Best Spots for Winter Dog Walking in Ottawa


Last spring I met someone who had stumbled across my blog, when searching for the best dog walking paths for winter outings (especially for pooches that don't want to socialize all the time).  Not surprising, that she found this blog, as I mention dog walkers quite a bit here - since they create such great walking paths (desire lines) for any urban nature lover who wants to get out in the winter!

But they were hoping to find some recommended paths in the west end that could be used as a weekend outing when they had more time to get out and explore.  They mentioned that in the winter dogs are not permitted on any NCC Greenbelt trails* as these trails are used by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during these months.  Which limits dog-walking locations from the start of December through to mid April for those who want to get out into nature but don't want to go to popular dog parks such as Bruce Pit or Conroy Pit.  But there are some great greenspaces both in the greenbelt and other natural areas and also some in the suburbs.  Yes I know walking in the suburbs doesn't sound like lots of fun but there are wild areas there also that still give you and your pup that out of doors enjoyment while not being too far away from the city.  Sometimes even checking out another suburb's favourite dog-walking path is just what you & Fido might need!

Remember to always check signs for information about dog walking: whether dogs can be off-leash or if they must be on-leash and watch as there may be some restricted spots within larger areas where dogs are verboten.  Always look for information on site.

(Not in Ottawa but curious about how to find different dog parks beyond your regular haunts?  Check back soon!)


So if you are a local dog owner in the Ottawa area and like to be out in nature with your pooch (a.k.a canine best friend) here are some suggestions:

WEST END

  • Sheila McKee Park - Off of Sixth Line (down to Ottawa River) - On-leash City Park 
  • Behind Richcraft Recreation Complex (on Innovation Drive) and through Monk Env. Park (both On-leash City Parks) and take informal pathway to Beaver Pond (On-leash City Park) 
  • Craig Park to Gow Park to the small forest (Alice Wilson Woods) bordered by The Pkwy and Leacock Way - all On-leash City Parks
  • Monagan Forest (Fallowfield and Moodie Drive) - On-leash City Park
  • Off Lytle Avenue (near The Log Farm) which is off Cedarview - this is a nice half an hour walk through shrubby - open area. This is not City property - possibly NCC? You can see informal path on maps. (Please note that there are No dogs allowed in Lytle Park - off O'Keefe Court)

CENTRAL

  • Behind the Nepean Sportsplex - On-leash greenspace owned by the National Capital Commission.
  • Hunt Club - Uplands hydro corridor (access from various locations including McCarthy and Uplands Park) - Unsure as to ownership and/or regulations but I do see dog walkers here.
  • Central Experimental Farm (On-leash area) - great space to explore with your dog.  Two areas that are restricted to dogs: Ornamental Gardens and research fields.
  • Hearts Desire - Barrhaven (Off-leash area) - there are a number of linked parks along the Jock and Rideau here that offer some great natural spaces to explore.

EAST END

  • Bilberry Creek Valley Park north of the Queensway (access at Des Epinettes Avenue) - Off-leash City Park - over half a square kilometer of greenspace!
  • Princess Louise Falls and Fallingbrook Park (between Tenth line and Trim Road) On-leash City Park - great place to explore including linear park and open space above.
  • Aquaview Park (small but a nice walk!) can be extended north under hydro lines (includes crossing Innes at promenade Esprit Drive).  Or take it from the other end starting at Cardinal Creek Karst Path.  These are all on-leash parks and pathways.


If you are in the East End or visiting, remember Dogs are Not Allowed on Petrie Island (this includes the City beach area, the Bill Holland Trail and Grandmaître Ecological Reserve).  All of the above city park suggestions can be reviewed on the City of Ottawa Dogs in Park webpage (that includes a map!)


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*Leashed dogs are welcome on the Capital Pathway at any time of year.

  • Greenbelt Pathway East (12.5 km - Green's Creek area: Northern section (Parkway to Blackburn Hamlet (Tauvette Street) Southern section (Ramsayville Road to Albion Road)
  • Greenbelt Pathway West (21.2 km - west end Shirleys Bay through Bells Corners to (east) Fallowfield Rd)
  • Watts Creek Pathway (9.6 km - west end March Road to (east) Carling Avenue)

Keep in mind that dogs are not permitted at any time at these N.C.C. locations: Shirleys Bay, Stony Swamp, Mer Bleue, Pine Grove.  (All of this information is taken from the N.C.C. website.)

This does make sense as there have been studies that the presence of dogs does influence wildlife behaviour including birds - so it's great that there are some conservation areas that are strictly for wildlife.


Enjoy your dog walking outings!








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Urban Wild Winter Reading List (online & in print)


As the weather gets colder, thoughts may turn to cozying up inside and enjoying the type of connection that happens in books and through words.

If winter is not your favourite season you may use writing as a way to take your mind off the cold and distract yourself with nature writing until you yourself can get out again.

Here are some fun reads online that you can add to your list:



Margaret Bream - This Canadian author had a wonderful column in the Toronto Star called "Wild in the City" that is still available online.  The column covers three years of her observations from 2013 when she started with the topic of flying insects to the last essay on Dame's Rocket in 2015.  Over the years she shared her love for birds and other wildlife creatures along with her adventures canoeing, birding and  nature walks.  The column provides a friendly peek into one person's love of the natural world right outside her doorstep!





Mariellé Anzelone - Mariellé is the brilliant and intrepid New York City urban ecologist, founder of NYC Wildlife Week, who proposed a Pop-Up Forest in Time Square.  She also has written two detailed series about the seasons in the New York Times: one in Autumn (of 2011) and one in Spring (of 2012).  She really makes these seasons come to life for the armchair reader and adds many natural history details as well that are just as timely today.





Benjamin Vogt - Another American writer, Benjamin has a blog (The Deep Middle) that provides thought insight into rethinking landscapes - especially when it comes to introducing more prairie landscape for pollinators.  He also writes a column for Houzz educating a whole new generation online about ecological gardening. Start here to get a taste of his writing: 3 Ideas from the Evolving Garden and if you like his ethos, considering supporting him and his writings by buying his new book that was released in September: "A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future." (Link to Author's page)





P.S. And yes some other offline reading could including "Gathering Moss" by Robin Wall Kimmerer which is another great read!  :  )




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Looping around the Island and Industry in Montreal - Urban Nature Discoveries


Montreal in the fall.

This season, I keep thinking back to a couple of autumn trips that Viliam and I have taken, including a trip to one of our fave cities Montreal.  Despite it being late October, bikes were still out in the city and we lucked out with some sunny moments and enjoyed a full day of walking around.  Saturday we visited Île Sainte-Hélène and walked back to the downtown Old Montreal portion past Habitat 67 and through an industrial section.  We happened upon a friendly gull, some new leaves (for me) and a flock of birds crowding one small bush!  Even in the industrial section nature held its own!

Montreal is such a walkable and bikeable city and has lots of incredible eateries (you almost can't go wrong!) and even in the city, the colours are a great sight.  On our visit in 2015, we didn't stop at a favourite stop of ours on Mont Royal which is the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges which can be a lovely hot spot for birds and offers great nature programming! (We found an incredible patch of Trilliums this spring when venturing into a wilder corner.)  We love walking around Lac aux Castors and venturing to the incredible look out also.  There are so many trails to explore!

-- Sunny skies and Gorgeous Colours in the City! -- 

-- Island Visit and Friendly Gulls --

-- Industrial area and by the Canal --

I couldn't find my original photos so I had to rely on some that I posted to Instagram that year.  It was the year I switched phones and lost some pictures in the transfer.

Autumn is a great time to check out other cities as there are less tourists, the temperatures are cooler (but not too cold!) and as mentioned the scenery can be lovely.  As you can see, some trees were bare, some were just turning and others were in all their Fall glory.

Full disclosure: we went to the Cat Cafe the next morning so didn't do another nature walk.  And I took some photos of the amazing mural art that seems like it is everywhere in the city.  But there is still so much to check out.  The great thing - we know we can always go back for more exploring!


-- Gull Photo shown above by Viliam Glazduri --
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Mindful Modalities to Connect to Nature


For those wishing for a more mindful, healing and/or spiritual connection to the natural world and wildlife, there are ways to connect in a deeper way.  This can be done in (and for) urban areas and it might even be highly needed as some urban nature locations are overlooked and uncared for (at least by people!).

Many have heard about the practice of Shinrin Yoku (a Japanese term that describes a type of healing activity in nature - translated to be "Forest Bathing").   It's been mentioned here before in my Weekly Wild column from 2015: "Enjoy a Good Soak of Green".  


Forest bathing can be as simple as a walk in the woods (and even a twenty minute walk can provide you with healing benefits) or it can be full immersion in a natural forested area for a day or a weekend, such as "prescribed" in Japan.  Forest bathing can even be done with a guide who can help with a meditative and relaxing excursion where you connect with all five senses and soak in the ambiance in a very mindful way.  

Here are some other practices and/or modalities that can help connect you to nature, provide you with healing benefits and even help you form a deeper connection with the natural surroundings, specific places that are meaningful to you and all living things.


Earthing

Earthing is something that you can easily do in your own backyard or in a nearby park.  You may be doing it already!  It's going barefoot so that you can soak up the earth's electrons and those who swear by this practice will suggest an Earthing dose of 30 minutes a day - especially on moist (dewy) grass (see Gaia article for more details).  The premise of this practice comes from the fact that the ground is negatively charged and your bare feet picks up these negatively charged electrons which help eliminate free radicals in your body.  It also helps calm the sympathetic nervous system (similarly as any outing in nature can do).  If this type of procedure seems to be of benefit you can even purchase an earthing mat to sleep on in the winter months when being barefoot is not an option.

Earthing was one of the 10 "Treat Yourself" Suggestions to get a mini Nature Dose in the city!



-- Image of a Tree Whispering Session from Cooperative Biobalance Website --

Tree Whispering

If you feel a great connection to trees in particular, this method of connecting to these life forces may be for you.  Tree Whispering is consider a mutual connection of interaction which starts with an "open mind and caring heart" where you transmit your bioenergy field and receive others.  There is real science behind this.  For some, the communication is more direct than others.  It can be as subtle as an emotion or an impulse or it can be a more specific "knowing" or even a message. Practicing this technique makes it easier to pick up these messages and it can help make these communications richer.  Classes are offered to strengthen this type of practice through The Institute for Cooperative BioBalance and its co-founders, Dr. Jim Conroy and Ms. Basia Alexander.   Iv'e noticed that some have been at Omega in the past and I received confirmation from Basia that they will have another at Omega next June 2018. There is also information on the website about basics of this practice and the concepts behind it and a book available.



-- Image of a Bird from Radical Joy Website --

Earth Exchange

Radical Joy for Hard Times is a global community led by Trebbe Johnson to help connect people to "wounded" places and provides a way to process emotions and allow for healing for both the people and places affected.  These damaged places can emotionally affect us especially if there seems to be no way that they can be restored and/or rehabilitated whether due to lack of funds, lack of interest or other reasons.  The Radical Joy community leads and or practices Earth Exchange ceremonies, which enables these ravaged places to be seen through a different lens and helps start a process of healing for both themselves and the place that they care for.  There are many resources available at the website including an Earth Exchange Manual, videos and an FAQ.  There is even a reminder under "10 Ways you Can't do it Wrong" that includes: All you have to do is show up.  For those who feel a calling to facilitate these types of ceremonies, there is a workshop: Beauty for Broken Places that combines these Radical Joy techniques with Wilderness Rites of Passage work being held in Massachusetts this Autumn (November 2017).

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It's wonderful to have these unique methods to connect with nature and to help expand the way we relate to the natural world.  Let us know if you've tried any of these practices and what your experience was and if there are any others of which you have heard.



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Local Ottawa Urban Nature Blogs for your reading pleasure!


Ottawa has an amazing amount of greenspace and many enthusiastic nature-lovers.  There are many clubs, activities, experts and photographers and the nature community is keen and plentiful.  There's a lot of resources online also, some that I've highlighted in past posts (Wild. Here. Exploring: birding, geocaching and Ottawa's Poets Pathway (website) + Wild. Here. Other Online Urban Nature Resources: iNaturalist, Naturehood) but many more for those curious and interested to find them.  So here's a list of local Ottawa nature blogs that I have found during my years of blogging.  While some of them are not being updated anymore there still is wealth of knowledge to find within them and here's hoping that there are more bloggers sharing their knowledge in the future!



Roadside Field Notes  (2010 - 2017)

Just as it says, this is a blog that collects field notes for a small roadside area in the Nepean area.  It was started when Hunt Club Road was extended west so it has seven years of notes regarding species identified (note all the labels listed under the right-hand column) and interesting behaviour for this suburban stretch.  I have to applaud the author for their dedication to create such an incredible piece of phenoligical work.  It's a delight to see what has been spotted over the years and a unique collection of field notes considering the size of the observation area and location (beside a very busy roadway).  A map of the area showing years of tree plantings are included.



Naturally Ottawa (2011 - 2017)

This is a valuable blog that provides details of specific natural sites you may want to visit in the Ottawa region.  The author Nick Stow takes you along on his outings including canoeing, hiking, birding and even biking.  As a City of Ottawa Ecologist and Environmental Planner, you even get a sneak peak at some areas that are not (officially) public such as the newly acquired Manotick Drumlin Forest and he gives tips on conservation and has an amazing gallery of wildlife with species names.



Lab Bench to Park Bench (2014 - 2016)

This is a beautifully conceived blog that provides details on various plants and wildlife, some local, some exotic and even some edibles!  It is well researched and humorously written blog and my favourite series that the author Amelia has created are lively, detailed interviews with specific species that she encounters.  She interviews Squirrels, talking TrilliumsRobins, R.W. Blackbirds, Tent Caterpillars and even a snarky Swan.  Find them all under the blog's "Interview" tag.  Best of all some of these interviews are available in French.  This blog is definitely a great resource for teachers!



Draw and Shoot (2011 - 2017)

This impressive artist's blog showcases various natural elements in ethereal and sometimes dramatic photographs.  Karen McRae has a keen eye and a unique way of capturing natural scenes, whether they are landscapes, macro images, studies of movement or other hauntingly captivating series including wrapped winter trees.  She has a large dedicated following and I'm sure you too will be entranced with her almost "painter-ly" quality of capturing images with her camera.  It's like she's created a canvas with her lens - not surprising as she's works in both mediums.




A River Diary (2011 - 2014)

Alison Hobbs has created a thoughtful and observant journal of life by a river or actually a confluence of rivers both those here in the city and some in her travels.  She offers a very detailed account throughout the seasons and provides personal and current commentary interspersed with photos including aerial ones!  She talks about city development, aurora borealis sightings, city events, wildlife, geological details, snowshoeing, biking and occasional boating outings also.  It's great that the archives are still up and available to read as it includes a total of 238 posts!




A Walk Through the Woods (2014 - 2016)

While not strictly urban nature, I found Claire Elliott's blog in 2015 when she was writing about one of her favourite conservation location's in Ottawa: Mud Lake.  In the first post I read she talked about the need to motivate herself to get outside in cold weather (which I could easily identify with!) but followed up with the reminder that once she gets out there it's incredibly rewarding.  And seeing her photos - it's rewarding for her readers also!  Other posts provide detailed updates of her birding outings and what she's seen, highlight her favourite wildlife experiences, share updates on classes she has taken and feature photo albums of the wildlife she has "captured" with her camera.  It's a wonderful blog to peruse.  While not living in Ottawa anymore, this is a great blog to continue to follow as it gives an insight into what it takes to pursue a Naturalist/Ornithologist's career including the many internships (including the East Coast and Tundra) that Claire has completed.

That's all I have for now!

There are many more specialty blogs from local bloggers (on hiking, birding, adventure sports and much more) that also offer great resources if you are interested in a specific type of urban nature activity.  That list will have to come next!  (In case you want to find some now, just search Ottawa + blog + your specific interest and you will see what online info is out there!)

And please share if you know of some good ones yourself!


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Urban Outdoor Adventures under the Full Moon

Wild Here Urban Nature Best Spot Full Moon

The illumination of full moon evenings extends outdoor activities in such a wonderful way!  

I first discovered this as a cross-country skier in high school, when a friend and I went skiing under the full moon in fields outside the city near her home.  The full moon's light was reflected brightly by the white snow and it was like we were the only ones around for miles (which was probably true!).  Getting out for the evening was a super experience and I was an immediate convert to winter night outings.  This one ski excursion got me hooked to seek out other adventures under the bright round friendly glow of the monthly full moon.  

Full Moon Viliam Glazduri Nature Spots Ottawa

While night lighting in cities might make the moon unnecessary, you may find that this complimentary evening illumination provides a softer glow and makes it easier to get out with friends and explore city parks and other natural spots along lakes and rivers past twilight.  And now that the sun is setting earlier in the evening, a full moon can provide that extended evening feel that we had earlier this summer - if there isn't sun light perhaps some moon light will encourage a few more evening strolls or moonlit outings?

Wild Here Night Outing Nature Best Place Viliam Glazduri

Like the idea but not sure what to do?
  • What about a walk with a friend in a public arboretum or along a river bank?
  • Or a group city paddle on your kayak or SUP this evening that provides exciting discoveries - remember François Côté's photo of the heron under the full moon?
  • While summer has wound down here, further south there may be one more opportunity for a full moon yoga outdoors?
  • Or grab your partner for a bike ride along some illuminated paths that will have that added bonus of softly glowing scenery - thanks to the moon!
Full Moon Yoga Candle Outdoor Experience

Full Moon Yoga Wild Here Get Outside


...And (dare I say it?) once winter arrives there are other night outing opportunities to do with your friends:
  • Dark snowy evenings could be spent on a cross-country ski trail or a new path could be broken on snow shoes?
  • Add some winter vistas by choosing a spot along a water body or see if there is a pond or lake that has a path around it?
  • Or maybe there is a river with two pedestrian/bike bridges close to where you are, that could provide the same opportunity of a walking loop?
  • Give yourself a treat after you finish by identifying a path that ends up at a great cafe or restaurant - one that includes a fireplace would provide a great wrap up to the ultimate winter outing!

Night Photo of the Ottawa River in Winter Wild Here

Specific Ideas for Ottawa:

- For full moon yoga - Lansdowne Park is a popular spot, but there are also yoga activities at Mooney's Bay and sometimes at Westboro Beach.  I think they even had a full moon event at Parliament Hill!

- A great spot for a winter outing (whether it's X-C skiing or snowshoeing) that's close to downtown Ottawa is Lac Leamy - it's a short loop and you can have an après-ski (or snowshoe) drink at Le Saint-Éloi Café Bistro (100 Rue Atawe)

- Another perfect spot is the new Sir John A MacDonald Urban Winter Trail as you can either make the end destination Mill St. Brew Pub (and yes! they have a fireplace in the back) or you can take a pit stop at the Museum Café that serves hot chocolate (Thursday nights it's open until 7 pm) - details on the SJAM post here.

Happy Full Moon Adventures!


Great Nature Blog for Ottawa Urban Wild

Great Ottawa Meals with a View Blog


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The Scandinavian Approach to Embracing the Outdoors


Cooler weather and even winter seem to be embraced with open arms by many Scandinavians.

There are certain Scandinavian approaches that have been talked about for decades, that seem to provide an easier transition to winter and an opportunity to celebrate this season, rather than dread it.  I took a "Winter Cities" class in university and I remember reading about how urban design, urban planning and event urban festivals can create spaces that make it much more easy to appreciate and enjoy the colder temperatures and darker months.

Which makes me wonder if there are ways to take this approach in our own lives so that we can make personal choices that enhance our enjoyment of cooler fall days and winter months?  I think instinctively we seek out some of these but may not realize how consciously adding such experiences to our outings can really enhance our pleasure as the seasons change.

Here are some ideas!


Seek out Patios that Face West and/or South.  You'll be able to enjoy some passive solar heating (think brick or stone wall that can soak up and radiate out the heat) or benefit from sheltered pockets of warmth away from prevailing winds.  Added bonus if there are heaters that can provide that warmth on days the sun is not out!  I can think of one spot in Ottawa where the temperature was in the low twenties (Celsius) but when we were up on the patio at 5 pm, we were practically sweating!  So imagine how great that patio would be when it gets to 15 degrees Celsius!



Find Cafes and Restaurants that Offer Winter Seating opportunities.  I'm loving that here in Ottawa there are some businesses that are embracing this type of hygge approach.  I've seen wool blankets laid out in the outdoor seating area at my local cafe (on their signature red Muskoka chairs) and cozy furs (and a firepit) at another favourite place in the Market that serves Glühwein (a type of mulled wine).  In Ottawa I love seeing the outdoor seating areas offered as part of Winterlude also including an outdoor patio (with bonfire + bar carved out of ice) and other gathering spots around bonfires.


Take Advantage of Sunny Days - Good Weather.  Sure this one is a no brainer but especially in the fall we can become wrapped up in things and forget that some of these mild days may be the last.  Get out at lunch time or extend your walk after work (get off a couple of bus stops before home).  Enjoy a mild evening even if the sun sets early.  And as it gets colder, pay attention to these sunny days and seek out opportunities to enjoy a bit of the outdoors.  Find the streets where the angle of the sun reaches in or enjoy a mild day where you can find a spot to soak up a few rays.


Dressing Well Can help Extend the Enjoyment of all Seasons.  If you are dressed according to the current weather, you can enjoy being outdoors for longer.  Another no brainer but this includes proper footware, head "gear" (toque, hat, ear muffs) and a bit of something extra for extremities if needed (such as a hot pocket) or good mitts (not gloves).  And this can be done stylishly also!  Think Blanket Scarves, Wool Hats, Flat Riding Boots, etc.  And your Blanket Scarf can double as a blanket as per the above "Snuggly Seating" also!  The bonus to enjoying the outdoors in cooler seasons and in all kinds of weather is that getting home and cozying up with some tea, a great latte, under a blanket is just as much fun after your outdoor adventure!



Venture towards the Lights (including Bonfires!) Lights provide a warm beacon for those who are outdoors in the darker months.  They also offer animation and beauty during the short days and long evenings that can seem to drag on during the winter.  Enjoy lights during a walk home in the dark or even make a point of finding the best twinkling display as holiday decorations start going up.  And the warm glow such as bonfires, offer places for people to gather.  Public spaces, squares and other community spots can offer outdoor meeting locals with welcoming displays in the same way restaurants do!


Optimize a Great View  A good place to start if you are not exactly ready to fully embrace the colder climates is enjoying locations that provide a scenic outlook.  Look for options such as places to swim where the sun streams in through big windows or a coffee shop where you can sip a warm drink while overlooking the bustling city or a great restaurant or diner that has a huge picture window that shows off the expanse of a shiny white river of ice.  Not all nature appreciation has to be done outdoors!  And if you take this first step to be able to appreciate what winter offers, who knows?  You might even be enticed outdoors after awhile!

Here's to Embracing the Cooler Side!

What are your best tricks to optimize your enjoyment of the winter months?







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Three cities (Windsor, Montreal and Detroit) and three levels of wild!

Just wanted to share these three wonderful articles (from the archives) on how people are interacting with nature in their cities:

 -- Photo Credit: Marilène Gaudet --

MONTREAL:

from Cities for People - Changing our narratives of wild spaces in the city: An interview with Dominique Ferraton and Maia Iotzova (2015)

This provides an overview of a crowdsourcing program that is helping people in Montreal see their wild spaces in a new way.  Love this idea of wild city mapping!



-- Photo Credit: Rebecca Salminen Witt --

DETROIT:

from the "boundary organization" The Nature of Cities - Wild in Detroit: Realizing Opportunity in a New Nature (2015)

What I love about this is that Detroit in this transitional period is like a new frontier - it feels like almost anything goes and people are using incredibly creative methods of helping citizens rethink how their city should be and what should be included: such as the wilder parts of nature.

-- Photo Credit: Knowing the Land is Resistance --

WINDSOR:

from the blog Knowing the Land is Resistance - Last of the Last: Windsor's Savannah and Tall Grass Prairie (2011)

This is a really inspiring Collective that is working on deepening their own and others' connection to Nature (with a capital "N") while strengthening their allyship with the lands - appreciating all that is thriving including: "scrubby hillsides, trash-strewn train track corridors, relic forests speckled with garlic mustard hidden in suburban parks, the poplars growing along highway drainage ditches, the coyotes that roam the golf courses at dawn."

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

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