Lake Ontario, ON - Natalie Robertson
My Watermark is Lake Ontario.
I was fortunate enough to grow up within short walking distance to Lake Ontario near Port Credit in Mississauga, Ontario. Because of this the Lake was always present in my life, always in view from my bedroom window. The different smells it emitted at different times of year, the whisper and din of the constant waves, the wildlife and birds it drew to its shores, the tumbled rocks and wood it coughed up from its depths…all are like an old friend to me.
Comforting, calming, reassuring.
A source of great inspiration, wonderment - and concern. It fuelled my passion for nature, wildlife, and conservation.
I would spend hours walking along her secluded beaches, collecting smooth colourful rocks and driftwood as my dog pranced joyfully through the waves. I would pause to watch and listen to the bird species as they passed nearby. I moved turtles off of paths and explored the remains of old lighthouses and the skeletons of seabirds and fish, picked clean and glistening in the sand.
We swam, even though my parents warned us not to due to the pollution and the current. I saved my younger brother from drowning one blustery day when we were body surfing in the massive waves. He was caught in an undertow and wasn’t a strong enough swimmer to make it back to the shore. A secret we never told our parents.
She holds and has heard many secrets.
I remember every storm, every algae bloom, every rock skipped along the smooth calm surface. I remember cold snowy winters where the ice stretched out over a kilometre into the lake - it’s alien, mountainous surface shifting and cracking in sudden shotgun blasts. I remember fogs so thick you could hardly see your hands in front of you, and the chill of the dampness trying to settle into your bones.
My father used to take us to the Port Credit Harbour during the salmon derby to witness the event. I remember the fishing boats and charters coming and going in frantic chaos, the cheers of men and the smell of tobacco and fish as they unloaded their catch to be measured and weighed. I remember the red and pink puddles of blood and guts at the wooden fish-cleaning hut, and wondered how all these people were going to survive eating this fish if the water was as polluted as my parents always warned us.
As I grew older the Lake just became more important. I told myself as a teenager that no matter where I live in the world, it must be close to water. Although I now spend many weeks and weekends a year travelling to the northern parts of this beautiful province to fish and swim in the cool clean freshwater lakes, our Great Lake will always be held closest to my heart.
It is critical to clean and care for this precious resource which we have abused so ignorantly in the last 150 years. Realistically it may not be in my lifetime, but I sincerely hope our grandchildren and great grandchildren can one day swim care-free anywhere along the shore, and families can safely (and responsibly) eat any fish caught from these waters. I want to see wetlands rich and teeming with wildlife, flocks of birds bursting from the trees in the thousands, and large healthy native fish cruising just below the crystal surface.
We have a lot of work to do but I know it can be done, and we can only do it together.