Dailies: July 19, 2012

I’ve gone on at some length in the previous posts about the sizeable character that is the natural environment on the Bruce Peninsula. Most people, at least the ones we have met, are not only attentive to their surroundings; rather, interaction with the wild here takes on a personal and almost quotidian aspect. Residents of the area involve nature in their conversations, gestures made in one will resort in corresponding movement in the other, and everyone has his or her own favourite element of the ecosystem, like a best friend, with which they are closest. Obviously, not all who live here are of the same persuasion, but living on the Bruce Peninsula is not easy and the surroundings are fairly high on the list of things that will keep people forging onwards here.

Speaking of nature, we have had incredible thunder and lightning for the past two days–both were accompanied by intense, short-lived rain. Five minutes later it was hot and incredibly humid, of course, but the weather fronts that come down from the northwest are really amazing to see. Today’s approaching vanguard of dark thunderheads crept up with an unusual sideways swirl that made the clouds look as though they were chewing (gulp). Bang! Within moments, the sky all around shot charcoal grey. But at least for the time being, the storm stayed put and continued to glower at us over the treeline.

We had made plans last week with Noreen and Rod to go out to the Bird Observatory in Cabot Head (about an hour away by car), and they came to get us around 11 am. The two of them were instrumental in getting the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory off the ground, and they remain actively involved to this day. It is the only ecological institution to be operating within a provincial park, and their main station (two renovated cottages way out in the bush) is in an exquisite location. Rod told us on the way there that in this tract of land are locations which are the farthest from any maintained road in southern Ontario. The average distance to a road, he explained, is 0.8 km. Around the observatory, the figure is closer to 10 km.

Out there, we met up with two of the observatory’s summer stewards. Stephen and Hilary have been travelling to the Bruce Peninsula for 15 years and have no intention of stopping–both are University of Toronto professors and writers, so it must certainly be a good way to combine work with vacation. The area definitely snares people, and these two are no exception.

As it turned out, too, I had read about them briefly last month when an article about a court case to save a shared city tree was in the Globe and Mail. Although I couldn’t place it when we met, Hilary turned out to be the woman standing next to a wonderful Norwegian Maple in the piece that I showed Alexandra when we were on the plane to New York City! They recently won the case to save the tree, and though many more details come to mind about the story, I will simply point you to the Indiegogo fundraiser they have set up to raise funds to defend the ruling against a certain appeal filing. Normally we don’t plug other projects on this blog, but the story was so outlandish that I couldn’t help myself.

There are no shortage of trees up here, though. In some places, it can take hours to get through a few hundred metres of bush–it is incredibly dense. At the same time there are farmers’ fields, natural fields and meadows, bogs, swamps, marshes, rocky fields with no apparent reason for existing, thin hardwood forest, jackpine alvars where sturdy little trees file up to jam their roots into fissures in the limestone sheet below the one inch of soil, and so many others. In some ways driving around here feels like travelling to several different countries within the span of a few minutes.

I could probably go on about the Niagara Escarpment for a long time, now that I know what it is, but instead I’ll offer a brief explanation. It describes a geological ridge of limestone that begins in New York state, where the eponymous falls run over it, up through southern Ontario, and straight along the centre of the Bruce Peninsula. At Tobermory, the escarpment dips below the lake water line and it creates the dotting of islands from here to Manitoulin Island. Ultimately, it curves around and ends in Green Bay, Wisconsin, having spent 90% of its time in Canada. It is in essence a giant cliff, but it sticks this community together like a spine. Everyone is tied together by this thread.

I was going to write more about all the different rocks. But now I am tired. See you next time.



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