Surviving Hart House Farm

I missed a week of writing due to a weekend trip I took last week to Hart House farm with my karate club. I wore my body out with ten hours of karate in just under two days.

Although I went to the University of Toronto in the 90s, I never went to Hart House farm, which is a part of U of T campus, but is actually just North of Brampton in the town of Caledon.

Many years ago I went hiking in this area. The Bruce Trail starts here and goes all the way up to Georgian Bay. There is a strange patch of land you encounter on the road to Hart House farm that I have also seen before. It looks like an alien landscape but is actually a remnant of when Lake Ontario used to have its shoreline all the way up here and it does resemble sand dunes.

After driving in on a long dirt road I discovered that the property is very large. I barely saw even half of it since I was so busy the whole time I was there. There are only a few buildings on the property. There is the guest house where we stayed, a barn, a meeting area called Bryce Hall (where we did karate) and the most beautiful building of all which looks like a ski chalet. This is where the farmer and his family stay.

This trip really challenged my bourgeois Toronto sensibilities. First of all, since it is a rural property there isn’t a shower. Now remember, I did TEN hours of karate and I usually start sweating after the first minute of working out. But luckily we were all sweating together, so if we stank, we stank together.

The whole purpose of the camp is to get the Karate club to work together as a team. We all had to clean (I cleaned the bathrooms), we all had to take turns making food for everyone, and we had to sleep in bunk beds and worst of all, we had to get up at 6:00 AM. We even had to do manual farm labour on the last day as part of our Hart House duties. But I wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything because I really challenged myself.

The workouts in the morning were not as bad as I thought although my feet were freezing in the morning on the hard wood floors. It was really spectacular watching the sun rise over Toronto in the distance. I could actually see the CN tower. Hart House farm is up on an escarpment so you look down towards Toronto.

This weekend also gave the karate club a chance to find out who I am. Someone started playing Do You Hear the People Sing? on the piano and I started belting it out to everyone’s astonishment. Then I had to explain why I am good at singing. Then I had to explain my bizarre entertainment career of improv, music directing, song producing, stand-up and acting.

My karate improved a lot according to the Sensei. My legs are so inflexible , after all of these years of NOT working out and sitting behind a piano I have been ridiculously out of shape. Most of the time I am in the Karate class I feel like Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja. But after ten hours I started to kick a little higher. The Sensei said that when I first joined he didn’t know what to do with me, but he was impressed that he saw this difference in my karate. “Sean went up to the top of the mountain and came back with something,” he said.

This experience was certainly not a vacation, but I came back stronger, more focused and much healthier. And it’s nice to know there is somewhere so close to the city where you can get away from the stresses of Hogtown.

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