We are in full-tilt summertime mode over here. Late bedtimes, long morning swims, spontaneity, any excuse to get outside. The warm weather lends itself to a stronger connection with our natural world, doesn't it? Exploring new parks, we discover new kinds of trees. A neighbourhood walks sees our growing appreciation for all kinds of flowers, and we give them new names. Playing in our front yard, we watch our seedlings grow into mature plants. Looking out our window, we have watched a family of cardinals grow from two birds to six. We are called to get out and explore our hood a little more, dig our feet into our surroundings, taking ownership of "our spots."
One of the places I felt immediately drawn to when we arrived last summer was Petrie Island. It is now a city-operated beach park, but I remember it as a secluded, waterfront oasis we used to escape to as teenagers who craved something different, something to call our own. Now, I love bringing my family down for walks along the trail, spotting turtles, water birds and frogs. We take any opportunity to bring a snack or lunch down to the shore to enjoy eating al fresco, listening to water lap the shore, only a short drive from home.
My friend's sister runs a bunch of conservation-minded programs there, including one geared towards my kids' ages every Wednesday and Thursday. I joined my friend this morning to learn how to survive on the island. We learned to build a water filtration system, identify nuts and seeds and edible plants. The girls loved seeing the turtles, snakes, frogs and snails in the nature centre's aquariums, and running around with a group of kids collecting rocks. They also loved when we recognized their attention spans were waning and let them run over to the park instead of following the group any longer.
I said this summer would be about taking it easy, letting adventures unfold organically, shying away from organized activities and scheduled outings. A weekly foray to Petrie Island is totally something I'm cool with scheduling in my planner and trying really hard to attend. It's educational (which makes me feel good about any yelling/TV-watching/laziness that ensues the rest of the day), laid-back, in a beautiful natural setting and cheap: $2 per kid per visit.
It gave Abby something to boast about. "I learned to filter water and I saw a frog," she said in a rush as soon as we got in the door back home, where Daddy watched over baby Summer. Hailey and Robin remembered finding rocks, throwing rocks into the water, climbing high and their friend Hen-wee when I asked them if they liked our morning outing. I liked catching up with my bud, learning a thing or two myself (like did you know you could filter water through a sock?), and watching my girls explore the beach I used to flock to as a teenager.
I highly recommend it, if you have the means to get there (although I think even the city bus has a route right to the island now). It has left me with beautiful scenes to photograph, (really digging the embedded links in this post, eh?), an evolved connection to my local beach and conservation area, and plans for future summers: hiking with all my girls (on their own two feet!), learning to kayak, having family pictures taken on the rocky shore.
The best side effect to a morning spent on the island is two napping toddlers, conked out for the afternoon.