Among Autumn Leaves

Ever since I first moved to Toronto, I have been fascinated by the Don Valley. It’s a stretch of green along the Don River moving from north to south (and, one suspects, vice versa). Calling it a stretch of green sounds like it is manicured parkland, but it’s not. It’s a forest, filled with mature trees and many of them maple. It shows the first delicate green in the spring, winter’s snow creates a monochrome wonderland, and in the Fall… In the Fall, it is a blaze of colour.

(click on photos to embiggen)

For years, I gazed on it from a car zooming along the Don Valley Parkway, the prettiest highway in the land. Watching the changing seasons sweep over this valley, enjoying a swath of wilderness in the middle of the city, spanned by dramatic bridges, has always been one of my favourite parts about Toronto.

But it wasn’t until last year that I actually went into the woods and I have the Arthritis Walk to thank for this. Once we’d discovered it, we naturally went back for more leisurely walk in the woods. I have never been surrounded by so much green.

This year, we’ve been watching the weather and the valley and this weekend both cooperated. It was time for an autumnal stomp through the woods.

And it was every bit as beautiful as I’d expected. Maybe even more so — it was impossible to anticipate how it would feel being surrounded by all this glorious colour. It was a feast for the senses. The sights, the sounds, and the scent of the wood combining to chase away any thoughts of work or stress, leaving me only in the moment.

We weren’t the only ones in the woods that day. This is a well-traveled trail, filled with people taking their dogs for a walk, others just having a walk without dogs, runners and bikers out for some exercise. I kept imagining riding a horse there — it was made for that.

It also brought my mind to imagining this area before the city got built up around it, before people started supporting this structure and that, and before even the European settlers came. It must have been absolutely breathtaking in its natural state.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, I suspect because of the crowds of people, but there was a squirrel burrowing through the carpet of leaves. And there was a downy woodpecker (I think?), adding a new bird to my list of the ones I’ve seen.

There were a lot of dogs and all of them were in dog-heaven. Being able to run through leaves, smell the wilderness, and dive into the creek let them feel quintessentially canine. And more than one had found a stick to carry. One settled for a small tree.

It was overcast, but nice, for most of the walk. And then the sun came out, bringing the colours even more to life, and casting shadows on the forest floor.

It was a beautiful day, one I will remember for a long time.


Susan Burns said…
Beautiful pictures in this post! I think your woodpecker might be a Hairy Woodpecker, which is slightly larger than a Downy, and has a longer beak. The bird in your picture definitely has the longer beak of a Hairy. We get both Hairy and Downy at our feeder, often both at the same time. I drove myself crazy last Winter trying to tell which was which. Nice blog!