorm (I say “tiny” as if I didn’t jump out of my skin when I was walking outside and was surprised by a clap of thunder). After the clouds parted, a double rainbow appeared. Now, as I write this, the sky is pink and yellow and orange; all of the colours, all at once.

It’s been a rainy April where I live, but I’m not complaining about it — the rain has made the grass green, and brought beautiful, blossoming flowers. I decided to photograph the flowers tonight, alongside the sky, and I immediately knew I wanted to include my photos in a blog post. If a picture says a thousand words, then this post is a spring novel.


What’s your favourite thing about spring? Let me know in the comments! | Follow me on Twitter | Bloglovin’

What a Snowstorm Taught Me About Climate Change

Last night I was kept awake by an unrelenting snowstorm. The wind was howling – and I know “howling” is a cliche word to describe wind, but it honestly was – and pellets of freezing rain were smacking against my windows. Though I was snuggled in my bed, I shivered when I let my attention drift to the sounds of the storm.

I’ve always loved storms, and as I lay awake last night I realized one of the reasons why I love them so much. Storms arrive, as predicted by the weather channel yet unexpected nonetheless, and they reign (pun not intended, haha!) It doesn’t matter if the severe weather of a storm completely ruins your plans; the clouds don’t care. Storms are nature’s way of telling humans that we don’t own the world – a fact some people are prone to forgetting.

It’s easy to look at the way the world turned out and say that the human race rules Earth. We were – and are – so selfish, cutting down entire forests to build housing developments and creating cities on animal’s habitats; not to mention putting animals on display in cages and killing them by the millions sometimes in the name of fur, ivory, or cartilage but in the underlying name of greed. We pump dangerous gases into the air and dump our garbage into the ocean, and perhaps worst of all, we do all of these things without worrying about the consequences; and we’re quick to deny that we’re doing anything wrong at all.

Last spring, word came out that members of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection state agency were banned from using the phrases “global warming”, “climate change”, and “sustainability” in their communications. I happened to be on vacation in Florida at the time. I stepped out of the air conditioned hotel lobby and into the blistering heat I turned to my dad, who had told me about the banned phrases at breakfast that day, and said, “Whoever made that rule is out of their mind.”

I don’t understand how someone, much less a group of people, can be so wilfully ignorant about the negative effects of Earth’s changing climate – especially considering that, as this article points out, Florida is one of the most susceptible areas to climate change, owing in part to rising sea levels.

There was the United Nations Climate Change Conference earlier this month in Paris. There are documentaries, activists, and articles which bring a greater understanding of climate change.  There is hope. But there are also people in denial – and there is also a ticking clock, not only for the human race, but for the Earth itself.

When the sky roars and ice and snow plummet to the ground, nature reminds us that it was here first: and it will be here long after we’re gone.

Appreciating Our Earth

This past weekend, I went to one of my favourite places on the planet: Algonquin Park. It was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and as my family and I hiked alongside beautiful lakes and trees I certainly felt like I had a lot to be thankful for.

Whenever I visit Algonquin, I am curious about the effects of human impact on the park. On a previous camping trip (which I detailed in this blog post) I wrote about how, upon minutes of arriving at our campsite, a chipmunk came right up to us to investigate our granola bar wrappers – and later ran away with the plastic knife we had been using for peanut butter. The animals of Algonquin must be used to human visitors, and I’m sure their lives (and especially their eating habits) are different than that of other animals because of this.

algonquin1

I didn’t see any wildlife when I hiked in Algonquin this past weekend, so I couldn’t judge the impact of human visitors to the park in that way. Still, I saw some litter on the trails. It wasn’t a significant amount; but then again, I suppose any amount of garbage in nature is significant. This led me to further question the equality of what I previously called “the partnership between humans and nature” in the park. It also reminded me of a dilemma I posed in my other post about Algonquin.

“If Algonquin Park existed, but didn’t allow visitors, no one would be able to appreciate the beauty of seeing the trees reflections in the water, or seeing a mother Loon swim with her baby. On the other hand, its beauty would be preserved forever if humans did not visit.”

algonquin2

The trees in Algonquin will change colours, even if there are no humans there to witness them (if a tree falls, however, that might be a different story). In other words, nature will run its course – it doesn’t depend on having humans admire its beauty to do so. That’s scientifically speaking, though, because in a way nature does require us to witness its beauty.

algonquin3

I have always known that it is important to protect the environment, but I feel especially strongly about this after my recent visit to Algonquin Park. It’s like putting a face to a name. Being environmentally conscious for the sake of being environmentally conscious is one thing; but doing it because you feel a personal connection to nature, because you’ve hiked through nature’s forests and canoed through its lakes and marvelled at it’s wonders, is entirely different (not to mention better).

There is no question that humans have a negative impact on the environment; but I can’t help thinking that without visiting Algonquin to see it’s beauty firsthand, protecting the environment wouldn’t matter as much to me. Being able to see the trees changing colour, and the still, pristine lakes, helped me to grasp the true importance of protecting and saving the environment.

algonquin4

I believe that if everyone in the world was able to witness the beauty of such a place with their own eyes and feel a strong connection to it more people would advocate for protecting the environment.

In my previous post about Algonquin Park, I wrote, “Humans may inhabit the Earth, but it is not ours to destroy.” I would like to add on to that thought. The Earth is not ours to destroy, but it is ours to appreciate. And perhaps a deeper appreciation will lead to less destroying.

The Daydreamer Challenge Day One: Why I love thunderstorms

Hey everyone! This is a post in response to the Daydreamer Challenge by the lovely Caitlin, a teen blogger (like myself!) who is doing great things in the blogging world! Today’s prompts were either nature, the beach, or blue. All of these prompts spoke to me in some way – I adore the beach (one entire wall of my room is a mural of the beach), for most of my life blue was my favourite colour, and I have so much to say about nature. I decided to go with the nature prompt and write about a topic that has been brewing in my mind for a while: thunderstorms.

daydreamernature

I have loved thunderstorms ever since I was little, when my dad explained them to me as the sky’s way of making music. Little Sherina could appreciate this, since I loved playing the piano and listening to music. When it thundered, I imagined giant drums being pounded on and clashing symbols. When the lightning came, I was captivated by the bright lights and jagged lines.

One night as I was lying in bed listening to a storm, I came up with my own rationale for thunderstorms. I imagined the sky having a big meeting: the thunder was the clouds getting mad at each other for stealing their chair. I don’t quite remember what the lightning was; maybe the flash of inspiration as the clouds brainstormed at their meeting?

As I grew older, I came to love not just the actual thunderstorms but also the process leading up to them. I love seeing grey clouds start to gather in the sky, and I love checking Environment Canada for weather alerts.

A few summers ago at my cottage, when I checked Environment Canada it echoed the same warning as the radio: that there was a tornado approaching. My family and I could see the clouds funneling over the lake and hear the vicious winds. The warnings eventually got so bad that we lured our cat into her carrier, grabbed our coats and important belongings and huddled in the laundry room.

Eventually the winds died down, and we emerged, unscathed. My sister was scared, and to her credit I probably should have been more scared than I was. My thoughts were something like, “wow, I can’t wait to tell people that I survived a tornado – this is a great story!”

Thinking about it now, the reason that I love thunderstorms must be that there are so many stories involved. As a writer, I love anything with a story. Nature has so many stories to share with us, if only we take the time to listen to them!

What’s your experience with thunderstorms?

A City of Contrasts

Yesterday I went on a field trip to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), in Toronto. As we drove through forests of trees whose leaves looked as though they were on fire, and waters ebbing delicately in the wind, my friend continually remarked on the beauty of the nature surrounding us. And then we arrived in Toronto.

Greeted by flashing billboards and advertisements, she exclaimed, “Wow! I love these billboards.” I could only stare, open mouthed, and try not to laugh. She continued, “I mean, and look at those condo buildings. It’s so cool to think how all of the windows and floors look the exact same on the outside, but inside all of the rooms are unique depending on who lives there. I just love the city.”

“Yeah, there’s so much to love about big cities; pollution, highways, garbage…” I replied sarcastically.

This was the beginning of a long train of thought for me, one that lasted throughout most of the day, about contrasts.

A lot of people feel like this about big cities:

anonymouscityquote

And I do, too; it’s so lovely to sit in a cafe and everyone is so focused on themselves that they don’t notice you. Walking through the streets, knowing that you will probably never see the people around you again;  knowing that they all have their own lives, and just as all of the condominiums looked the same from the outside you can’t know their stories just from walking past them.

But at the same time, I love walking home from school. I love the familiarity of the streets. I love walking past my favourite garden. I love seeing  the Christmas lights beginning to spring up on houses.

In the suburbs, you see Christmas lights on roofs. In cities, you see them on abstract art of bicycles and propellers on the side of buildings.

Cities are a study in contrasts, and Toronto is certainly no exception to this. Driving through it on the school bus, I made a list on my phone of the things I saw: giant sculptures of bugs on a building; a graffitied duck wearing sunglasses riding a wave; writing on a brick wall that said “I need someone to talk to”; writing on another wall that said “Don’t give up”.

These things are what gives Toronto its renowned character. It is the old brick buildings with a skeleton poking out of the window. It is the flashy displays in the windows of Starbucks. It is a city filled with people with stories, of people asking for help and people offering help, of a hunger for creativity.

There is a certain balance that is achieved in big cities. I think one of the biggest balances I noticed in Toronto was that between new and old. There were new buildings right beside old ones; there were fashionably dressed mannequins in the windows of ancient looking shops. There was new graffiti, clearly drawn on top of some that had been there for a long time.

My gaze remained firmly fixated out the window as we drove through downtown Toronto. By this point in the afternoon it was raining lightly. Through my headphones, Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 was on repeat. The lyrics of one song, Clean, stood out to me then: “Rain came pouring down when I was drowning/ that’s when I could finally breathe.”

The busyness of a busy city focused my busy mind; which is strange, since you would think that adding more of a particular emotion would strengthen it, not reduce it. It’s just another contrast. Something else that doesn’t happen the way you think it will, something else that surprises you and makes you aware of the beauty in what is around you.

I have been to Toronto countless times before in my life but I never noticed the beauty in the seemingly ordinary things, the things locals often walk past without giving them a second glimpse. For that bus ride, I got to be a tourist, a connoisseur of contrasts. I was anonymous, watching from the confines of a bright yellow bus.

Most important of all; with the rain pouring down, and Taylor Swift singing in my ear, and a list of interesting things I had seen on my phone in my hand, I was happy. And really, is there more to ask of life?

National What Day?!

November is an awkward month. Situated in between October, or Halloween month, and December, or Christmas month, what is it really? I mean, there’s the American Thanksgiving, but I’m not American.

Curious as to what I should be decorating for this month, I began researching what Holidays are in November. As it would turn out, today is a National Holiday in the United States, called Look For Circles Day.

I wish I was making this up, but I am 100% serious. The origins and reasons behind Look For Circles Day are unknown, but it is a legitimate National Holiday in the States and although I am Canadian I thought I would celebrate it anyways.

I could go on and on about all of the circles in my bedroom, but with the exception of my 10 rolls of circular washi tape and my pet turtle (who is, arguably, shaped like a circle) I don’t really have that much to say about physical circles. But not all circles are physical.

There is, for example, a circle of karma. Do something bad, and it will circle back to you. Same goes for doing something good.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time!”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time!”

Circles also often represent stages. The life cycle of a frog, for example, is a circle. Same with the life cycle of a butterfly. These continuing cycles demonstrate the beauty of nature.

With humans interfering so much in nature, it is almost a relief to remember that animals are self sufficient and survive on their own. It is also a jarring reminder that these life cycles were occurring before we humans starting polluting the planet and ruining what the animals had owned before us.

There is also a circle of life, as told in the Lion King: “It’s the Circle of Life/ And it moves us all/ Through despair and hope/ Through faith and love/ Till we find our place/ On the path unwinding/ In the Circle/ The Circle of Life.”

Mufasa and Simba
Mufasa and Simba

Mufasa, the King, explains it to his son, Simba, using an example that though they (the lions) eat antelopes, when they die they become grass and then the antelope eats the grass, so therefore everything is connected in the Circle of Life. In essence, the Circle of Life means allowing nature to follow its natural course, and not interfering with it.

A circle may not have a point (get it?) but I’m starting to think that maybe this day does. I’m sure if you searched hard enough, you could find a holiday on each day of the year, that at first seems pointless but in actuality is not so.

After all, it might seem pointless to search for circles but they are an important part of nature and life. What other day of the year reminds us of that?

Happy National Look for Circles Day!