Street Bear, Alley Cat, & the Group of Seven

13 November 2014 – All this, because I decide to take a streetcar north & west to Dufferin & St. Clair Av. West, and then walk home!

But the adventure doesn’t start with the bear, the cat or the renowned Group of Seven.

I’m stopped flat on a street corner by this much-abused phone box.

phone box, St. Clair West

Thanks to that saving streak of sunlight, it becomes — if temporarily — a laser-art installation. A phone graphic, within a phone box shadow-box.

It is indeed sunny today, and mild. Predicted high of 14C. Tomorrow? Windy & a high of 4C. You bet I’m glad to be out here today!

Unfortunately, I’m somehow just not enjoying St. Clair West as much as I’m enjoying the weather. Can’t account for it, surely my fault not the fault of the street, but there it is. Anyway, I do like the artwork that decorates each streetcar stop.

Oakwood street car stop

I remember a huge uproar while these dedicated tracks were being installed along St. Clair West — cost, length of time, disruption — but now the streetcars do whiz right along. And each stop, like Oakwood above, is fun to look at.

So is Street Bear.

outside Cocoalatte

He’s great at catching our attention, maybe less terrific at spelling, but who cares, those macaroons still seem tempting. Gluten-free to boot. I read more menu options in the window. The sopa del día (the only Spanish on the sign) is advertised as gluten-free, transfat-free, vegan & organic. I can’t decide whether to be impressed, or roll my eyes. Both, I think.

Just east of Spadina Rd., I temporarily escape the city by entering Sir Winston Churchill Park (aka Reservoir Park, because that’s what’s beneath this flat surface). I’m amazed I’ve never explored it before, never followed its trails down the ravine edge east of Casa Loma, even though I once lived just blocks from here.

Reservoir Park, St. Clair W & Spadina Rd

This is the level top-land, with the CN Tower & other downtown landmarks beckoning from the south. Joggers, serious runners, cyclists, dog-walkers, off-leash dog park, mummies & toddlers, all the usual activity.

I finally pick a trail & start down the slope.  I look back north & I’m delighted, as always, at the way our ravines offer us this constant interaction of city & nature.

trail in Reservoir Park, condos to north

Those are almost surely condo towers. But look — a few more bends in my trail, & I find a residence right here in Nordheimer Ravine.

tent in Nordheimer Ravine

I can see it’s  a shiny new, upmarket tent, not the worn last resort of some homeless person seeking shelter as best he may. So I am curious, but I don’t investigate. Still, I wonder.

And then I forget the tent, because I’m struck by this display of split-rail fencing, with its punch of golden fall leaves.

edge, Glen Edyth Wetlands

A plaque tells me this is one corner of Glen Edyth Wetland, created in 1998 as “part of an ongoing effort to restore critical wetland functions to the Don River Watershed.” It segues into the Roycroft Wetland, also 1998, both of them bearing witness to the now-buried Castle Frank Brook, which once ran freely through the ravine. (Another of our lost rivers.)

I marvel at tree roots, somehow keeping these trees upright. How much longer?

in Nordheimer Ravine

And I finally emerge onto Boulton Drive, then onto Davenport Rd. as it ducks beneath train tracks to join Dupont. Artwork both sides of the underpass, here’s the more arresting of the two, viewed from the south.

Synethesia, by Paul Aloisi

This is Synethesia Interactive Public Artwork 2014, by Paul Aloisi, who (on the signboard) explains that the design is “the result of translating audio recordings of trains passing over the Davenport Rd. underpass into an abstract visual composition.”

I’m still headed east & south, cutting through some alleys just south of the train tracks.

Where I meet Alley Cat, taking the noon-day sun.

alley cat!

I croon, he wails, we part.

A restorative latte on Yonge Street, then down into the Rosedale Valley Ravine, with a quick detour on tiny little Severn St. to pay my respects to this building. It now butts against towers & open-cut subway tracks, but was once entirely surrounded by nature.

Group of Seven studios, Severn St.

It is the first purpose-built artists’ workshops & residence in Canada, financed in 1913 by painter Lauren Harrris & art patron Dr. James MacCallum.

Of course it was built for artists! Look at all those north-facing windows. It has been home to many artists over the decades, initially & most notably Tom Thomson and members of the Group of Seven. I am happy to see it in good shape, and unaltered. Fittingly, its immediate setting is now called the Lauren Harris Park.

A bit farther east I finally abandon the ravine, climb some steep steps & emerge from woodland onto the dead-end end of a very short street, still residential despite commercial buildings all around.

I see this — smack against the fence of one of those commercial giants — and I laugh.

hockey net on Collier St.

A hockey net, you bet. There are still geraniums blooming in the tub next door, but we are not fooled. We know where the weather is headed.




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  1. Another beautiful peep at Toronto, it always looks so inviting through your lens Penny

  2. Rick

     /  16 November 2014

    Keep up the good work – I always enjoy your wanders around Toronto (& further afield).

    With regard to Macarons/ Macaroons – depending on what you thinks a macaroon is, they may be different things. Macarons are filled meringue biscuits/cakes (See whereas, to me (& Wikipedia – although it does hedge its bets a little), macaroons are coconut based small cakes (see

    • I’m so grateful to you! Thanks for the information. I shall exonerate Street Bear in my next post, & share your research with everyone, with credit to you.


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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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