Last April’s showers lasted well into May, but the flowers are thankful. It is finally hiking weather, and Oshawa’s trails are ready to be tread. Whatever your preference, whether it’s the marshland of Bayside Trails or Second Marsh; or the watery breeze of Lakefront West Park, Oshawa’s suburban energy has something for everyone.
Other than the physical benefits of walking, running, or cycling, there are some appreciable positives to being in nature. Offering something of a sensory cleanse – a much-needed new normal after staring at a screen for two years and responding to the ping of Microsoft Teams – there is comfort in paying attention to our senses as we move along paths surrounded by greenery.
This past weekend I was delighted to walk with my furry friend through Oshawa’s Harmony Creek Trail (just off Hillcroft Street, which runs parallel to Wilson Road). It is important to highlight that this trail is fairly accessible, as it is mostly paved (aside from a wooden bridge and the need to cross a busy road at parts). If mobility is difficult, there are benches to rest.
There were walkers, runners, bikers, guitar players, and friendly strollers along the path. The chirping of birds was in the air, some songs I had never heard before in my busy end of the city. The babbling of the creek was a truly pleasant sound, with the dual benefit of cooling down the atmosphere. The canopy cover also helped. Sonically, I was in a bowl surrounded by foliage that mostly muted the sounds of the city above. I could taste the freshness of the air as the trees – the lungs of any community – did what all life depends on. The sun cracked through and made the young trees a lighter green; the water glistened more sweetly, and the day all the more pleasant. There was a feeling of comfort and elevation as I walked outside the gazes that always noticed me. Here, I was at peace with my thoughts, able to breathe more deeply, my gait a little slower, and my mood more relaxed. This was a good break from the bustle and flow of the city pace.
There were plenty of areas of large grassy spaces. Although I am not a fan of grass – it does not
produce food/fruit/vegetables, it does not provide pollination for bees or shelter for other critters,
and it takes an abundance of water to maintain – some flat areas made ideal picnic spots. I would have preferred wildflowers, an apiary, a community garden, a labyrinth, and spaces for eco-education, but hopefully, as a community, we can advocate for more of such uses of green space. As a lover of picnics, I did have to appreciate that there were shaded flat areas for folks to gather.
The grass and the trees provided ample opportunity for earthing enthusiasts: feel free to put your feet in the grass, touch a tree, hold a sun salutation and connect to earth’s energy sources. I found several places that I could see someone returning to with their journal or smudge. There were many places for individuals or groups to heal, cleanse, balance, think, and relax without interrupting anyone else.
If you’re anything like me, you also pay passive attention to the neighbourhoods surrounding these trails. I often gaze at the houses that back onto the creeks or the backyards barbecuing something sweet. I sometimes look on or smell eagerly, dreaming of one day retiring into such a lifestyle, always ending with going for a walk after supper. From what I could see, hear, and smell, there is a real sense of “everything is going to be alright” from the neighbouring Hillcroft communities. Walking, grounding, and deliberately appreciating nature has this effect; most times, we must dig deep to find it.
I hope everyone gets a chance to walk or wheel around Oshawa’s many beautiful trails. As it gets warmer for Canada’s limited summer season, there is an increased appreciation for the gifts wind, water, sun, and land offer to us. There is an increased need to take breaks from the doom scrolling that has occupied our attention for so long and to check in with ourselves more often. Our mental and physical health is supported by the myriad opportunities Oshawa has for us to get closer to ourselves. Let’s get out and enjoy them!