Talking Rocks, Talking Walls

2 December 2015 – It’s as if, on December 1, the weather suddenly remembers how to do November: mist & drizzle. The Tuesday Walking Society is suitably clad, & doesn’t care. Even so, we prudently plan a route on main arteries that offer lots of bolt-holes, should we wish to take refuge.

Our end target is the new exhibition at UTAC (University of Toronto Art Centre), “Rocks, Stones and Dust.” (Thank you for the tip, Chloe!) Which may be why, as Phyllis & I head west on King Street, I’m thinking about building materials, architecture, & noticing towers looming in the mist. “Talking rocks” in fact — maybe not in the art-curated sense we’ll enjoy later on, but in their contribution to the city’s streetscape conversation.

T-D Centre, architect Mies van der Rohe

Here’s a powerful voice: the timeless Mies van der Rohe complex, the Toronto-Dominion Centre, two of its grave black towers framing a golden tower further south & a white one behind it, almost blurred from view.

A little farther west on King, more towers in the mist — plus the city’s great photo-bomber, being photo-bombed in turn.

Roy Thomson Hall, with adjacent towers & CN Tower

That’s the curve of Roy Thomson Hall in centre-front, framed by nearby office towers — which in turn frame the aforementioned photo-bomber, the CN Tower. Its tip is lost in the mist, and it is in turn photo-bombed by two sets of King St. traffic lights. (I thought of cropping them out. Then decided they are part of the conversation.)

Short intermission after that. Imagine us suddenly wheeling — right turn!!! — into Mountain Equipment Co-op, where Phyllis scores exactly the boots she’d been hoping to find, and on sale at that. No joy at MEC for me, but then we hop across the street to Europe Bound, where, yes indeed, I find the flip-tip “Newfie fishermen’s mitts” that I’ve been hunting all over town.

So it’s a happy Walking Society that thumps on west.

A talking wall next, which I only notice after I have slapped my face with delight at all this scooter-art.

scooter on King West

I “read” the adornments, then the flags; only then the hand-lettered menu in the window. We resist. We know there’ll be lattes & Americanos with our names on them, somewhere out there, later on. (And there are.)

Some zig-zagging about, and finally we turn north on Bathurst. I’ve always been amused by a parking lot mural here that features people out walking — hardly a promo for cars — but this time discover it has been heavily painted over and is, in general, pretty scruffy.

Still, you have to love the pooch.

detail, parking lot mural west side Bathurst s. of Dundas

Phyllis gives me a poke. “There’s painted birds on hydro wires,” she says, “and then there’s the real thing. Look!” I look, right across the street, and start to laugh. Artists’ models, the lot of them!

real birds on real wires, Bathurst St.

We reach College, are about to head east toward U of T, but on whim first nip west to follow the alley running parallel to Bathurst, south from College. Full of garages.

And you know what goes with that.

garage art, alley west of Bathurst

Talking walls, is what. We’ve seen the halo before, but not always over the same name, so for us at least this wall doesn’t speak as clearly as it will for those in the know. Doesn’t matter. I like the power of the design. It’s really good graphic art.

Then we stop at a garage door that, for sure, is talking up a storm. The message on the bottom right is easy to decipher — but now start wiggling your eyebrows over the rest of it.

garage art, alley west of Bathurst

Wiggle-waggle & we think we’ve got it. What do you see?

And back to College, and east, and into the U of T campus, and up to 15 King’s College Circle, for “Rocks, Stones and Dust.” The handout includes the inevitable art-speak, but also thoughts that move me (here excerpted): “Rocks are in our tools, architecture, philosophy, theology, beneath our feet, above our heads… They are non-human, yet they are born, they move, age, breed and return to dust.”

I really like the show, but then you’d expect that, you already know my fascination with rocks. (I’m the one who sees inuksuks everywhere, and moons around Leslie Spit, remember?)  The show includes a collection of small pieces by Arviat artist Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok, whose work is also a good example of the concept of one-ness mentioned in my previous post. Many other artists are represented as well, not all indigenous or Canadian, but all fascinated with rocks.

One of my other favourites: Untitled (Nuclear), 2013, by Susanne Kriesmann.

"Untitled (Nuclear)"

It is a radiogram, created by exposing photographic film to radioactive gadolinite for two weeks in complete darkness. The copper supports, by the way, will be returned to commercial use after the exhibition closes.

Another favourite — and here Phyllis & I stand & giggle for the whole 7 minutes of the video loop: Pleasure Stones (2008), by Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson.

"Pleasure Stones" video

Two chunks of Icelandic lava rock, with the video projected at and around them, to create images on the screen. Copies of the two rocks keep tumbling in turn from the skies, changing colours, twisting & bouncing to eventually nestle behind their respective host rock below.

"Pleasure Stones" later in the loop

The visuals are accompanied by silly music & silly gabble-sounds, and yes, it is all very silly. And it is a pleasure.

The silly music is still spinning in my head as we walk on east to Yonge, where Phyllis heads north & I continue south-east.

One last image as I walk through Allan Gardens, taking me back to the city’s own “talking rocks,” the cityscape conversation — more verticals in the mist.

south over the Children's Conservatory, in Allan Gardens

One-two-three-four: an old brick chimney on the left, a tower obscured by mist, a tree trunk, finally a church steeple.

And, with this reminder of the start of our walk, I head on home.

By The Way

Walking Woman is 302! Not years, you know that: posts.

What a walk it has been, in emotions & discoveries & venues not to mention kilometres, since I began all this in late 2011.

Thank you for walking with me. Thank you for your interest, your support, your generosity. Thanks.

And now … on we go.



Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Mary C

     /  2 December 2015

    The weather really was miserable on Tuesday. Thanks for the heads up re the U of T art gallery. I’ve keep forgetting that gallery is there.

  2. Larry Webb

     /  3 December 2015

    Hi Penny.

    Two things.

    First, I so enjoy your blog! I am not a great blog-follower and there are only two “permanent” threads that I subscribe to and read on a regular basis, Walking Woman being one of them. I have learned so much about some “small” details of Toronto but more than that have simply enjoyed the exercise without the energy transfer! It’s exercise for the imagination and simple pleasure.

    And so because you are a word-person, and a good one at that, I have what could be described as a bone to pick, but is being posed as a question! As with many people, particularly Brits (or displaced Brits), I have what are delightfully described there as bêtes noires (just found the code for the circonflexe accent!) and you have printed one! “There’s painted birds on hydro wires,” she says, “and then there’s the real thing. Look!” The second “there’s” is perfectly fine but the first is singular referring to a plural “birds”. It has become such common argot here, and possibly there also, that I wonder if I have missed something and it is now perfectly acceptable. And then again, perhaps it is an egregious error for which you can undoubtedly be forgiven!!

    I accept that fact that language is flexible, breathes and can change with time and usage. But I’m also concerned about the loss in our ability to communicate more complex or subtle ideas and circumstances if we lose the subtlety of the language itself.

    So who better to pose this question to than a good writer.

    Thanks as always for your posts.

    Hope all else is well with you.

    Cheers, L

    Larry Webb

    (416) 508-1291

    • I love everything about your comment, Larry. First of course the fact that you enjoy my blog as much as you do — and second, the fact that you care enough about the English language to query my use of “That’s” when the reference is to a plural rather than singular completion. You are absolutely grammatically correct, & I there made a conscious choice. I was quoting a spoken sentence, in casual conversation, rather than writing a report. In speech, even well-educated people who are careful in their use of the language will be more casual, and “there’s” is now quite commonly used in relaxed speech, whether the reference is singular or plural. I cannot even swear that Phyllis spoke those exact words, it’s a bit of a paraphrase, but after hesitating I finally chose the grammatically erroneous form, for its ring of casual speech. For any purpose more formal than that, I would always make the distinction between “there is” & “there are.”

      But again, thank you for noticing, thank you for caring, thank you for asking. In this case I chose story-telling over grammar, & I agree it was at best a borderline call on my part.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


    "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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 89,292 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,645 other followers

%d bloggers like this: