Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Walk Through the Urban Landscape

Today I walked under a sun shrouded in a grey winter cloak. Old man winter threatened no snow but instead let loose the occasional warm ray of sunshine which suspended in me the reality that the night before I had been witness to the annual Santa Claus parade. The path I followed today was neither flanked by gritty snowbanks nor puddles of frozen rain, but by rich green grasses and mournful marshland. I listened for the sounds of the birds, the hum of insects and the croaking of frogs that inhabit these lands but the only thing I could hear was the rush of traffic.

Fall and Winter are unseasonably late this year. It is an unnatural cycle that has Mother Nature grumpy and unforgiving as she denies us our snow days and toboggan runs. She doles out long hot days of drought and punishes us by shifting natural disasters to new, more civilized coordinates. She is working hard to communicate to us our role in her madness.

Looking past the marsh towards new neighbourhoods.

Climate change.
It was on my mind as I ventured out of my neighbourhood, once farmland and orchards, home to many species of wildlife, and onto Princess Street; that strip of asphalt that supports concrete and brick and where trees and flowers are for decoration not sustenance.

I followed the road west towards the wetlands that once spread out in a vast tract of open space but which now winds a narrow path past subdivisions and industry. I traversed a bridge that covered a line of railway tracks and wandered down along a stretch of road where I once watched deer and foxes run. Now my view is of row upon row of matching rooftops.

Railway lines. The original fast track to civilization.

Bilboards in the marshlands reminding us that civilization is ever present.

Housing developments and big box shopping centers continue to plow through perfectly profitable lands clearing out our memories of the trees we used to climb and the streams we used to ford.
New memories crop up everyday; watching my neighbours cut down trees because they ruin sight lines and closing my windows when the neighbours spray their lawns because I believe if I can smell the chemicals I must be breathing them in. I miss the old days.

In the distance you can see the row of stores that outline a big box center.

I walked on along a soft gravel shoulder. To one side of me were thick patches of grass littered with coffee cups, cardboard and even an oven dial. A train sped by with blank faces bored by the usual sights along the line between Ottawa and Toronto. The other side was a four lane road and a sidewalk. I passed a hole in the ground where once there stood a hotel. Mother Nature isn't the only one changing our view of the world.

Notice the path of the jet. These buildings are brand new.

I took a deep breath and was surprised to find it cool and sweet. It powered me as I clipped along determined to finish this walk despite my aching feet and weary legs. We worked together Mother Nature and I. The sun grew stronger and so did I. She encouraged me and I thanked her.

I walked 4.43 kilometers today. I am proud that the only fuel I used was my passion for this project. The only energy I expended came from me as the only resources I drew upon were initiative and determination.

The urban landscape is the land of opportunity, not only for those in search of a specific civilized lifestyle, but for others like me who search for those paths, original or otherwise, that lead to a richer understanding of our relationship to the earth we walk on.

Follow the link for a birds eye view of my walk today.

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