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Jul 12 / s

Nature. Unafraid, And Definitely Out To Get Me

Written by: Carly Steven


Allan Gardens fish

A gobby goldfish at Allan Gardens Conservatory

Just in case anyone was in any doubt that the natural world is waging pernicious rebellion against me, this evening, while out running, it threw a snake in my path.

Admittedly it didn’t try to bite me or hiss at me but it did slither across the track and into the undergrowth in a particularly sinister manner.

Two days earlier I ran past a vole, munching a way and not in the least concerned by my huffing and puffing.  Even when I doubled pack to check that my short sightedness wasn’t playing tricks on me it hardly seemed to notice.

We had a vole not that long ago scurrying about outside our front door but I’m not sure what happened to him.  Perhaps he was eaten by one of the hawks that lives in our park.  JM tells me there’s a mum and four young ones.  A week or so ago one of the chicks fell out of the nest and a specialist had to be called in to put it back in the tree.

I can hear them calling most mornings when I leave for work and sometimes when we come back in the evening we see them up in the branches feeding.

Our house spider

One of our many resident beasties

The spider issue came to a head on Monday morning when I was having a shower and one of the larger ones decided to  join me.  I have tried to accept their long-limbed presence but communal libations was a step too far and JM had to be called in for an emergency cull.

On Sunday we escaped our Arctic apartment and visited Allan Gardens Conservatory.  Allan Gardens is one of the oldest parks in Toronto and the conservatory has undergone at least one major reincarnation as a result of a fire in 1902.  It  was officially opened on September 11,1860 by the Prince of Wales, who planted a maple tree to mark the occasion:

In 1878, a pavilion modeled after the Crystal Palace (a structure erected for the British Great Exhibition of 1851) was built, and in 1885 the grounds were beautified and laid out with lawns, flower beds, and benches… Three years later, the ownership of the land was transferred to the city. At one time, the Gardens also featured the largest fountain in the province

We’ve been past the gardens many times on the streetcar but this is the only the second time I’ve actually gone inside.  Maybe because it’s a little scruffy round the edges, when you actually get inside the greenhouses it feels like you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole.  There are several sections branching off from the central Palm House and the whole complex covers 16,000 square feet.

Allan Gardens turtle

Allan Gardens turtle

As well as lots of plants and flowers there are a couple of water features, ponds with goldfish and turtles, and a cactus house.  I hate to fall into cliché but Allan Gardens is, I think, a forgotten gem in the heart of the city.  I don’t remember ever seeing it featured in any tourist paraphernalia.  There are some interesting characters around; when I went into the toilets the person standing in front of the mirror immediately started to tell me about her sex change operation.

This should have prepared me for my most recent unexpected encounter.  This evening, just before I saw the snake, I ran past a man clinging to the outside of a footbridge holding what looked like some sort of spray can dressed in nothing but a loin cloth.  I’m not kidding.  I passed him again on my way back as he was walking along the path.  Two bits of string and some material covering his rude bits.