YouTube birdsong with forest
view (long; excellent improvement for
And two collective actions:
Choir choir choir – Canada’s
duo famous for big-group sing-alongs – did a virtual
sing-along; thousands joined in. (They plan to do more.)
At 7:30 pm every night, take
5min to make a loud happy noise outside in thanks to our healthcare workers.
Clap, sing, whatever. On my street a couple of nights ago we had a bagpipe,
singers, garbage-bin drummers … all 6’ apart and that works just fine : )
If you’re reading this online, you are
connected to a glorious resource, the internet. You can –
Challenge yourself with puzzles
and logic games – more absorbing than candy crush
Learn things, from sewing to toaster
repair, and about things, from
gardening to geology
See amazing visuals (and engage
your other senses)
Hear classical music (de-stressing),
watch/read classic literature (thought-provoking)
Well-being is about mind, body, and spirit
– or some would say mind, body, and emotions. This post is about mind.
Everything listed is free, and ad-free as
far as I know. I do have AdBlockerPlus installed. (A few sites want me to
disable it; you can, but I just go somewhere else: I like an ad-free life.)
There’s a whole lot more, and lots I don’t know about. I hope to invite your
suggestions in future – so we can pool our keep-it-together resources!
Add to yourself
your time – choose a small, light-hearted project –
accomplishment feels fantastic.
An internet search for “how
to…” will find step-by-step instructions and explanations and videos for just
My best project was to start
learning to play a recorder. I have zero music training, but Value Village had
a recorder for $3…. Music tunes up the brain (pun!), so that’s a 3-in-1 –
learning, brain agility, and (some day…) music.
A site for starting a language:
DuoLingo. You have to sign up, but it’s
free and gentle.
With kids – or without them! – a wildlife gallery can launch a week’s worth of projects. Pick a
photo and (1) learn about the animal, (2) draw it in different poses, (3) write
a story or poem or song about it, (4) make a collage of photos of it, (5) tell someone
about it in 5 minutes, (6) find out what else the photographer has done.
Now the sun is getting its strength back, grab
every bit of sunshine you can. Sunshine lifts spirits. That makes you feel more
capable. There’s no logic to that, it just is.
Even just stand in a doorway with your face
to the sun: delicious! But Toronto has
more to offer: it’s exceptionally good for late-winter explorations. This post
has two parts: On Your Own Time – short adventures that work for me, with some
great places to see and be; and With Others – walking tours with a leader who
talks a bit about what you’re seeing.
All free, because if there’s a charge I
make an excuse to stay home : )
Second tip for defying winter: good socks
and dry boots that are big enough for the socks. (Pre-owned boots are an
inexpensive aid to well-being!) With head, neck, and feet cosy, on a sunny
late-winter day you can be comfortable enough to feel great.
On Your Own Time
Usually I plan to be out for an hour – a
little break, not a big project – but I’ve learned to bring a sandwich and
thermos in case I want to explore a while longer.
Take your phone and walk a few blocks in your neighbourhood photographing the first signs of spring – or whatever catches your eye.
Check out local small parks. Parks map. City staff workto make these nice for us. Simply be there: tea and a sandwich on a bench in spring sunshine = twenty minutes of peace.
Explore the area around each TTC station just to see what it’s like. There’s plenty of variety:
The Bloor-Danforth line has 31 stations; it’s 26km (16mi) long.
The Yonge-University line has 38 stations; it’s 39km (24mi) long.
Visit the big parks. See migratory birds return from the south, experience oak savannah, watch salmon leaping upstream, take a ferry and walk the largest urban car-free community in North America – all in Toronto, on public transit!
After you’ve gone out a few times, you may
find friends will want to join you. It can be that easy to start a
companionable habit that magics an hour or so in each week into a mini-vacation.
A few exceptional places
nature is good for health & happiness. Just do it; you’ll thank
Etienne Brule Park – Old Mill Station – salmon run in spring and fall; I have seen this myself. “Perfect for getting away from the city noise for an afternoon to relax in nature.” 6min spring slideshow and fall photos – this too is the city you live in!
High Park – High Park Station – 399 acres, cherries in bloom in spring, oak savannah, nature centre, paths along the Humber River, lakeshore, much more. “A walk along Grenadier Pond … will make you forget you are in the largest city in Canada.”
Don River Valley trails – see the link for many ways to get into Don River Valley Park, a long stretch of 200 hectares from Pottery Road to Corktown Common. Salmon run on the Don as well as on the Humber. The city is a bit more evident here but if you want to stretch your legs in a long (or short) meditative walk with trees, this is a great place for it.
Ashbridge’s Bay Park – Queen streetcar east to Coxwell, short walk south – stretches into the lake; migratory birds; on the 56km Martin Goodman Trail.
Toronto Island Park – a 10min walk from Union Station to a ferry (there’s a charge for the ferry) that runs May-September. 15 islands, footpaths and bridges. 200yo lighthouse, Lake Ontario, and one of the largest urban car-free communities in North America.
Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat and Garden – Queen streetcar 501 west to the Humber Loop, walk south 12min – wildflowers, shrubs, trees, grasses make it beautiful anytime. It’s a long ride – bring a book, headphones, or a pal to chat with. Best times for butterflies, early morning and early evening, April to mid-October. More info and photos.
Kay Gardener section of the long Beltline Trail – Eglinton West Station, short walk north (map – scroll down) – wanders along old ravines and through hidden green spaces.
It’s nice to have a map when you go
someplace for the first time.
of Toronto – route map and details for 11 Discovery Walks – Don Valley,
Uptown, Downtown, Ravines, and more.
Daily Hive –
resources for a dozen interesting walks. Includes High Park and Toronto
Islands, the Beaches, Kensington Market, open space in the downtown core, and
of Toronto – Trails maps for the east and west sides of the city – PDF,
hard to read until you zoom in, but useful.
Free short walking tours
– free local walk monthly, May-October.
On May 3 – Wild Plants, 11am;
Toronto Free Walking Tours – daily
walks at 10am (!check the schedule), starting from the Berczy Park Dog
Fountain, 35 Wellington St E.
Tour Guys – daily
fun free walks. Downtown Toronto – 10am; from May 1, 10am, noon, and 2pm.
ROM – free guided walks, every
week May-October – Toronto neighbourhoods and history. Sunday at 2pm, Wednesday
Heritage Toronto – free
guided walks every week May-October. (In February their schedule isn’t up yet.)
Jane’s Walks. Jane Jacobs was
an extraordinary city organizer and advocate of people-centred design. (In
February their full schedule isn’t up yet.) Annual Jane’s Walk Festival May
Park Nature Centre – free walking tours, first and third Sunday of the
month, 10:30am. Schedule.
Led by volunteer scientists, historians, and naturalists.
Botanical Garden – free weekly guided garden and ravine tours, summer Thursdays
6pm. Connects directly to the wonderful Edwards Gardens and Wilket Creek Ravine.
These groups welcome newcomers, and share
remarkable information that makes your world richer. Just recognize that some
walks are more about discovery than walking – e.g., with birdwatchers, being
quiet and staying still for a while are part of the adventure.
Toronto Field Naturalists
(TFN) – Frequent public (free) walks with an informative leader. Schedule. Colonel Smith
Park, Scarborough Bluffs, Warden Woods will take you out of the downtown core
to see things you might never get to on your own.
Ornithological Club (TOC) – Frequent public (free) walks, beginners
welcome. Schedule. Most
are local – April 23 and 25 at Leslie Street Spit, April 26 at Humber Bay Park,
May 9 at High Park, May 13 at Ashbridges Bay… Woodcocks, spring migrants,
orioles – see them, hear them, be delighted.
One more tip
Don’t be paralyzed by all these choices! –
just do something. Next week you can
Ta-da! Introducing the 2020 Do It Together workshop series
Last year Building
Roots trialed a series of participatory workshops on the theme of simple,
practical crafting techniques that can help you save money, avoid a lot of
plastic and chemicals, and raise standard of living on a budget. We made hand
creams, waxed-cloth food wraps, sleep sachets, masala-chai syrup, herb-infused
vinegars, and more. Best of all, we did it together.
The response was terrific! People came from all parts of the city, kept returning, and kept asking for more. So, this winter we’re expanding the series, having the workshops occur weekly, and adding new features.
First, we partnered
up with Works-in-Progress, an artist collective based in Toronto that focuses
on up-cycling fabric and making art out of recycled materials. They will
present four workshops on this theme, where you will learn how to make a small
sewing kit, identify fabrics, sew heart-shaped hand-warmers, transform old
jeans, and make your own portable cutlery wraps.
introducing production workshops. These are a chance to give back to the Moss
Park community while having fun and developing your skills. Make an item for yourself
to take home, as always – and ‘step it up’ by making extras to be sold for pay-what-you-can
at the Moss Park Market. The first two production workshops are March 15 (Sleep
Sachets), and March 29 (Hand Creams).
You can find us every Sunday at 3pm in the Moss Park Market (Queen & Seaton). RSVP and learn more on Eventbrite!
About now we get the coldest, snowiest weeks
of the year. I want to hide. I want to stay indoors until April. I want to be a
bear or a chipmunk so I can hibernate until winter goes away.
For a human in Toronto, though, there are better
#1 – Acknowledge the cold
a wool hat and scarf. Your blood circulates up your
neck, close to the skin, and around your head: keep those areas insulated.
with energy. Using muscles generates heat.
(Shivering is just little muscle twitches – your body’s own way of getting some
movement heat going.) Walking faster is walking warmer.
#2 – Find reasons to be moving
for a walk” doesn’t motivate me; I need a destination to pull me out. It has to
be free, or I’ll use the cost as an excuse not to go. So here are worthy, free things
to do, almost all in the city core. “Just do it.” “You can do it.” “It’ll be
fun.” My sister says things like that – and she’s right.
Part I, in this post, is not about walking
miles in the snow! (That’s Part II, next post.) This is just trips tosomething indoors. Move the body, feed
the mind = win over winter.
Toronto Light Festival, Jan 17 – March 1, sundown to 9/10pm,
Distillery District. I didn’t know “light artist” was a profession, but in 2019
specialists from Turkey, Austria, Sweden, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, and
Israel joined Canadian artists to light up the night.
House/DesignTO workshop, 10am-2pm Jan
18. Plant a garden pocket for your household in a vertical garden, then
explore Mackenzie House free. (Toronto’s first Mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie,
was a fiery figure.)
Harbourfront’s 25thKuumba, celebrating Black History Month, Feb
1-29. About half the items are free – mostly the exhibits. Just go, see something.
Museums: Major museums have free evenings. Go with a curious mind, there are marvels here. Most are on the Bloor subway, easy to get to. The Aga Khan Museum is farther, but so amazing it’s worth the long trip. The Allan Gardens Conservatory is my favourite destination in February: just hop on the Carlton car and walk into a warm climate to lift your spirits.
Free times (or PWYC where noted) *PWYC means pay-what-you-can – it’s OK if that’s $1 or $0, you are truly welcome
Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) gives free workshops on topics like basic knot tying, winter camping, introduction to snowshoeing, and winter bike commuting. Go learn something – you don’t have to do it.
The past year had me continually adapting
to new circumstances, both bad and good. Jolting change is wearing, but it may
be what 2020 has in store for most of us. If that’s right, we will need to keep
each other’s energy up, and our own.
One success in 2019 was the launch of Do It
Together (DIT) workshops for Building Roots, a non-profit that develops social
connections in Toronto’s Moss Park. There was no fresh food for blocks; Building
Roots created a produce market. There was little animation; Building Roots
coordinates activities from organizations like Story Planet and Youth Gravity –
and hosted the DIT series.
The highlight was a workshop on reducing
plastic usage. We talked, learned, made our own waxed-cloth food wrappers, and
considered joining an OCAD student project about what motivates behaviour
change. Like all the DIT workshops, it was a warm, sociable event with
interesting people who brought a variety of experience to the table.
The best part for me, though, was the
research before delivering that workshop. I found innumerable initiatives about
to break surface – biodegradable 6-pack rings; plastic substitutes from fish
waste; improved sorting technology for recyclables; plastic-free 3D-print
manufacturing; and innovations by food packagers, supermarkets, hotels, and clothing
brands to reduce consumer plastic use. One example: ice cream in refillable
I’ll mention four close to home – Ice River Springs, in Shelbourne,
Ontario, uses 100% recycled plastic; a network of Roncy Reduces
organizations, in Toronto, encourages restaurants and supermarkets to use
customers’ containers; Etee, in
Toronto, is an online source for plastic-free products such as toothbrushes;
and TerraCycle, founded by
Hungarian-Canadian Tom Szaky, is the world leader in recycling generally
non-recyclable waste such as energy-bar wrappers. (Szaky remarked: “By moving
from disposable to reusable, you unlock epic design [and manufacturing]
Why was research the best part? It showed we didn’t have to be where we are. We could
have been using waxed-cloth food wraps all along, and seen dispensers rather
than miniature toiletries in hotels. We could have required durability in
clothing, repairability in appliances, bulk bins in supermarkets, micro-fibre
filters on washing machines, and local processing that makes plastic’s lightness
unimportant. We could have demanded that what goes into recycling bins be
recycled. We could have reserved plastic to essential uses like intravenous
What we want in our culture – and what we allow
– does shape our systems. But an opinion you keep to yourself has no effect. We
have to speak up. And to do that, we have to register the effects of the
systems we have. Alberta farmer Don Campbell reminded us: “If you want to make
large changes, change the way you see things.”
Change is coming, not only to your
toothbrush. Here’s to seeing a 2020 when our choices are better because we
require it – and when we help each other embrace them.