I partly owe my love of nature to my grandfather. He likely developed his own fascination with nature from growing up on a farm in the historic Meadowvale Village in Mississauga, Ontario.
When I was three years old, my grandfather moved into a lovely house beside a golf course in Etobicoke, Ontario. The first storey of his house had a large balcony overlooking his stunning backyard, which had garden beds filled with vibrant flowers, towering trees, a swimming pool, and a cabana with change rooms and a bar. For the next 13 years, I was fortunate enough to spend many stifling summer days swimming, playing and lounging in his backyard with five of my cousins.
If my grandfather hadn’t moved into that house, I don’t think I would be the nature enthusiast that I am today. Because his house backed on to a golf course, I saw and heard many animals whenever I went over for a swim in the summer. Chipmunks often scurried about, sometimes jumping into the pool and requiring rescue with a pool net. Pairs of mallard ducks occasionally landed in the pool and made their nests in the concrete flower pots next to it. Red foxes sometimes patrolled the neighbouring golf course. The air was also filled with the loud buzz of cicadas.
My grandfather, like me, is a bird nerd. Every summer, he installed bird feeders on his balcony, which attracted many species, including cardinals, blue jays, gold finches and sparrows. He used to watch the birds through his living room window, referring to his Audubon bird guide to help him identify the species he was unfamiliar with. I joined him in this activity a few times over the years.
Squirrels often tried to get their fill of the bird seed, so he invented a simple device consisting of a tennis ball on a string to scare them away. Whenever he saw a squirrel trying to eat the bird seed, he threw the ball at the window to startle the squirrels, and reeled it back, without having to get up from his comfy chair.
Despite liking most animals, my grandfather was not a fan of the raccoons that visited his yard and lived in his cabana because they would damage it. In an attempt to scare them off, he kept a life-size stuffed leopard toy in front of a window in his solarium, which was near the cabana. Unfortunately, this strategy didn’t work and the pesky raccoons continued to call his cabana home.
After 13 years of living in that house, my grandfather sadly had to sell it because he could no longer look after it. Fortunately, he moved into an apartment near a beautiful park, where the Humber River flows through. He used to go on strolls through this park regularly and especially loved doing this in early fall during the river's annual salmon run.
My grandfather is now 95 years old and isn’t as mobile as he used to be, so he doesn’t go outdoors as much anymore. Despite this, he has still kept up his love of nature and enjoys watching nature documentaries. My dad used to put the Oasis TV (now called Love Nature) channel on for my grandfather whenever he came for a visit.
I’m truly grateful to have such a wonderful grandfather. His positive influence has helped me develop my love for nature, which ultimately led me to landing my job at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Editor's note (Sept. 9, 2023):
Since this blog was first published, Adam's grandfather has passed away. Adam read this story at his grandfather's funeral as a loving tribute and celebration of his life.