Don’t look up… the sky is falling… or it might be murder hornets, zombie hurricanes, wildfires, floods, politics, lockdowns and travel bans, or the sad knowledge that the work we children of the 60’s thought we had done to promote equity and racial tolerance needs to be done all over again that is looming over our heads.
Every so often it’s just good to shut out all the news/noise and listen to the lapping of the water against the shore, the rustle of the leaves in the fall breeze, and the cacophony of the ducks on the public boat launch.
Even better, just sit on a bench on the shore and watch the sun-dappled surface of the water.
We’re not exactly walking on the wild side these days, but we are lucky enough to be weathering the pandemic in a place with relatively few cases, and lots of open spaces in which to stretch our legs and breathe in the fresh air. True to the sentiments on the big red granite maple leaf on the waterfront, our parks are a big part of bringing “pleasure and joy” into our lives these days.
There’s lots to see on our walks. This town was once (1882-1986) a major shipbuilding centre where more than 180 lake freighters, coast guard ships and icebreakers, as well as 23 war ships (corvettes and minesweepers) were constructed and launched. It was also the northern terminus of the Grand Trunk Railway which brought passengers and freight to what was the jumping-off point by ship for lumber, grain, and farm goods heading to Canada’s prairies (traversing Lake Huron and Lake Superior to Thunder Bay). The downtown core is filled with monuments to its ship-building history, whether via the Walk of History displaying replicas of ships’ hull plates embedded in the sidewalk, ships’ artifacts, or huge murals.
The train station is now the town’s museum, and the shipyards have been dismantled and replaced by waterfront condos, but the huge grain terminals remain as the most iconic of Collingwood’s landmarks.
There is ongoing discussion around the fate of the unused and deteriorating terminals, but I am among those who would love to see the structure restored and turned into a tourist destination. I cannot imagine the harbour without the terminals, any more than I can imagine it without the swans, cormorants, Canada geese, egrets, herons, seagulls … and hundreds of swimming, fishing, nesting, flying, quacking, waddling ducks.
Sometimes “duck!” is a warning. Sometimes it’s just an expression of wonder as we point out a beautiful waterfowl gliding past.
And don’t we all need some wonder in these strange times?