The Ragged Season

8 November 2014 — Around here, November really is the ragged season.

The vivid abundance of fall has fallen apart (you’ll pardon the pun), & the monochromatic, lean beauty of winter has yet to arrive. Colours are faded, the remaining leaves are tattered, summer plants are wilting or turning to mush.

But what if I were to look with different eyes? What if I chose to see November as … November? Not as beauty-gone, or beauty-yet-to-come, but … just as itself?

With this novel concept in mind — & lined jeans on my body (like I said, it’s November) — I do a loop through some trails around the Don River.  I’m overlapping with one of the City’s Discovery Walks, the one through the Central Ravines. It takes me first into the woods on the grounds around the Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum and Art Centre on Pottery Road.

It also gives me a Monty Python moment. Anybody remember the schoolbook image of a tree, with an arrow pointing to it as a sepulchral voice-over intones, “The larch”?

The. Larch. (Sort of.)

Tamarack tree, in Todmorden Mills woods

More specifically, Larix laricina, Tamarack to its friends. “Laricina” I later learn, is Latin for “larch-like,” and “Tamarack” is from the Algonquin word “akemontak” i.e. “wood used for snowshoes.” It is a small tree, I further learn, found on poorly drained soils. I already know it has “delicate deciduous needles” that turn yellow before being shed each fall.

It’s very pretty, isn’t it?

Alas, I can’t quite convince myself that the near-by pond is pretty, but let us all properly acknowledge its right to be exactly what it is, at this time of year.

pond, Todmorden Mills

I cheer up again for these seed pods, attached to some grass or other. Well, I think that’s what they are, I have no idea really, but … they’re pretty. Yes they are. If ghostly.

grasses, Todmorden Mills

Out of Todmorden Mills, down to Bayview Avenue, wait for the lights, cross the expressway, cling to the pavement edge as I walk on south and with some relief soon take the turn into Evergreen Brick Works (EBW).

Once home to the Don Valley Brick Works, which dug the quarry & made the bricks that allowed Victorian Toronto to rise literally from its own soil, the site is now a centre dedicated to helping urban nature and urban people live well with each other.

Street art is a valued part of the mix.

Faith 47 RR trestle mural, EBW

I’ve seen this railway trestle mural before. It is the work of South African street artist Faith 47, perhaps (I’m not sure) created in 2013, when she was in Toronto for the DOS Group Show. I’m happy to see it again, in any month — but it’s a special pleasure in November.

Behind the trestle, you can see the long building that once housed the kilns where all those bricks were baked and dried. It’s still known as The Kilns, and now houses EBW special exhibitions and events, along with …

inside The Kilns, EBW

… heritage graffiti of its own.

These images remind us that this building did not go straight from brick works to Brick Works; there were empty years in between. Officially empty, that is, but in fact full of people who found community & temporary shelter here, and left their mark. EBW has chosen to honour this part of the site’s history, not erase it, and to incorporate its visuals into their strategy for using art throughout the grounds to help tell today’s story.

This means they display a lot of art. I bump into a current exhibition, curated by Design for Nature, when I leave The Kilns for the open-air Young Welcome Centre.

Watershed Erratics, Scott Barker, 2014

There’s an eye-blast, on a dull November day!

Bravo if you’re thinking, “Buoys? Navigation buoys on dry land?”  This installation, Watershed Erratics, was created by Scott Barker to remind us that the Don Valley is a flood plain, that devastating floods still take place (including at the Brick Works), & that we need to get serious about environmentally sound, sustainable water management.

I mooch about the EBW grounds for a while, it’s almost impossible not to, there’s always something to snag your eye and stir your mind.

But I do eventually go on my way — picking up the trail through wooded slopes that will eventually allow me to climb up out of the ravine & back onto city streets.

It gives me some final opportunities to appreciate Nature-in-November-as-November.

“Embrace scruffy!” I sternly tell myself.

trail leading to Milkmen's Lane


And here it is, with Staghorn Sumac to the fore, its fruit cluster “stags” on display now that the leaves have fallen. Behind that, well, variegated scruffiness, wouldn’t you say? Bare branches with the remnants of red, orange & yellow leaves scattered about.

Oh, but, oak trees still look coherent. They are entitled to do so — their leaves may be faded but by golly, they hang in all winter long.

oak leaves on trail next to EBW

I even smile upon the carpet of faded leaves, all around.

trail leading to Milkmen's Lane

And then I draw breath, climb up (very UP) Milkmen’s Lane, out of the ravine and onto the streets of deepest, darkest Rosedale. (It’s a classy neighbourhood, with classy twining streets that always confuse me.)

Eventually I navigate my way out of there, and go home.





Leave a comment


  1. nigel pleasants

     /  8 November 2014

    Love the Faith 47 work.

  2. Gorgeous photos. And I actually like the pond. I could see sitting beside it, all bundled up, contemplating life, the universe, and everything….. 😉


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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)

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