Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Observations in My Neighbourhood

Do you remember the first book written by Dr. Seuss for children? 
“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!”
It was a delightful story about young Marco who concocts
a colourful cast of characters  ~ literally “fantasy stories”
he dreams up to relate to his father about his walk home.

And to Think That I Saw It In My Neighbourhood!
(and these are not “fantasies”)

My first observation of winter was of the bare trees, void of their leaves, to now expose to us what their well-dressed limbs protected and hid from our view. From spring to late fall, we see squirrels scampering here and there hunting for materials from which to build their nests...perhaps it'll be in a soil filled flower pot on patio or balcony...perhaps it'll be built of grasses, straws and twigs...perhaps  hunting for “food stuffs” (when overly kind people feed them...which is a “No! No!)...or pilfering and storing nuts for their winter provisions. With their tiny sharp claws, they can hastily climb brick walls.  Ever playfully, they jump from branch to branch or from fencing to posts.  Now, displayed in the fork of  barren tree branches are sizeable comfy nests snuggly fastened and supported against wind...where these cute little pesky creatures spend the winter. THESE I Now See!

In the past few winters, snows have diverted around us here in Southern Ontario. Often coming from winds and blizzards generated by Lakes Huron and Ontario, these storms have churned a path through The Golden Horseshoe...usually heading to Niagara and Buffalo areas and into New York State.  This year, Mother Nature has inflicted us with cold frigid temperatures...tons of snow  (both gently falling and wind driven blizzards). Traffic has been snarled...visibility at times almost nil...vehicle accidents by the multitude...major delays at airports and other points of travel.  Truckers by the dozens were unable to cross the Niagara River bridges due to closures.  Major highways are shut down...the QEW, the 400 series of roads in Ontario...Interstate 90 in NY State and Routes 190 and 290 out of Niagara Falls...for hours...up to a couple days. My son, home for Christmas, was returning to New Jersey after New Year's Day.  Fortunately he had not rented a car...fortunately he had not booked a flight...fortunately he had not purchased a bus ticket...FORTUNATELY,  he had arranged an Amtrak train reservation!  His route was safe...but shortly thereafter, train service was unavailable due to blizzards of snow and ice!
New to this area were Snow Quakes!

The Ice Storm just prior to Christmas, downed many limbs, branches and complete trees which caused excessive damage...power outages in vast areas of Hamilton, Burlington and our rural areas.  Hardest hit was Toronto with thousands upon thousands of families without electricity and heat….many depending upon wood stoves and BBQ’s.  This storm, the worst in decades, extensively damaged trees, roads and properties…although most services have been reinstated, the clean-up of  fallen trees, limbs, branches is incredible.  Metropolitan Hamilton, due to last July’s massive wind gales and now December’s Ice Storm, reports about 9000 city-owned trees have been lost.  The average per year is about 1200 trees.

The Winter Beauty of Niagara Falls  has never been so dramatic ~ the American  Falls, as it pours over the escarpment, forms masses of snowy ice ~ the frozen mist from the cascades coats the landscape in silvery frost ~ and against the azure blue sky, starkly stand numerous silver-dressed trees  The weirdly formed ice sculptures along the coastlines of  the Great Lakes are highly frosted like angel cakes ~ ice crystals form on frozen ponds.  Even in Florida, icicles hang from oranges on orchard trees!

A local photographer was lucky to photo a blue heron doing a “triangular split” (2 legs plus long neck) landing on a frozen pond near Burlington Bay…hoping to snag a fish for dinner! Another local photo shows a trumpeter swan calmly resting (amid icy winds) on the frozen bay water near La Salle Park Pier. A photo in today’s Spectator of a handsome red cardinal, showed him snuggled on a tree branch  ~ snow gently blowing ~ his feathers wonderfully fluffed providing him a protective eider-down coverlet to keep off the icy chill.

Some neighbours in Hamilton were vitally concerned about a mid-size-short haired dog chained to his dog house (night and day…supposedly a “watch dog”).  He did have a dog house but lacking proper conditions as set out by the SPCA. Frequently a neighbour lady came by with bowls of warm water for this dog who happily lapped it all each time.  She and others reported this neglect to authorities and the media (radio, TV and The Spectator); however nothing was done to rectify this supposed cruelty.  After much concern and the publicity, someone must have “dog-napped” him!  Now, I read, he has been returned to his rightful keeper…the doghouse  insulated and blanket inside to warm him.

Another good-will story is of a man, who caring for his dog, donned him with a fitted coat…and placed boots on his feet covering his legs for their daily cold winter walk  His canine buddy, stunned by this new winter wardrobe, tried desperately to remove  his new foot gear, then resorted to using his teeth to remove the velcro straps on his boots as if to say, “Are  you nuts, Master???”

Today, driving  home from my physiotherapy session, I viewed a small truck plow with a snow blade attached to the front bumper.  SNOWWAY was yellow lettered across it..  I’m confident the driver has been busy with driveways and strip mall parking lots.

Words of Wisdom
“Think of all the beauty still around you.”
(Anne  Frank)

Merle Baird-Kerr…written January 6, 2014
Comments Welcome…e-mail to:


  1. Sherrie, my long time acquaintance, writes: "I love your words describing today's happenings...'A strong Arctic wind has now descended upon us and Mother Nature has decided that winter, still in control, reigns.' So true today and it's a bit snowy too; sparrows have disappeared...must be in a warm hiding somewhere, Where do our little feathered friends go and what do they do on cold days such as this?"

  2. Sherrie, you are so perceptive and caring about our "fine feathered
    friends!" They locate a wind-free shelter (if possible) and fluff out their feathers to ward off the chill; they visit the human-hung bird feeders and of course, they "tweet to all their friends!"