Boswell: Reimagining the Rideau — Ottawa's urban respite for the soul
I’m up to my knees in water, socks and sneakers submerged — why not? — a few hundred metres west of where Billings Bridge crosses the Rideau River. Not far from a busy, noisy, fumy stretch of Bank Street that typifies much of urban Ottawa, I’m stepping carefully over stones covered in seaweedy slime, immersed in a world of fish and frogs and dragonflies, between mainland Old Ottawa South and my magical destination: a small, unnamed, kidney-shaped island just off the Rideau’s north shore.
I had 90 minutes to kill waiting for some work on the car at the nearby Jiffy Lube, an unlikely portal to Narnia. But after a quick stop at the DQ across the road for a cold drink on a hot day, I was ready to slip away from the city without ever leaving it — past tiny Linda Thom Park, through a curtain of trees along Warrington Drive and down a well-worn footpath to the river below.
Thousands of hours spent doing this as a child in Southern Ontario — in a different river (the Grand) that flowed behind our home — prepared me well for this little adventure nearly a half-century later. Camera clutched firmly in one hand, I’m in search of intriguing critters, eye-catching flowers and whatever other delights the swirling waters and this micro-island oasis have to offer.
Even more, this is a quest for tranquility and solitude. It’s a respite from work chores, COVID-19, Zoom and the other cares of city life and the troubled world beyond, in the late spring of 2021. One thing’s for sure: my modest effort to gain this momentary escape — let’s call it a tune-up for the soul — will be richly rewarded by the Rideau. It always is.