5 September 2018 – August tumbles into September and, click-clack, fall is back.

“Back” is the word. Families back from holidays, children back in school, cultural seasons back in action.

“Gone” is also the word. Summer pleasures — click-clack — disappear.

“The piano is gone!” cries the little girl, obviously a regular visitor to Spyglass Place on False Creek. She stops dancing around the deck chairs long enough to peer over a chair back at the empty space …

where, all summer long, the brightly painted piano invited us to sit down and make music.

Summer colour begins to disappear as well, partly accelerated by drought, but also just the normal exhaustion of end-of-summer.

Yet even as grass, leaves and flowers wilt and fade, other colours explode into life.

The stream running through Hinge Park into False Creek, for example, is now a solid carpet of emerald green. All that pond weed, at its bravura best, after a full summer of unimpeded growth.

Good news for the ducks. They may have to paddle a little harder, to push their way through the greenery, but feeding now takes no effort at all. No diving needed: they lower their heads to water level, open their beaks, and let the nutrients flow in.

Meanwhile, we humans now find ourselves seeking, not rejecting, the sunny side of the street.



“Happy Tuesday”

9 November 2016 – The sign has no political import, you understand. It’s just doing its sidewalk job, drumming up business for the café inside — and very time-efficiently at that. Why write a whole new sign, when you can just edit one word?

repurposed café sidewalk sign

But the Tuesday Walking Society is out there on November 8. This is Election-Tuesday in the USA, a day that will make a lot of Americans very happy indeed.

Others, not so much.

In fact, enough others are unhappy enough to cause the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration website to crash the following day. More immigration inquiries than it could handle.

But on Tuesday itself, nobody knows any of this. It’s a warm, sunny morning in Toronto, and Phyllis & I are working our way west on Bloor Street to Christie Pits Park, located at — you guessed it — Christie Street.

A few blocks short of the park, we dive into an alley just north of Bloor. Look! Raccoons!

alley to the east of Christie St., n. of Bloor

Two surprises. First, they are painted on a garage door, not live on the ground. And, second, I find them delightful. (Not necessarily my attitude to their marauding live cousins.)

We have no particular reason to visit the park, except we haven’t done so in a while, and it’s as good a starting point as any for further exploration.

Fall colours have been muted this year, we agree, but the golds are still blazing throughout the park.

still brilliat trees, Christie Pits Park

We kick through the leaves underfoot, wrinkle happy noses at the distinctive aroma, cock our ears to the distinctive sound.

We see a big, blue canoe. Phyllis stops, so do I, but I also murmur, “It’s awfully scruffy…”

Community Canoe, in Christie Pits Park

“It’s meant to be,” she replies. (The world’s gentlest reprimand.)

“That’s what native species do, this time of year…” And she then explains Community Canoe, the network of pollinator-friendly canoe gardens, part of the Homegrown National Park Project.

Leaving the park, I turn back for a moment to watch four ladies practise their morning tai chi. Sure, peaceful movements, in a warm, peaceful dip in the ground.

tai chi i Christie Pits Park

Distinct change of mood as we begin exploring neighbouring streets & alleys!

More urban wildlife in an alley off Ossington, once again painted not live.

alley nr Ossington n. of Bloor


As with the raccoons, I find the painted variety delightful, the live variety somewhat less so. (In fact, when it comes to pigeons, I tend to agree with Tom Lehrer.)

More alleys in the general area, some with very fine murals, others that owe their impact more to Mother Nature than to any local artist.

another Ossington area alley

A bit farther north in the alley, though, some happy murals.

A giddy flower …

Ossington-area alley

and smiling faces in an Elicser mural. (The very first smiles I have seen on any work by this artist.)

same alley, farther north

We walk a lot more — up to Dupont, as far west as Lansdowne, south to Dundas and then head east again.

The loop eventually brings us to Trinity Bellwoods Park. I drag Phyllis to a vaguely remembered stretch of pavement, a place where various pathways intersect near the north-east corner of the park.

I want to know if “Sun slant low…” is still visible on the pavement, or if time has scuffed it away.

It is faint, but still there. I am so pleased.

in the N/E corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park

I had to come home & look up old records to see when I first noticed, first photographed, this extraordinary love poem to the sun’s yearly trajectory.

There! 20 December, 2014. (Click: you’ll be rewarded with the full text.)

And when better to honour the poem, than as we approach the winter solstice?


The Ragged Season

8 November 2014 — Around here, November really is the ragged season.

The vivid abundance of fall has fallen apart (you’ll pardon the pun), & the monochromatic, lean beauty of winter has yet to arrive. Colours are faded, the remaining leaves are tattered, summer plants are wilting or turning to mush.

But what if I were to look with different eyes? What if I chose to see November as … November? Not as beauty-gone, or beauty-yet-to-come, but … just as itself?

With this novel concept in mind — & lined jeans on my body (like I said, it’s November) — I do a loop through some trails around the Don River.  I’m overlapping with one of the City’s Discovery Walks, the one through the Central Ravines. It takes me first into the woods on the grounds around the Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum and Art Centre on Pottery Road.

It also gives me a Monty Python moment. Anybody remember the schoolbook image of a tree, with an arrow pointing to it as a sepulchral voice-over intones, “The larch”?

The. Larch. (Sort of.)

Tamarack tree, in Todmorden Mills woods

More specifically, Larix laricina, Tamarack to its friends. “Laricina” I later learn, is Latin for “larch-like,” and “Tamarack” is from the Algonquin word “akemontak” i.e. “wood used for snowshoes.” It is a small tree, I further learn, found on poorly drained soils. I already know it has “delicate deciduous needles” that turn yellow before being shed each fall.

It’s very pretty, isn’t it?

Alas, I can’t quite convince myself that the near-by pond is pretty, but let us all properly acknowledge its right to be exactly what it is, at this time of year.

pond, Todmorden Mills

I cheer up again for these seed pods, attached to some grass or other. Well, I think that’s what they are, I have no idea really, but … they’re pretty. Yes they are. If ghostly.

grasses, Todmorden Mills

Out of Todmorden Mills, down to Bayview Avenue, wait for the lights, cross the expressway, cling to the pavement edge as I walk on south and with some relief soon take the turn into Evergreen Brick Works (EBW).

Once home to the Don Valley Brick Works, which dug the quarry & made the bricks that allowed Victorian Toronto to rise literally from its own soil, the site is now a centre dedicated to helping urban nature and urban people live well with each other.

Street art is a valued part of the mix.

Faith 47 RR trestle mural, EBW

I’ve seen this railway trestle mural before. It is the work of South African street artist Faith 47, perhaps (I’m not sure) created in 2013, when she was in Toronto for the DOS Group Show. I’m happy to see it again, in any month — but it’s a special pleasure in November.

Behind the trestle, you can see the long building that once housed the kilns where all those bricks were baked and dried. It’s still known as The Kilns, and now houses EBW special exhibitions and events, along with …

inside The Kilns, EBW

… heritage graffiti of its own.

These images remind us that this building did not go straight from brick works to Brick Works; there were empty years in between. Officially empty, that is, but in fact full of people who found community & temporary shelter here, and left their mark. EBW has chosen to honour this part of the site’s history, not erase it, and to incorporate its visuals into their strategy for using art throughout the grounds to help tell today’s story.

This means they display a lot of art. I bump into a current exhibition, curated by Design for Nature, when I leave The Kilns for the open-air Young Welcome Centre.

Watershed Erratics, Scott Barker, 2014

There’s an eye-blast, on a dull November day!

Bravo if you’re thinking, “Buoys? Navigation buoys on dry land?”  This installation, Watershed Erratics, was created by Scott Barker to remind us that the Don Valley is a flood plain, that devastating floods still take place (including at the Brick Works), & that we need to get serious about environmentally sound, sustainable water management.

I mooch about the EBW grounds for a while, it’s almost impossible not to, there’s always something to snag your eye and stir your mind.

But I do eventually go on my way — picking up the trail through wooded slopes that will eventually allow me to climb up out of the ravine & back onto city streets.

It gives me some final opportunities to appreciate Nature-in-November-as-November.

“Embrace scruffy!” I sternly tell myself.

trail leading to Milkmen's Lane


And here it is, with Staghorn Sumac to the fore, its fruit cluster “stags” on display now that the leaves have fallen. Behind that, well, variegated scruffiness, wouldn’t you say? Bare branches with the remnants of red, orange & yellow leaves scattered about.

Oh, but, oak trees still look coherent. They are entitled to do so — their leaves may be faded but by golly, they hang in all winter long.

oak leaves on trail next to EBW

I even smile upon the carpet of faded leaves, all around.

trail leading to Milkmen's Lane

And then I draw breath, climb up (very UP) Milkmen’s Lane, out of the ravine and onto the streets of deepest, darkest Rosedale. (It’s a classy neighbourhood, with classy twining streets that always confuse me.)

Eventually I navigate my way out of there, and go home.






    "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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