Art, Lake, Art … Surprise

9 October 2014 – A great Tuesday plan, I told myself: south through Sherbourne Common to Lake Ontario, west along the lake soaking up nature on all sides to Spadina Quay Wetlands, north on Spadina through city grit to Richmond St. West, and to my ultimate target, a new show in the Red Head Gallery.

Big surprise when I get to the Gallery, a real palm-smack-to-forehead moment, but by then I don’t care.

Small & happy surprise within blocks of home. I don’t have to wait for Richmond St. for my art fix. It starts now.

detail, Birdo mural Queen E & Seaton

I guess not such a surprise, I’ve seen it before but had forgotten the location. It’s one of Birdo’s newer wall murals, & a reminder that art can jump out at you almost anywhere.

I’m tracking toward Sherbourne Common, the park-cum-water treatment facility that borders Sherbourne St. from Lakeshore Blvd. down to the water. I’m slightly off my usual routes — and rewarded for my initiative with this vintage fire reel outside Station 338.

Toronto Fire Station 338

You can see the edge of the Open House sign — alas, held last week. If I’d known, perhaps I too could have scored one of the free Sparky hats.

Into Sherbourne Common, where I admire how the sun glints off the three tumbling curtains of water. Well, glints when the sun is out, but this morning that’s an iffy proposition. We’re having strobe-light weather: bursts of brilliant sunshine, intercut with gun-metal grey. Like this.

Sherbourne Common

Not just pretty faces, those fountains. They’re the penultimate step in the water treatment process woven into this park’s design. First, treatment of lake & stormwater in a reservoir hidden beneath the park surface; next, aeration through these jets; finally, delivery of the treated water into Lake Ontario, via an open channel that curves through the park.

I follow the channel south & turn west along the lake, basking in another sunshine moment. It lights up the distant Island ferry, the pathway, and the other pedestrians, mostly scurrying George Brown College students, whose buildings lie just north of the path. Some are rushing to class, others are on assignment. I pass one group setting up some kind of photo shoot by the water. It involves one big red sofa, 3 young people on the sofa, and 9 million others (give or take) directing the shoot.

Lake Ontario trail, with Humber College buildings to the north

On past Sugar Beach, named for the Redpath sugar refinery next door. I sniff warm toasted caramel in the air, a sign the refinery is going about its business.

Soon I’m cutting through the entrance to the Island ferry terminal, now renamed to honour former federal politician and civic activist Jack Layton, an inspiring man whose death from cancer was mourned by many, including many who did not share his left-ish politics. Jack got about a lot by bicycle, so the statue shows him grinning from a bike.

I mean to get a photo of this woman resting by the bike with her little dog frisking in the leaves …

Jack Layton Ferry Terminal

… but instead get a two-bike shot. The woman on the bench obviously knows the one riding in from the right, they greet each other from a distance. (Dog has disappeared on me, but you can trace his blue leash across Jack’s front wheel.)

Leaves are turning, not yet at their peak, but already putting handsome contrasts on view. Since we’re now having quite steady sunshine, everything in sight is high-contrast: blazing maple, dark green conifers, light green willows, blue-green lake, turquoise glass in all those condos.

approaching York Quay & Harbour Front

Past Harbourfront Centre, taking just a few moments to prowl the latest outdoor photo exhibit, “No Flat City.” Then on west again, over a slip by a pedestrian bridge, though I could have walked up to the street & taken the Simcoe Wave Deck instead.

Simcoe Wave Deck, looking east

It’s one of three along the waterfront, part of the sidewalk, but much more fun.

If you’re walking or biking, all these parks buffer you from the horrendous construction turmoil immediately to the north, as the city upgrades some major traffic routes. If you’re a motorist, nothing buffers you from anything — but, fortunately, I’m walking.

HTO Park next, with its punning name (the TO for Toronto conflated with H2O for water), and its red Muskoka chairs, even brighter than autumn leaves.

HTO Beach, with island airport beyond

Beyond the chairs, the beach’s big yellow umbrellas (siblings to the red ones on Sugar Beach) and, beyond them, the Harbour & the island airport.

The west edge of HTO Park borders another slip, this one used by Toronto Fire & Marine Station 334, with its signature fire boat, the William Lyon Mackenzie. I have a soft spot for working boats, especially bright red ones, especially bright red ones that look like tugboats — and look, there’s one, right across the slip.

tugboat M.R. Kane, ex-Montreal

She turns out to be the M.R. Kane out of Montreal, nothing to identify her purpose. She looks like a government tugboat to me (all that red & white), though I may be wrong …

… but I know I’m right about this: she is backed by the Spadina Quay Wetlands, once a tiny parking lot, now reborn as a tiny wetlands. How quickly this mini-park has taken root. Literally. Great tangles of shrubbery and bog, all as planned.

I see what I expect to see, until I walk a bit into the bush on the west side.

bike chains, up a Spadina Quay Wetlands tree

Bike chains. Three sets at least, not just thrown aside, but each carefully wound into the trees. Plus two nested paper coffee cups. Torréfaction Foncée, say the cups.

I mean to head north right here, leave the park & start marching up Spadina — but I can’t. Construction, remember? So it’s a forced march on west through the Toronto Music Garden before I can finally escape.

Oh woe, poor me, forced to walk through yet another park …

Courante maypole, Toronto Musi Garden

The maypole sculpture in the park’s Courante section marks my exit. Out to city streets — fittingly at Yo-Yo Ma Lane, since this celebrated musician played an active role in the Music Garden’s design — and, with a bit of doubling back, finally north on Spadina.

Good-bye parks, I think, hello construction & traffic, and yes it throbs in my ears and smacks my eyes. That said, I also find a brand new park, new to me anyway: the Southern Linear Park, as linear as can be, an E/W ribbon of greenery just north of Lakeshore Blvd.

And another park, at Clarence Square. I step into the square a bit, planning to take a picture of the off-leash dog park. Mutts & their antics are always good for a laugh, right? Then I see what’s behind the mutts, and really laugh.

Big Top Grand Stand 2014 by SuttonBeresCuller, Seattle

I read the plaque. Big Top Grand Stand 2014, it says, a tribute to fairground concession stands erected for last week’s Nuit Blanche, up until October 13, the work of the Seattle team SuttonBeresCullen.

Perfect lead-in to my planned visit to the Red Head Gallery, now just a few blocks away, one of a number tucked into a reinvented rambling ex-industrial building at 401 Richmond. “Rambling” is the word for its hallways …

inside 401 Richmond hallways

… but I navigate successfully to the Red Head location. And read the sign. Noon to 5, just as I remembered. Wednesday to Saturday. Ah. Wednesday. And this is Tuesday, isn’t it?

So I smack my forehead and then don’t care, because I’ve had a great time and I can come here again.

One more art treat on the way home. I pass the raw stump of a recently felled tree on Queen St. East, sad victim of city pollution perhaps. Turned into art with one meticulous detail, perfectly placed.

newly felled tree w decoration, Queen & Simcoe

Still Life with Bark Chip. Thank you, anonymous city artist …



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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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