One recent morning when the sky was as pure blue as the chicory blossoms around me, I sat on a concrete bench by a small man-made pond in Taylor Creek Park, breathing in the scent of the spicy air, And felt care about work and washing the house. In this clump of the valley, in a little green oasis, I had found a place of peace.
At first glance, it seemed like little was going on in this miniature wetland other than dozens of lazy mallards basking in the sun. But as I sat there quietly, alone, the pond began to reveal some of its stories.
On a log partially submerged in khaki-colored water, the smallest tortoise I’ve ever seen in the wild was basking, motionless. By matching the vermilion stripe on its neck and the brilliant coloration along the margins of its shell, I assumed it to be a Midland Painted Turtle, a long-lived species native to Ontario. It remained motionless as the Sphinx, while jewel-toned dragonflies and damselflies buzzed restlessly around it, demonstrating their aeronautical agility over some 300 million years of evolution.
I was pleased to see the turtle pictured on this particular occasion because on other visits to Taylor Creek Park I had only seen non-native red-eared sliders, which were native to the southern United States and northern Mexico, but were here as a pet. were popular as in Canada and elsewhere around the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has placed this innocent-looking creature in its list of the world’s 100 most invasive species.
As I contemplated the omnivorous problem of non-native species, a fish near the painted turtle log caught my attention. It was a momentary flash of movement that ejected a silent echo, concentric circles in the water. The sleeping reptile did not move.
When an unseen solitary blue jay took his usual “spring spring“Called from afar, I learned how its sound had broken the silence. Near the pond, the city’s incessant roar had subsided, as if a giant invisible hand had turned the volume dial, non-stop traffic and The raucous background of roadwork and enterprise shook. Apart from the jai, I heard no bird song, and the soaring eagles mumbled like moonlight as they climbed the updraft above the canyon.
A shorebird was also silent while roaming some mud flats by the side of the pond. The bird’s bright yellow legs, bold white eye-rings and lightly spotted back were a sign that it was a lone sandpiper. It patted its way systematically through the mud with its long, needle-like bill and was looking for morsels to plop down.
Beyond the mud flats, the squishy edges of the pond were densely packed with European common reed phragmites. One of our worst invasive species, phragmites compete so powerfully with our native cattails that only a small stand of these beautiful bullrushes in the pond was holding their own.
Above the canyon walls, the slightest wind trembled the leaves of the stands of aspens, making them shimmer with silver. Still tall, old giants – specimens of oak, maple and basswood, easily over a hundred years old – cast their shadows on the slopes of the forests below.
But it was the black walnut trees that made up the canopy that struck me most with their vastness and fertility, as they were with fruit the size, shape and color of tennis balls. They were as fluorescent green as Dr. Seuss’s “pale green pants with no one inside.” These walnut trees were so covered with fruit that it came as a surprise to me that these old glory could still stand.
Along the way to the pond, the late summer blooms burst like lots of pyrotechnics. Among the many flowers were asters – so many asters! – New England, purple stem, calico, white panicle; Each one is buzzing with the pollinator doing its job.
There were thick bees and thin bees, even a bee was twirling the mullet. This dazzle from the insect world sported a party-ready metallic green on its head and chest, and business-like yellow and black stripes on its belly. It was a metallic green sweat bee (agapostemon virescens) One of Toronto’s 360 wild bee species, the city council declared the two-coloured Agapostemon our official bee in 2018.
When the Toronto Area Conservation Authority constructed the pond more than a decade ago as a flood control in the valley of Taylor-Massey Creek, a tributary of the Eastern Don River, it expected it to be restored after a few years of reconstruction. could be a place. A matter of relief for the weary city dwellers, however, it is unlikely that the authority can imagine a time when such an urban exorcist would be a place of relief, a place that would have the power to calm and even calm down. That will also enter during the world health crisis.
As I soaked up the peace by the pond, the title of Canadian author Sharon Butala’s 1994 award-winning non-fiction classic, “The Perfection of the Morning,” came to me. I had a perfect morning. As I woke up to leave, I realized that the tiny man-made pond had given me a gift I hardly knew I needed: a dose of inner peace to face another busy week.