The ferry moves briskly along the chilled waters of Lake Ontario as the imposing backdrop of the Toronto skyline shrinks slightly in scale. Ahead lay an island of trees whom have long since lost their summer shades. The barren island is dotted with street lights and is sparsely inhabited, a stark contrast to the city within its view.

On the island cars, for the most part, are replaced by basketed bicycles which never seem to be in much of a hurry. In these winter months, one would almost feel as if they have entered onto a deserted island if not for the occasional bark of a dog playing in an open field.

Canada Geese

In the waters, a nervous mink pops from the frigid lake carrying a fish a quarter its size in its mouth as it scampers along a dock. In the fields a band of Canadian Geese sing their off-tune afternoon melodies proudly while waddling away from intruders in their domain. Under a bridge, which straddles a calm stream mirroring back its reflexion, a swan glides gracefully without causing even a mere ripple in the water behind it.

My first ever mink sighting… my new #3 favourite animal of all-time

I settle down on a log while I wait for the light to dim and the concrete forest across the lake to come alive in the dusk sky. I can’t help be feel as if I am looking at the city through a giant movie screen; it seems so far away from the world I am in.

Me waiting for the right light

I inhale a thick piece of air and am reminded of what Canada is all about as I sit there in Toronto Island Park. The air feels fresh as it tickles its way through my nose and then cool and sharp as it strikes the straws in my lungs.

“Canada has its own smell, doesn’t it?” I say to myself, alone and not worried someone will hear me as there is no one within sight, “It smells, well, like Canada.”

Ice clings to a stick over the cold Lake Ontario Water

There really is no way of explaining how Canada feels to someone who has never been, but as I looked across at the busy city just a stone’s throw away I couldn’t help but be reminded. It feels fresh, it feels real, and it feels as if you have the whole world to yourself. In Canada, no matter whether you are in the prairies or in the middle of the biggest city in the country there is always a place to get away from it within a couple of minutes.

The skyline behind Toronto Island Park

Although I love the city, I love the lights, I love the race, there is nothing quite as refreshing as taking an afternoon walk through a piece of nature and reflecting on life, or clearing the mind from all of the noise that generally clouds its sanity. Toronto Island Park was my sanctuary during my stay in the city, and I have to thank my time there for reminding me what Canada feels like, for reminding me that despite the cold weather, Canada is the greatest country on the planet.

The Toronto Skyline as seen from Toronto Island Park

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