It’s the first week of Winterlude and the world’s largest skateway on the Rideau Canal has already closed because the ice has melted into a big wet puddle. The first three days of this annual winter festival were a big success, a carnival atmosphere in fact, with ice carvings and snow sculptures, pancake breakfasts, concerts, beaver tails and poutine. And of course, until the weather turned warm, skating.
Before we go any further, and just to put everything into context, here’s a refresher on the Rideau Canal and its famous skateway (thank you Wikipedia): The canal itself, built in 1832, is 202 kilometres in length, and connects the City of Ottawa to Kingston, on Lake Ontario. The oldest continually operated canal system in North America, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The skateway through Ottawa first opened in 1971. Today it is 7.8 kilometres long, stretching from the former train station in the downtown all the way out to Carleton University. At 8.54 kilometres, Winnipeg has the world’s longest skating rink on its Assiniboine and Red Rivers, but because it has a width of only 2-3 meters, the much wider Rideau Canal was re-branded the world’s largest skating rink.
A perfect day for me this time of year starts with a drive south out of the city, a Jesse Winchester rock and roll tune blasting out the windows. I am in a very good mood because I am making yet another trip to the garden centre for another plant specimen, a variety of bush or tree that will have been analyzed to death. How big does it grow? How much sun does it need? Where will it go? The re-design of the back garden, triggered when a large diseased maple tree was taken down last fall, is well underway. I finally have more sun to play with.
So far I have planted the following this spring: a Maypole Colonnade flowering crab, the kind that grow up rather than out in a spread; a Salix Hakuro Nishiki dappled willow standard; a weeping larch; a cute little Bailcarol spirea; a Spring Delight Japanese maple; and a Black Lace Elderberry. Still in its pot is a weeping Japanese Katsura tree which will go in the front garden once I have pulled out two underperforming cedars and a disfigured sumac that didn’t live up to expectations. Lots to do, but an afternoon spent mucking in the dirt, creating a beautiful, soothing, reflective space, is one of the most rewarding things a person can do.