Tag Archives | Toronto

Home, Sweet Home…? Toronto’s Ice Storm

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2014 is off to a great start for all with lots of travel to come!

Back at home, the winter of 2013-2014 has not been fun in Toronto, nor for the rest of Canada and much of the United States. Nor England, nor… okay, not for a lot of places around the world.

The official start of winter for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere was December 21st, the date of the winter solstice. But weeks before this date, Mother Nature was dropping big hints (lower than normal temperatures and early snowfalls) that this was not going to be a gentle winter.

On the day of the winter solstice, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was hit with an ice storm of a magnitude not seen for at least a few decades. Given all the news warnings about potential power outages, we’d have been silly not to seek out flashlights and candles and keep them close by. As predicted, after a few flickers in the late hours of Saturday night, the power went out completely around 1am on Sunday morning.


We were one of the luckier households regaining power (I’m not counting the 1 minute teasing flickers) around 10 or 11pm Sunday night, just under the 24 hour mark. We had to toss some food from the fridge, but everything in the freezer was safe. More fortunately still, the weather overnight was relatively warm. Neither situation was the case for many others in Toronto. At its worst, more than 300,000 hydro customers were without power, most for several days, some for up to 9 days, and in some cases, as temperatures dropped to almost -20 degrees Celsius.

Lying in bed with my book – one of the few things you can do these days without electricity – I heard a drawn out cracking noise. Pulling apart the blinds, I was immediately struck by the source of the sound: a sizable piece of the birch tree out front had splintered away and had landed upside down, resting on its twigs as it were, just metres from the kitchen window. Over the next few hours 3 more branches would break away, the largest, easily 7 to 8 feet in length and about 5 feet across at its crown. As I walked around the neighbourhood a few days later, pieces of bark were exposed all around. There were stories of trees taking down power lines, crushing cars and creating holes (or worse) in houses. Mother Nature is a seriously powerful beast.


But the sun came out occasionally and in those moments, with the sunlight refracting and reflecting off the vast amounts of ice that covered sidewalks, ceilings, light posts, trees and fields, I saw the beauty of Mother Nature too.




While it has finally warmed up in Toronto (I know, I know – it’s nothing compared to other parts of Canada, never mind other parts of the world), the overwhelming greyness of winter here always gets me thinking of other places and other times. A little nostalgia coming up next….

To all you fellow northern hemisphere dwellers, stay warm! And for those of you in the south, I wish I could be there with you!



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Follow Your Dreams – Check. Next step?

For this entry, I’m veering of course a little and writing about some of the doubts I’ve experienced about how to do this whole freelance writer, photographer thing and hopefully, do it well. 

So you’ve decided to take the (blind) leap and follow your dreams. Or, more accurately, I have.

It’s true that you feel a certain amount of… liberation once you make the decision. I’m happier, less stressed and less worn out because even when I wasn’t thinking about it consciously, it was always there, in the back of my mind, hovering like a fog around my day to day actions. Also, I know now that I won’t have any regrets in this area when I look back on my life: I never wanted to be 60 and wonder ‘what if’.

But the unavoidable BIG and complicated question follows closely behind: What next? What am I supposed to do to make this venture a success? What’s the right choice? Is there even such a thing?

As a photographer, you need to make your work known. You need people to see it. Does that mean a show or an exhibit? And if so, where? A gallery, a restaurant, a special occasion rental venue? What about trying to submit for newspapers and magazines? What’s the process? How about my own print site where people can order from the site? How do I make people aware of and attract them to the site?

One question inevitably leads to another and then another and then… another. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and a not a little lost. I suppose the trick is to break things down into achievable tasks so you don’t feel like you are facing a giant, nebulous mass of the unknown.

It’s important to stay positive and not get demoralized when things don’t go exactly and as well as you’d imagined they would. Invariably, our brains are wired to let us think the best of ourselves and our abilities and the rosy image you initially see in your head is as unlikely as it is naive. It doesn’t mean you should give up though; I think of it rather as a test of how much you really want to follow through.

Why do we believe the path to success (whatever that means to each of us) should be easy and smooth? The truth is: I’m not afraid of work – I’m afraid of failure. Not the ‘losing the battles’ type of failure, but the ‘losing the war’ failure.

The ‘what ifs’ resound and I do my best to ignore them. I wrote recently that I don’t have the answers and probably never will. I believe that’s true. I think, though, that the solution is to continue moving forward and not think about whether it’s the right or the wrong decision; I can course correct as I go. The point is not to do it perfectly, but to do it.

I choose to believe that I will make my living as a freelance travel writer and photographer.

How do you keep going?


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