All Bike, No Hike (Spit! Spit!)

30 September 2015 – I told you I’d take you out the Spit, didn’t I? So here we go.

No danger I’ll exceed the posted max speed for bicycles …

speed limits, even for bikes

and I don’t see anyone else giving the limit a serious challenge, either. But, goodness, every kind of bike you can imagine is out here: tandem, recumbent, ultra-lightwight, & regular old plonkers like mine.

We cyclists are just a few of the 100,000 visitors each year to this 5-km-long, 250 hectare urban wilderness, the Tommy Thompson Park that is open weekends & holidays only. Why the limitations? Because the Spit is also an active clean-fill dump site all week long.

Green park, grey rubble. You see the Green-Grey contrast very neatly in this 2013 aerial view, which I took the easy way — standing on land, on my own two feet, behind an official van. (The shot looks north, from the tip back toward the city.)

Leslie Spit 2013

The original plan, 40 years ago, was pure Grey. The city organized dumping off the end of Leslie Street, planning to build a breakwater with the accumulated rubble. Needs & interests changed, the breakwater idea was scrapped, but the dumping went on.

Then people looked over their shoulders and saw that Green — unplanned (& unanticipated) nature — was climbing all over the Grey. They changed course, began planning for the Green, organizing & contouring dumping locations to facilitate an eventual park. Currently, we have both activities; in time, the Spit will be all parkland. It already has its organized devotees, Friends of Leslie Spit.

So a visit to the Spit is all about enjoying nature, and enjoying rubble as well — more precisely, the art visitors make with the rubble.

I bike down the expanding east-side angle of the Spit, known on the latest maps as the Endikement. An ugly word, & I’m not convinced it even is a word. But, look, great ridges of new rubble have much the appearance of a dike.

rubble on the east flank of the Spit, the Endikement

See how much plant life has leapt up all around? By now Leslie Spit is home to some 400 species of plants — plus (year-round or seasonally) to some 316 species of birds, 50 species of butterfly, and many mammals and reptiles.

I spin on my heel, take in Cell # 1 now being contoured just across the gravel road, joining other cells that will help shape the eventual parkland in this part of the  site.

Cell # 1, under development

Then I bike on, enjoying more nature. Waves splashing up over the rocks, for example …

along the eastern edge of the Spit

and, something I always check, the beaver lodge in Triangle Pond.

Triangle Pond, with its beaver lodge

Next — and just as eagerly — I check for the latest installations of rubble art. Some of it signed by brand-name artists, I’ll have you know.

Poser, out on the Spit

First I see the panda bear, then the signature. Street artist Poser is known for great loopy rabbits, but where would he have put the ears on this concrete block? So that’s fine, hello Mr. Panda Bear.

And then I see the rest of the block and whoop with laughter. I first photographed it back in January 2013, when all it bore was the inscription you see here — now faded — on the surface to the right: “Respect your city’s vandals.” Loved it then; love it still.

A little farther out the Spit, stacks of small concrete blocks, some brightly painted.

more rubble art...

More great mounds of rubble right out at the tip, at Lighthouse Point. Some with one or more humans a-top, in this case members of a cycling team.

at Lighthouse Point

We just have to climb this stuff, don’t we?

And then we make things with it. Inuksuks, for example …

inuksuk at Lighthouse Point

or, um, little houses. Or something.

very tiny house? at Lighthouse Point

Another inuksuk, this one my favourite because it has been built at water’s edge, looking out to the horizon. It reminds me of Inuit inuksuks I have seen on the Arctic tundra, also overlooking the water.

inuksuk, Lighthouse Point

Then I notice something small & wonderful, my best rubble-art find of all. It excites and touches me, because I think I recognize the handwriting, the style of poetry, the sensibility of this artist.

rubble-art poet

He (or she, but context makes me think probably “he”) has neatly written a poem on a jagged piece of composite, then posed it against the turquoise backdrop. It is dated 20 September 2015, and begins:

You must have / jogged another’s memory / of / baby blue / baby eyes /

Did their memory also hold the indigo / rimming irises / (irides if you want to get medical about it) /

That indigo is still there / around the baby blue.

He writes of memory, but it is my memory that he jogs.

I have never forgotten the rubble bed I saw here in that January 2013 visit I have already mentioned, surely the work of this same person.

rubble bed, at Lighthouse Point, Jan 2013

Each “pillow” is neatly incised with poetry, poetry in the form of a haunting diary, dated at intervals through fall 2012.

And now here he is again, this anonymous artist, this rubble-art poet. I am happy to think he still visits the Spit, still creates his lyric poetry.

I think about his work off and on as I pedal back north along the Spit, cross the little pedestrian bridge …

pedestrian bridge, part-way up the Spit

and head on home.

I’m smiling now, as I write about it.








    "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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