The Grass Is Greener

“PLEASE WALK ON THE GRASS” the sign at the entrance to one of our favourite urban parks proclaims. As the car fades away into the hazy parking lot distance, an undulating terrain unfolds as far as we can see. There are acres of grassland, still ponds, stands of trees, walking paths and an unhurried meandering stream. The shift of scale and speed is a warm embrace as senses are awash in a new palette of sounds and colours. It’s as if the Toronto bustle has vanished.

Canada 2009 – Toronto Island. By Rudolf Cohilj from Düsseldorf, Germany – Toronto Island – CC BY-SA 2.0

As apartment-dweller kids we are happy to oblige our feet and get them all familiar with the springy green. We aren’t bereft of grass where we live. There is a decent amount right on our doorstep along with space to breathe and run. What we enjoy on a daily basis though pales in comparison to the full on magnificence of expansive park landscapes.

Regular family park outings are a thing since farther back than I can remember. Black and white photos of excursions from the early 60s show me all decked out in a little blazer, a bow tied shirt, dark shorts, almost knee highs and dressy shoes. I think of it as my High Park wardrobe. I wonder still if it’s special occasion outfitting or de rigueur for each visit.

There is not much I recall clearly from those early days except a massive pergula with what seemed like 40, or 50 hanging baskets of flowers, a huge circular path with floral pattern infill and rowboats skiffing across a reed ringed pond.

Over the years there were plenty of park walk good times. We’d drop coins in the well wishing for some kind of treat that often materialized later in the day. We kept active climbing trees, kicking piles of leaves and when we could get away with it mercilessly splashing the puddles dry. In lucky moments there were animal kingdom adventures – a rogue raccoon, the drumming thrall of a pileated woodpecker, the sidewise slither of a garter snake, or a ballet of monarchs flitting through a milkweed patch.

It was only in junior high that I started to kick up a fuss about the park expeditions. I eventually bowed out and stopped going pretty much altogether. But after all those seasons, all those steps – a sense of sanctuary had taken root.


After a break of 20 years or so I resumed the park walks adding another generation to the mix. The parks were as good as ever. Well better, now I had kids of my own to bring along. With my parents and the small ones in tow it wasn’t long before I cottoned on that sharing the wonders of park adventures across generations makes for deep and lasting impressions.

Years ago when our son first started taking on walking adventures, we’d go to Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park during the spring melt. Rivulets no more than a foot across hugged the pathways. The deep gullies dropped down maybe four inches. On a day with flow, a small twig or leaf could hurtle 10 feet down the waterway fast enough to keep a nearly two-year-old on his toes. This small area of trees and twigs, of mud and wet, of grass and leaves, puddles and sky was the space he staked out to play, to discover, to paddle, to laugh. Week after week the fun continued until the temporary waterways receded. These little morning outings were the beginning of a series of outdoor adventures that continues to this day.


Things have been going pretty well. All my kids appreciate the outdoors and to this day choose activities that bring them into close contact with nature. I’m hoping now that the gift of regular family park outings I received from my parents will be passed on by my kids. They seem to have the knack.

More than 60 years after my first park excursions, that simple, straight up invitation continues to resonate. What a stroke of minimalist messaging brilliance, five, one-syllable words to encourage a transition, an immersion into another world. PLEASE WALK ON THE GRASS. Whatever we do, let’s not worry if the grass is greener somewhere else, let’s just roll up our sleeves and get greening the best we can.

5 responses to “The Grass Is Greener

  1. Thank you for the good post 🌍😊


  2. Love it! Let’s have more of them.


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