Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden
Everyone’s been there. Waking up to your alarm and knowing you have to get out of bed to go to work or school and dreading every moment of it. This is a rather normal occurrence for me as I am definitely not a morning person. But of course, I get up anyway, yawning and entering autopilot mode as I force myself to walk to work. I used to walk down Sir Isaac Boulevard North, staring at pavement and Zone 1 Parking lot, until I crossed Flora Egerter Way and up the grass to Theal House. But I never felt content taking this route, and so often switched it up a little bit each day, crossing at a different spot, walking across Lot V and U instead, or walking through the grass between the North and South boulevards. One day after crossing the intersection at Sir Isaac Brock Blvd and Merritville Highway, I decided to walk along the unpaved bit of grass and dirt beside the tree line framing Lots V, U, and T. Since then, this has become my morning ritual, and one of the best parts of my day.
We often think about nature as this pristine, large-scale, and untouched wilderness, but the reality is that things are always changing and evolving, alongside other species, including humans. We need to start seeing these small patches of plants and animals as nature too, and to appreciate them just as much as the larger ecosystems. Walking through the shade, I feel myself slip back together like a completed puzzle, feeling alive and safe and revitalized as I breathe in and take in the sights. It’s so quiet and peaceful, listening to the occasional bird sing or the tall plants bend in the breeze, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
One day as I was approaching Theal House, I noticed a plaque hidden amidst the greenery at the edge of the line of trees. Stopping for a moment to read the inscription, I learned that this line of trees I walk beside each day, is actually one of the remaining hedgerows of Osage orange trees on campus that predates the university, lining some of the historical property boundaries. The trees are native to Arkansas and Texas, but brought over by settlers and used as natural fences to keep livestock in fields. These trees are extremely rare to South-Western Ontario, and the ones at Brock represent one of the last known locations in South-Western Ontario. These trees are a living tribute to the Niagara Region’s cultural heritage and agricultural history, which makes them that much more of a special feature at Brock.
But more than their history and rarity, they are lovely friends that give me strength in the mornings when I need it most. Being surrounded by the striking green and reaching trunks, hearing the soft crunch of dirt under my shoes, and having my focus taken by spots of colour in the form of wildflowers, gives me that extra bit of time I need in the morning to wake up and pull myself together. We can all benefit from spending a little bit of time outdoors, and Brock provides a perfect opportunity for this. There are little pockets of nature all around campus, from the Healing Garden, Pond Inlet, Jubilee Court, the Bruce Trail with different access points around campus, the courtyards with picnic tables and trees, to the hedgerows of Osage orange that have captured my heart. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes out of their day to explore the nature right here at Brock and to enjoy the small gems hidden in our own backyard!