What do you love about Winnipeg? Where is your favourite place? These questions might seem simple at first glance, but if you're like me, they might be tough to answer for a number of reasons.
Our extremes in weather make outsiders question why we live here. On a number of levels, we have to be strong to stand up to the cold and to defend our choice to live in the real centre of Canada. Yes, that's right. We are the true centre. Geography can't lie, a fact I frequently like to remind my colleagues from out east. I believe simply Winnipeggers put the heart in 'hearty.' And I believe this makes us the friendliest, warmest city around, despite the number on the thermometer.
The fact is weather doesn't define us, but if it did, we'd be the most well-rounded citizens around. We fully experience the attributes of all four seasons, even if some might argue one season in particular is a bit too short.
Above all, whatever season we're in, we learn to embrace it and all it has to offer. We can adapt, just like our plants and wildlife, and are stronger for it.
There are places where I'm immersed in the beauty of Winnipeg, its diversity in flora and fauna and the splendour of the seasons in full force: any outdoor oasis in Winnipeg. And we're fortunate these places are as plentiful as the number of mosquitoes on a hot summer day.
As I write on my deck, I'm staring out at the forest behind my Bridgwater backyard, listening to the chirps of birds tell the world they're elated it's spring. One of my neighbourhood deer is waking from her morning nap, having a nice munch on some tree leaves. In her defence, she also partakes of the dandelions most days. Two mallards fly in for a landing and waddle side by side as a couple in the distance strolls down the forest trail with their dog.
Only two minutes away lies the hustle and bustle of shops along Kenaston Boulevard and every amenity one might need.
This serenity in the city is what Winnipeg is all about. In winter, I watched the snow falling and hoarfrost coating the trees, even more beautiful than a Peter Lik photograph. A great horned owl sat on a fence as a red fox pawed through the snow. The Winnipeg wildlife is incredible, whether it's winter or spring. Only last week, I saw a unique bird circling above, only to later discover it was the rare swallow-tailed kite spotted around Winnipeg, featured in a Free Press article by Bartley Kives.
There are many outdoor wonders in Winnipeg, from Assiniboine and Kildonan parks to The Forks River Walk and FortWhyte Alive. They are accessible to anyone who needs to escape from busy streets and stressful work life, and they have something special to offer us every season of the year.
As Winnipeggers, we are as diverse as the seasons. The good news is, whatever season we are in -- seasons of the year or seasons of life -- Winnipeg has something to offer. It puts the heart in "hearty" and the heart in Canada.
Here in Winnipeg is where Canada's Heart Beats.
Tara Maltman-Just is the executive clinician and licensed pharmacist at Vitality Integrative Medicine in Winnipeg. She writes a weekly health column in the Winnipeg Free Press.