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A nature lover is born

Better late than never, in this week's Everything King, Wendy learns to appreciate nature close to home
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A chipmunk stuffs his cheeks while sitting in a tree at the University of Guelph Arboretum. Rob Massey for GuelphToday

All of a sudden, I am just like Bindi Irwin!

OK, far from it, but I am making progress in the stepping out of my comfort-zone department.

This will be exceedingly lame to those of you who are outdoor enthusiasts, but it is a huge deal for someone who always wanted to build a tunnel from home to work to avoid any confrontation with nature.

I don’t hate the outdoors. I just dislike the things that come with it like bugs, heat, sweat, physical exertion, wind, rain or snow. 

Needing to alter my daily routine and get out of the house, I was dragged by a well-meaning friend to Sunnidale Park in Barrie.

I am embarrassed and guilt-ridden to admit I had never been there before now. I heard all about its beauty for years, but just never went. 

I have missed a lot.

This friend tricked me by suggesting we go out for breakfast.

With the promise of bacon, I will go anywhere.

Then came the con job. Here is the actual conversation.

“Why don’t we get a coffee and go feed the chipmunks in the park?”

“I don’t like bugs.”

“There aren’t many bugs now.”

“Have they all gone back to hell where they came from?”


“What about ticks? I feel like I will be a tick magnet.”

“How about we wrap you head-to-toe in bubble wrap?”

“Could we?”

Turns out. I cannot resist coffee or small furry creatures.

If you have been to the park, you know the trees and gardens are beautiful. There are people in every section doing something.  An exercise class over here. Dog walkers over there. Serious athletes on the trails. 

It is right in the city, but yet you feel like you have found an oasis. 

We took our seats in the fountain area with our bag of peanuts and waited. It didn’t take long.

Squirrels and chipmunks abound. 

It was somewhat disconcerting at first as they come so close and scurry so fast, but before long I was feeding them by hand. 

I have since been told there is a bylaw not to feed the critters. We didn’t see any signs, and if that is true, I guess that will be the crime that finally sends me to the big house.  Heck, I look OK in orange.

I tried to research why you are not supposed to feed the wildlife in general. The best I could come up with is that it makes them too bold and trusting, but in the case of these particular parkland creatures, I think that ship has sailed.

Before I knew it, there were chipmunks climbing up me like a tree. They were getting plenty friendly. My personal space was definitely being invaded.

I ended up feeding them by hand and even managed to pat a couple on the head.

My friend said I was like Snow White making friends with all the animals in the forest.

I know she is just saying that to make me feel all superior so I will want to come back.

And it worked.

There are so many varieties of trees and many with memorial markers. It is great to have so many benches placed around the park in memory of loved ones, or those who have donated to supporting the project.

I can’t wait to experience it as the fall colours start to show up!

While ashamed it has taken me so many years to appreciate one of the jewels of Barrie, I am glad I finally did.

Next up? Hug a tree!


About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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