Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Day in Niagara

In June of 1997, one of the women who attends the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto organized a bus tour down to the Niagara Region and I bought a ticket. The bus was a very comfortable coach and it was nearly full.

Our first stop (once we had reached the Niagara area) was at the new Butterfly Conservatory which is near the Lewiston Bridge. I had never been inside a place devoted solely to butterflies before and I would describe the experience as 'magical'. We knew that this was on the itinerary for the day so many of us wore light colored clothing and ended up wearing one or more butterflies during the visit.

  One of the butterfly feeders - the pink liquid in the dish is a sweet nectar which butterflies enjoy

This is Helenka and, on the top of her blond head, is a butterfly (it is hard to see due to the vegetation in the background).

Jack had a butterfly affixed to his pant leg.

The pathway through the conservatory was elliptical and passed through sub-tropical vegetation.

 Also - a second butterfly feeder. As I exited an  attendant stopped me - I had a butterfly on my hat and the insect had to be rescued.

 From the conservatory it was a short drive to the falls and my favourite way to view them.

Above the falls and the walk along the edge (of course - behind the railing) gives me an odd feeling as if I was about to plunge into the torrent!

The lip of the cataract. 

The Maid of the Mist was nearly made invisible by the mist! The waterfall in the background is the American Falls and the land to the right of that cataract is Goat Island.   

A bed of tulips with the American Falls in the background.

From Niagara Falls it was a short drive down river to Queenston Heights - the site of one of the battles in the War of 1812. At that point is this monument erected to the memory of the British General Brock.

Over to my left from where I took this photo is the beginning of the Bruce Trail. While I was in the St Catherines area on one of the walks - which is not far from Niagara Falls - the hikes that I went on did not end nor begin at that point.  

A garden at Queenston Heights. 

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a lovely community situated along the Niagara River. It is the site of a highly respected theater festival.

The main street was lined with flower boxes full of tulips and daffodils.

The town clock.

 The venerable Prince William Hotel

And to express the bemusement that I felt while there  - a caleche passing a modern motor coach.

Friday, 22 February 2013


I have enjoyed Retreats - whether they be in monasteries or  in campgrounds. I love being in a new and different place and I enjoy the bonding (especially the sharing that is done).

During the summer of 1997 a few people at MCCToronto got together and organized a retreat. They knew that the Basilian Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church owned a small island towards the north side of Lake Simcoe and that - when the center was not being used - they rented out the retreat facilities on that island to other groups. We were fortunate to be able to rent it on a beautiful weekend in June.

The estuary in the cottage hamlet of Joyville from which the barge ferry took us over to the island on Friday and brought us back on the following Sunday

To reach the island cars were driven to the cottage hamlet of Joyville which is situated towards the north shore of the lake and accessible through the larger town of Orillia.

Strawberry Island is owned by the Basilian Fathers (ironically I am now living a block north of their university enclave) and is a pretty place.

The bungalows were where we slept. A few years later Pope John Paul I visited Toronto and spent a day or two on Strawberry Island. I have wondered which cabin did he sleep in?

 There was a small pier extending out into the lake from which people could fish - if they so desired.

One aspect of retreats that I have always enjoyed is the interaction between those who are there. Sometimes there were people who came to lecture on a subject but I much prefer a general discussion group.

Here is a group discussing some subject or another. At the same time discussions were underway on the other cottage verandahs.

Lovely trails meandered through the woods and, along one of those trails, was this cross.

Naturally, there was a fire pit and a singsong in the evening.

Finally -the outdoor 'chapel' where we gathered on Sunday morning for a service.

The mixed gender retreats were held only once or twice. Now there are separate retreats - one for the women and another for the men. I attended one of the latter a couple of years ago (I was booked to attend another but there was a mix-up between me, the ride coordinator and the assigned driver so I was missed).  Usually these retreats are held at an education camp for school children up Airport Road in Caledon. There is a small ski hill across the road and the large acreage of the camp is quite hilly and laced by hiking trails - actually, the Bruce Trail passes through the area.

The retreat center - actually, the building is much larger than this photo shows. We all ate and slept in the same building.

The dining room where we ate - and where most of our discussion periods were held.

A large group of men. If this had been a 'co-ed' retreat, the group would have been at least twice this size. Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto is a large congregation.

                       An arrangement which was the centering piece for a discussion group.
Our 'hike master' who came to the camp on Saturday afternoon to lead those of us who were energetic on a walk through those woods. At one point we were walking along the Bruce Trail. As you have noted, in all probability, this was spring and the trees were yet to leaf.

The very extensive grounds. Some distance to my right are the buildings where the property managers reside.

There was a barn (and there were animals inside it)

The highest hill - on the immediate property - offered a vista over the surrounding countryside.

The women's retreat was a number of weeks ago while the one for we men is upcoming. I am hoping to be able to go again.