Guestpost #70: Steve Hobbs – Ten things I’ve learned (and loved) to do as a kid growing up in conserved nature

Note: Steve is a repeat poster, and got me “Freshly Pressed”…so thanks Steve! In addition to his passion for comedy, Steve’s an avid fan of spending time in nature – in addition to camping regularly and having worked at an educational nature-oriented day camp, he grew up backing onto a large conservation area in Markham. These experiences helped shape his childhood.

  1. I can be a stealthy deer imposter. Four of those graceful beasts could be seen evenings approaching my parents’ property, right up to the fence line at any time of year, to eat from an apple tree growing at the base of our property. Seeing the deer is nice – but waiting for that moment when the Alpha signals it’s time to leave with a snort and then silently racing with them by bike as they gallop just paces ahead of you under moonlight is one of the best feelings I can conjure up. That was a big deal for me.
  2. Golf can bond you with your Dad in any setting. I guess it’s typical for us that on one of the only stretches of Rouge River green space NOT owned by a local golf course, our thoughts would immediately be to try golfing on it. But illegally using the vast freshly-trimmed field space for chipping contests wouldn’t have been such a big deal if my Dad hadn’t gotten into it so much. Just like the Hobbs ping-pong days of yesteryear, fun lovin’ brotherly competition between the Hobbs boys was rekindled. Thanks for the male bonding, nature (and lawn cutting staff)!
  3. Floating makes everything better. Four months out of every year, a floating 25 foot bridge is placed across a thin strip of the Rouge river, linking the Northern public shores of Milne Park to a privately owned summer camp to the South. By night, this bridge would transform into a musical playground for me, where acoustic guitar jams with myself and Joel Buxton would transform the river into a canopied amphitheatre. I wasn’t as young when I did the bulk of this, but it was still a learning experience (for improvisational guitar especially) that shaped a deep part of me today. I’d also like to think that if it was a regular, non-floating bridge, it wouldn’t have meant shit to me.
  4. Porn can still reach you in nature. Before broadband, in a time when the internet wasn’t abundant with curves, a Grade 3 version of me learned this lesson by finding his first pornographic magazine in the bush while there on a school tour, looking for chickadees. Looking back, the whole event was like a weird sexy version of Stand By Me (but with an inappropriately positioned body to find).
  5. Urban canoeing is ridiculous. If it’s been hot for even a couple of days, a shallow river like the Rouge will make you work for it, on and off, every couple of clicks. The dream was to get to the Toronto Zoo by water – 2 golf course drainage ditches, twelve portages and one surrender later, the dream still lives.
  6. Backyards are shortcuts for drunks: if your backyard links to public space, people are going to use it as a shortcut to municipal streets from time to time. Tolerance was always the best policy, but given that they’re usually drunk and the line has to be drawn somewhere, you could usually just deal with it the way you’d deal with a raccoon (noise, and the power of surprise). In hindsight, as a proud occasional drinker, I’m surprised how disgusted I still am by the alky trespassing. I guess I’m a drunk with principles.
  7. Beavers can be sung to. Of all the riverside animals privy to the night jams and hangouts, the beaver was the one unphased animal that responded to the tunes. Yeah, sure, some of the time he was just perturbed by the noise. But he only seemed to slap his tail when the vocals started…for a virtually silent animal, that’s as close as he’s going to get to singing along.
  8. Having a deck trumps a kitchen table: my family didn’t have much of a kitchen table, but we did have a deck looking out over the greenspace behind us, and it was the best dinner ritual we had. If neighbours or friends wanted to approach or say hello, they wouldn’t come from the street like a rookie; they’d walk behind the houses and say hi. Most July days, if somebody had robbed us in the front of the house, we probably wouldn’t have noticed. Worth it.
  9. A non-swimmable beach is a sad thing. The black eye on Markham’s Milne Park beauty is having a beach that can’t really be used as a true beach. Despite improving water quality, it’ll still be a few decades before the Rouge River is truly safe for swimming, with a mass amount of child-drowning debris lining the bottom. The beach is a great reminder for me that green spaces like that one may have been more actively used in the ‘50’s and 60’s, but they’re being more responsibly used today. I’ll take it.
  10. Nature (and what’s in it/happening to it) inspires fear: from my mother’s worries about me being abducted by some criminal hiding out in the bushes (and later on, her worrying I’d be mistaken for one while cops were on the hunt), to the constant town meetings that surround a green space in the heart of suburbia, nature can inspire a great deal of fear for people. “Who’s hiding in it?” “How’s it being used?” “Will improving the path attract too much foot traffic?” “Did a coyote eat my cat?” “Will it all go away if we don’t stare at it?” “Should I have stared at the cat more?” These questions are all typical for residents, local politicians, and people who frequent these kinds of parks (and justifiably so, as many of these people know what it’s truly worth to be a part of it). For all the concern and fear that surrounds these greenspaces, I don’t have the words to express my appreciation for having grown up in a bubble of discovery and joy within this space. I learned that growing up with it let me be, and stay, a kid long enough to take it with me. “I’ll come back for you beaver…I’ll come back for you.”

1 Comment

Filed under tenthingsivelearned, Uncategorized

One response to “Guestpost #70: Steve Hobbs – Ten things I’ve learned (and loved) to do as a kid growing up in conserved nature

  1. Love this! I have seen beavers close up twice, once at the Humber Bay park and once on Lake Massawippi in the Eastern Townships. So cool for a Canadian.

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