A Nitwit in High Park

11 February 2015 – I’m on the northern edge of High Park, just below Bloor Street, soaking up this rare combination of mild but sunny weather. Usually I walk south for a while mid-park, then take a path down the slope to Grenadier Pond; today I follow the first snowy trail I see toward the water.

trail to creek n. of Grenadier Pond

It brings me out well north of the pond — here there’s just a pretty, narrow feeder creek between the park and its residential neighbours to the west.

creek north of Grenadier Pond

I see the first of what becomes a whole series of warning signs. “Ice Unsafe Keep Off,” they shout. Honestly, I think. Of course the ice will be unsafe — even out on the pond, given Toronto’s seesaw temperatures. What nitwit would take the risk?

Then again, nitwits are never in short supply. I accept the need for warning signs, but focus my own attention on the equally plentiful High Park nature factoid signs.

Which is why I know that the rustling cattails, seducing me to follow this path …

into the cattails!

… are Typha latiolia, grow up to 2 m. tall, and not only stabilize the wetland & strain pollutants, but are useful to humans from roots to tips.

I admire all this, as well I ought, but what I’m enjoying, this very minute, is their beauty. I am surrounded. It is wonderful.

amongst the cattails!

I keep weaving along this well-tromped path in the snow, emerge into a little clearing, still with cattails all around, blazing against the sky.

in the cattail clearing...

And then… And then I realize I am well out from shore.

I am a nitwit!

I quickly justify myself: it’s very firm underfoot, it’s all snow with no icy sheen to suggest oozing water, there are lots of other footprints, blah blah. But I am still definitely of the Nitwit Brigade, so I meekly follow a path (firm, snowy, with footprints) back to land.

Where I flutter apologetic eyelashes at the next sign.

one of the signs, looking out into Grenadier Pond

But then I see, well out in the pond, a long ridge of snow. Joined by other ridges. Creating a rectangular border. In other words …

An ice rink.

My Canadian DNA calls; I obey; back out I go. To mid-pond.

the very traditional, totally unauthorized, mid-pond ice rink

Perfectly smooth ice, it’s a beauty. This young woman and her boyfriend have been joyously sliding about on their boots, now she’s taking pictures. Me too. And I get a major kick out of just standing here mid-pond, and looking all around. A winter-only treat!

Later I read about the long history of skating — indeed, City-sanctioned and facilitated until recently. But now, it is decidedly unauthorized. News  reports suggest the police occasionally shoo people off, but it’s hardly their top priority.

I eventually return to shore, safe & dry, loop around the park some more, still marvelling at the brilliance of the day. Among its other delights, it makes for gloriously crisp shadows (here, cast by a vine sculpture near Colborne Lodge).

vine sculpture, near Colborne Lodge, High Park

Finally I leave the park. Enough nature, time for city streets. East a bit to Roncesvalles, & north. What fun this street is. I bop in & out of a couple of nifty shops, buy nothing, but enjoy their style.

Well, I don’t quite “buy nothing.” There is the ritual latte to be had, this time at Roncy’s Bean where, I am amused to see, they put out two tip jars — “vote” on this week’s question by putting your loose change in one jar or the other.

People really get into it, the young barista tells me with a grin. “They want to know the outcome!” She’s an artist, so she obliges with a weekly poster.

vote with your change, at Roncy's Bean

Desert vs Antarctica last week, and a tie vote, hence the sunglasses on the penguin and the scarf on the tropical bird. This week’s showdown is in honour of Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day: “cheesy romantic” movie or “romantic comedy”? So far, it’s running neck & neck.

One more salute to Valentine’s Day, this one from much later in the walk, and brought to you by a garage door just off Dundas West near Ossington:

alley south from Dundas West, just west of Ossington

“Wait a minute!” I hope you’re saying to yourself. “What do you mean, ‘much later’? What about everything in-between?”

A-ha. “In-between” was so unexpected, so vivid, that it’s going to be its own post. There I am, walking past a small & not terribly special parkette — and I suddenly realize it is the epicentre of a whole universe of street art.

A-ha, indeed. You’ll see.





Leave a comment


  1. Funny how with a slightly different perspective our whole view changes! I have never really been to high park must be such a gem. Of course you have manged to fit in some graffiti. Entertaining post as usual .

  2. Looks lovely but rather a scare to find out that you are a nit wit! Blue skies are such a bonus this time of year. Really enjoyed your rambling and the great out doors


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

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