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Winter is a wonderful season.

It seems strange to write this after the city was hit hard by an ice storm but I really mean it. This year in part thanks to this column I have discovered the joys of experiencing the seasons. In winter this means taking the time to silently watch snow falling or ice glistening on trees (preferably without breaking them). Over the holidays, I also discovered that it is not necessary to leave the city to enjoy winter wonderlands, as long as the weather cooperates.

winter wonderland

LESLIE STREET SPIT. ALL PHOTOS: DEBBIE BUEHLER

Take the Leslie Street Spit, for example.  Over the past few days I’ve biked there – using my awesome new snow tires. And I’ve taken my kids and friends there (not by bike) to share with them the wonders of winter in the city.

We took in beautiful views.

Winter Wonderland

We hiked.

PHOTO: DEBBIE BUEHLER

We made snowballs.

PHOTO: DEBBIE BUEHLER

We found ice under the snow!

HEY THERE’S ICE UNDER HERE! PHOTO: DEBBIE BUEHLER

HEY THERE’S ICE UNDER HERE!

We even got to see the extraordinary ice sculptures that waves and their spray can make.

winter wonderland. Photo of ice formations by Debbie Buehler

ALL PHOTOS: DEBBIE BUEHLER

And we learned to use our heads in the face of danger. While hiking we decided to climb a small ridge to take in the view. What we did not realize was that getting down would not be as easy as getting up. There was ice under the snow! (Perhaps we should have remembered this.) The path was steep and slippery. What were three parents and four kids to do? In the end, we all slid down on our butts — adults and kids alike — with the youngest riding on my lap. It was a fun and safe solution to one of the risks of winter hiking.

I will admit to returning to the same spots in my city. There is something wonderful about getting to know a natural spot – intimately – in all seasons. By visiting regularly, and by being mindful of what I see and hear on those visits, I have learned what plants and animals shared my special natural areas. I know what these animals do, how they behave, and how they cope with the challenges of the various seasons.

It has been an enriching and humbling experience. Happily, there is much more to learn. Join me by finding your own special places in your part of the city. I am almost certain that there are natural areas ripe for discovery, like High Park or the Humber Arboretum in the west end, or a even simple simple parkette close to your home.

Bundle your kids and yourself up and get out there to find your own winter wonderland!

Deborah M. Buehler is an ecologist, an editor and a writer in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and catch up on her Wild City posts here.

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