Ten years ago I moved to this city from a small town for convenience and a shorter commute - I figured that I wouldn’t miss nature. I was wrong. And I was stressed out. I started volunteering with Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Community Stewardship program and got involved with LEAF after a tree identification workshop.
I decided to take LEAF’s Tree Tenders course, which not only taught me all about trees but also how I could help the urban forest. I was excited to hear that LEAF was working to improve city life one tree at a time and, with a new community garden project, improve people’s commute - one station at a time.
I remember the night last October when we broke ground at the St. Clair Urban Forest Demonstration Garden site to plant the native shrubs, trees and plants. We hit everything from chunks of concrete to broken glass and even barbed wire. After clearing the debris, we planted well into the dark. But without a water spigot or a storage bin, I was uncertain just how the garden would survive.
The snow fell and then melted. Spring arrived and along with it a TTC-installed water spout and storage bin. Marie, the lead steward, organized Paula, Polina and I as we each took turns watering and caring for the garden - and soon everything came to life!
The greatest feeling in the world would come from complete strangers thanking me for tending to the garden as they stepped out of the exit. You could see it in their faces as their head turned from the skyline of buildings to the green shrubs, growing trees and colourful flowers.
Sometimes while watering, I look up to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and watch clouds roll by the tops of the shrubs and trees. I even forget that I’m surrounded by concrete. And I know that after a noisy and packed subway ride on my commute home, I can look to the garden, reminded that there is still hope for a living city.