Leuty Station in the Snow

14 January 2015 – I walk through the woods toward the lake, with the sounds of winter in my ears — boots squeaking on the powder-dry snow, skate blades hissing and pucks rebounding in the near-by rink.

woods at west end, Beaches Park, looking south

It’s sunny & cold again, not so windy, and again I head for the lake — farther east this time, down to the parks & boardwalk of Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood. (I wince as I write this. “Beaches” is the older term, “Beach” is the trending term, and there are those who take this linguistic tussle very seriously indeed.)

I don’t anticipate my visit revolving so heavily around the Leuty Lifeguard Station, but, and perhaps inevitably, it does.

Beaches Boardwalk, Leuty lifeguard station to right

There it is —  to the right of that woman walking the snowy boardwalk, which is almost empty now but noisy/happy in summer with human & canine feet, pram & trike wheels. The station was built in 1920, relocated 4 times, almost demolished, saved by a lot of community protest, still serves all summer as an active lifeguard station and by now has some 6,000 rescues to its credit.

I come closer, smiling in anticipation.

Leuty Lifeguard Station, built 1920

If I love it, when I don’t even live here, imagine how local residents feel. It is of course their neighbourhood symbol, the logo found on all the usual paraphernalia — T-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee cups, aprons, carry bags, key chains & flags.

house flag on Leuty Aenue

Aha, you say. Can’t fool me. Not a mid-winter photo. Nope! Taken one summer, right on Leuty Avenue, and what could be more appropriate, since the station is at the foot of that street?

Meanwhile, here we are in mid-winter. I circle around to lake edge for a different angle, as does another visitor, our boots crunching over shards of ice as we navigate piled-up rocks & storm debris.

Leuty Lifeguard Station, looking north

I pick my way back, continue eastward along the beach. It’s almost empty at the moment, just one man and dog anywhere near me. The dog is frisking happily, luring her owner into a vigorous game of toss-that-stick.

looking eastward along Lake Ontario, east of Leuty Ave.

We cross paths, unwrap mouths & ears long enough for a few quick words. The dog is a Husky, I can see now, and we exchange Husky stories, me thinking back to my own, decades ago, out west. “She loves winter,” says the young man, “colder the better.” “Makes us love it too,” I reply, and we say good-bye with a grin.

You’ve caught my theme: in winter, the beach is a beautiful, near-silent, near-motionless wraith; in contrast to the teeming energy and diversity of summer.

But then I see something I’ve never seen here in summer.

snowy beach, 1 chair...

A chair. Not a plastic beach chair, either, which would have some tiny vestige of logic. No sir. A proper upholstered dining room chair.

that chair!

Though perhaps not in the best of condition.

I wish I’d seen the person who brought it here. I imagine someone of equally tattered elegance, enthroned at water’s edge, watching the waves roll in … No, that’s not true. I try to, but I cannot imagine it.

Because this is the reality!

looking east to Balmy Beach

You run here with your Husky, or you walk here with your thoughts or your camera (or both), but you don’t simply pull up a chair and contemplate life.

Still, I’m glad it’s here.

By now my finger-tips are whining at me, so I’m ready for Part 2 of the walk — up to the shops & diversions of Queen St. East. Of course I stop along the way in an indie café for a latte & a treat (this time, a gingersnap cookie). I sip the latte while flicking through a couple of old New Yorker magazines that are lying around. It’s a classy café, I must come again.

My nice warm fingers & I head back outside, walk on west, and stop for a final photograph. Street art! A mural, commissioned by the grocery store whose side wall it adorns.

It’s all about the Beaches/Beach neighbourhood — and look what’s featured toward the far right end.

at 2040 Queen St. East

Of course.

One last note — and that’s a pun, though I hadn’t intended it. In 2012 singer/songwriter Heather Hill released a CD entitled Leuty Station. And blogged about it, and her love for the eponymous station, right here on WordPress.

Leave a comment


  1. I envy you your closeness to the water. It is the sound that gets me as well, but I am one for moving water, shushing over rock, trickling along the banks. It is so soothing…

  2. Minette ross

     /  14 January 2015

    I remember that gorgeous husky of your, and you, with love

  3. I love the photos today. Well, I always love your photos – and your prose! – but the photos really grabbed me today!

  4. Your chair on the beach really reminded me of this Guerilla Upholsterer in Wales – he furnishes bus stops with beautiful chairs, for free http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24273738

  5. I love the look of a beach clothed in wintery snow….and this one is beautiful. The contrast with the deep blue sea and the white snow is so pretty. The contrast between a busysummers day and this is wonderful!

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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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