Earth, Air, Fire, Water

31 March 2016 – If you’re paying any attention at all, all four elements dance with you, every walk you take. But, sometimes, they connect with more power than usual. Tuesday’s walk along Toronto’s west-end waterfront is one of those occasions.

For example, Air/Fire/Water right here at Toronto Fire Station 334.

Soaring sky, glinting water, and the Wm. Lyon Mackenzie Fire Boat in the slip.

fire boat, Toronto Fire Station 334

So-very-appropriate to name the fire boat for the City’s first mayor — but here’s the joke: he was also one of the leaders of the 1837 Rebellion, and quite rightly dubbed a “firebrand” in William Kilgour’s biography. A man, in other words, more likely to ignite fires than extinguish them …

A few other hints to our coming walk adventures in that photo, not that the Tuesday Walking Society knows it at the time: the fierce outline of the Canada Malting Company silos against the background sky and, to their left, the more prosaic outline of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

Close to hand, the fourth element: Earth. No. More precisely, Earth & Water.

detail, Spadina Quay Wetland signage

Immediately west of the Fire Station, the Spadina Quay Wetland. Once a parking lot, it is now a spawning ground for the Northern Pike (“a key indicator of the health of Toronto Bay”) and a support for the entire aquatic community.

I take the photo for the pike silhouette, and for the handsome appearance of the rusted metal. I only learn later that this wooden edging is a pilot project in urban park edging for such purposes. Here’s the problem: wetlands look, well, messy. The healthier they are, the messier they look. What will make a suitable boundary between the wetland and the smooth, urbane, urban pathway to one side? The trick was to devise a modular system that wouldn’t look too prissy for the wetland, yet would fit nicely with the park edge, and would also provide seating. Read all about it here.

On we go, through the Wetland, then through Toronto Music Garden park immediately to the west, and then we veer onto the planking for Marina Quay West. Lots of boats out here, still neatly swaddled for winter.

boats in Marina Quay West

We are slightly wary as we prowl — the marina is designed for people who belong there & have keys & all & all — but nobody challenges us. No external signs of action, but music wafts out from some of the boats, suggesting owners are beavering away inside.

A moment to admire another red & white boat, the view hampered by the fact that since we don’t have keys we have to view it from the one public-access walkway.

tug with chair, Marina Quay West

In my ignorance, I think of it as a tug. Maybe it even is a tug. Phyllis & I particularly like the red Muskoka chair up on top.

Back out of our Marina detour, closer every step to those 1928 Canada Malting Company silos — one of only two sets of silos left on the waterfront.

Canada Malting Company silos, Toronto Bay

I love severe industrial architecture, especially when tinged with modernism, as here, and I love Prairie grain silos. So I really love this structure, and I am glad that — once threatened with demolition, and still empty though protected by historical designation — it is still solidly present at lake edge. Not as large as it once was, battered, empty, its future unknown, but, by golly, emphatically still there.

detail, silos

I am thinking anthropomorphic thoughts about loss, resilience & survival as I round the waterfront corner of the building.

And have the breath knocked out of me.

Because never mind architectural equivalents of those characteristics. Here they all are, in human terms.

Ireland Park

We have come across Ireland Park, opened in 2007 by the President of Ireland, a testimonial to the Irish Famine of 1845-1851, to the millions of famine refugees who emigrated and, specifically, to the 38,560 who arrived by steamer in Toronto Harbour in 1847. At a time when the city itself numbered only 20,000 people.

sculpture, Ireland Park

The bronze sculptures are by Irish artist Rowan Gillespie, who had already created 7 such sculptures on the Dublin waterfront, to honour all those who fled. Ireland Park here contains 5 figures, honouring those who made it to our shores and, by the reduced number, those who died en route.

The man with outstretched arms symbolizes the joy of reaching land; the pregnant woman, the hope of new life and a new life for all; and this gaunt youth …

sculpture, Ireland Park

the newcomer mixture of hope and trepidation.

Walk to the jagged limestone pillars behind. Peer between their faces. Read the names.

names etched, Ireland Park

Of those 38,560 immigrants, some 1,180 died upon arrival or soon after. When this project began, 32 of their names were known. By 2007, dogged research had brought the identified total to 675 — information sent back to Ireland with H.E. Mary McAleese after she opened the park. Reading names on site, I am touched but saddened that “A Widow Hughes” is known only by her surname; knowing what I have since learned, I am touched and impressed that even this much has been discovered and made public.

A hint of Fire, and a lot of Water and Earth, in our walk so far. Now it is time for Air.

We walk the new underwater tunnel to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. City-side, they’ve placed life-size statues of (L) William Barker and (R) William (Billy) Bishop — friends, and two of the greatest fighter pilots of the First World War. Bishop with 72 victories, Barker with 50, and between them very long lists of awards and decorations.

Barket, L; Bishop, R

Through the tunnel, back up the escalator on the airport side, into a lobby of Billy Bishop memorabilia — complete with a full-size model of his beloved Nieuport 17 suspended overhead. (Go see the real thing in the Canadian War Museum.)

Nieuport 17 model, Billy Bishop Airport

Only a model, but faithful and almost complete. Add navigational equipment and an engine, says the signage, and this model could really fly.

And now, speaking of navigation …

A Small But Important Geographical Note

I misled you! We were not in Leslieville last post, as I muttered about how Toronto’s east-downtown is finally spiffing up. We were in Corktown, as Larry Webb (faithful reader with sharp eyes) pointed out.

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. Such an interesting walk. Good to see so much art work and all the links with the past. Found this article very interesting Penny
    On a personal note my computer crashed now have a new e-mail but not sure how to notify wordpress

    Reply
    • Thanks, & so sorry about the computer woes. There must be some WordPress support contact link – perhaps you could ask them your question about the new email address.

      Reply
  2. What a great walk! I did much the same with Marjorie, my mother, many years ago. I was begging to stop and have a drink somewhere as I remember. She was the intrepid, like you. (Is “intrepid” a noun or an adjective?)
    Thanks for the guided tour!

    Reply
  3. This was a delightful commentary. I learned so much about Toronto in a few paragraphs. Pictures added so much. Glad to have found your blog. Looking forward to reading more posts!

    Reply
  4. I remember that silo…and some spaces you walked here…always fun to see how people see and what I missed along the way…compose a happy walking week Penny…cool post!

    Reply
  5. Ireland Park looks pretty eerie–even spooky. Don’t know if I’d want to walk there at night!

    Reply

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  • WALKING… & SEEING

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

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