Photo courtesy of Artscape Gibraltar Point
My first autumn on the Island has felt a bit more like a reverse spring. The plants may be dormant, but the more than mild weather has kept the experience of living in Toronto's harbour very temperate. The warmth would be pleasant, if it wasn't so eerie.
Bronwyn Clément was born and raised on the Island. After an extended hiatus of study and travel, including work as the coordinator of the Great Lakes Commons, she once again calls the Island home. For Clément, the lack of winter weather starkly contrasts previous years. "I have many memories of incredible ice formations on the boardwalk caused by storms crashing over the seawall," says Clément.
"Many winters, by this time of year, the ice on the lagoon is frozen allowing for dawn-‘til-dusk games of shinny or long skating cruises in between the waterways of the smaller islands. December is usually early enough in the ice season that under the bridges are still puddles of water and we’d often walk, clumsily in skates, along the beaches by the bridges."
No such cold-weather fun has been available yet this year. "This mild December, it’s hard to imagine any of that magical winter wonderland of snow," says Clément, "Instead the season is noticeable mostly in the constant roll of waves pounding the shore like steady thunder; a sound that lulls me to sleep with its white noise."
Regardless of the effects of human-driven climate change, the Island continues to offer natural rewards. I've noticed a huge range of colours in the sky, lake and vegetation. It seems as though nothing is ever the same shade more than once. The sky glows purple and orange at night, rich blues throughout the day and vivid reds and pinks at sunset. The water alters from deep dark blues to pale greens and everything in between. And despite the coming of autumn and into winter, the plant life too offers much in the way of hues. This progression keeps the Island ever fresh and awe-inspiring.
Clément concurs, "Having returned to live on the Island after years away, it’s been a renewed joy — and relief at the end of a long day — to be in sight of the lake and to fall asleep to the lull of waves against the shore. In the past few weeks in particular, I’ve noticed the shift of where the sun rises over the Leslie Street Spit, further and further south. These mornings greet us with a deep, fiery ruby red and grapefruit pink, a good reminder of the winter solstice and a different way to understand shorter days."
Clément is careful not to overly idealize the Island either. "Of course it’s not all romantic. Colder days and long nights make the Island’s isolation all the more acute. Once here I often find there’s an inertia to leave again and old cottages that were never properly winterized really start to feel drafty."
This un-December, it's important to acknowledge that balance.
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