Lace on the Rocks (& Boots on the Turf)

7 February 2019 – It’s a bright, snappy day along False Creek, just enough snap to float our breath on the air as we speak …

Lace on the Rocks

… and to preserve a translucent white skin of ice, despite daytime sun, on beach rocks by Hinge Park.

I don’t scramble down to examine them; I take the easier option of looking at ones scattered in the shingle at my feet.

The ice isn’t a pure white skin at all, is it? The closer you come, the more texture you see.

Right up close, it’s all whorls and loops.

Lace on the rocks.

We walk on, visit the little habitat island just off Hinge Park (man-made, but faithful to nature’s model), then double back.

Time to put our boots where many others already have.

Boots on the Turf

Remember my post ending with Himy Syed in Olympic Village, creating his latest sidewalk labyrinth? I learned then that he also created the rock labyrinth right next to Hinge Park and the habitat island.

This one.

Here as elsewhere, Himy has beautifully executed his beautiful concept. He has a sure sense of space; all the relationships are true; the path not only looks good, it works.

The proof: it is well-trodden.

A dark chocolate line of earth between the rocky boundaries shows how many people have already put their boots to the path, and walked the labyrinth, right to its heart.

And now … so do we.


Lights! Action! & Camera!

24 February 2016 – The lights are supplied by Nature, bright sunshine bouncing off the lake and ice-skimmed rocks & bushes. The action is courtesy of the Tuesday Walking Society, west-end this time along Humber Bay Shores & through Humber Bay Park (West). The camera? Well, you know about that.

We are revelling in all the brilliant colour, whole colour-fields of colour — what  a contrast to our snow-blurred trip to the Beaches Winter Stations.

The restored butterfly arch welcomes us to the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat, leads us on down to lake-edge and pathways toward the twin lobes of Humber Bay Park (West & East), spreading comfortably into the lake.

arch into Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat

Lake Ontario, flat grey last week, is today blue to beat the Caribbean — bands of dark blue & light, streaks of turquoise, all dancing in the sun. There’s no snow and little ice, nothing permanently on the ground this mild winter, just some evidence of frozen spray.

Sometimes it wraps a second skin around rocks at water’s edge …

sheen of ice on rocks by Lake Ontario

and, sometimes, it drapes delicate lacework on a shrub.

ice-draped shrub; city & CN Tower in the background

Away from the water, tucked back by tall winter grasses, a lone birdhouse. Charming at mid-distance, but its defect show once you are up close! Any resident bird would need to keep his umbrella up, even indoors.

a "handyman's special" bird house

We point to reviving colour in trees and shrubs — spring is coming! we cry. The deep red bark of the Siberian Dogwood (aka Redtwig Dogwood, for good reason) …

Siberian (Redtwig) Dogwood

and the golden yellow, soon to become acid-green/yellow, on neighbouring tree tops.

yellow-tipped trees

But the brightest colour, the very brightest, comes as we work our way back through a condo-side park toward our streetcar stop.

For one hallucinatory moment I think the birch tree is blowing a big wad of brilliant blue bubble gum. Then I shake my head, and realize it is a very small child’s sock, put on display by some considerate passer-by so the parent has a chance of retrieving it.

Phyllis laughs at me.

lost dog-boot on display

“It’s a dog boot!” she explains. Which it is.

The Charm of a Sunny Day

24 January 2016 – Nippy, but brilliantly sunny, that was Saturday. The kind of day to reward an inquisitive eye, and pop even our muted winter palette into high relief.

I’d had a preview the day before, as I prowled some neighbourhood streets & alleys.

in a Cabbagtown front yard

See? All that colour & texture, doing its Happy Dance under our winter sun.

So I set out lake-ward on Saturday, full of optimism. The first amusement is just one block from home.

cat prints in replacement sidewalk pavers

Not exactly a dance of colour, I’ll agree, but certainly a dance of cat paws. Prancing across those sidewalk pavers, complete with their very feline message: “I’ll go where I please. Even if it’s gooey.”

I have no particular reason to head for Lake Ontario, just the belief, confirmed by experience, that there’s almost always lots to see and enjoy.

I cut through Sherbourne Common, the recreational park cum water-treatment facility immediately north of the waterfront.

Kiddie play equipment, so busy with children all summer, sits still and silent in the winter chill. This spinning disc, for example, a blur of motion in July …

in Sherbourne Common

is now transformed into pure, sculptural art.

Big contrast with the southern (lakeside) portion of the Common. It is home to the Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad. No prize for guessing which activity is currently in season!

Paul Quarrington Ice Rink & Splash Pad, in southern portion, Sherbourne Common


I follow the lake edge west to Sugar Beach, named for the Redpath Sugar Refinery on its western boundary. Sugar Beach is one of a string of high-concept, very urban parks developed in the central portion of the city’s lakefront over the last decade or so.

At first I laughed at the mid-winter sight of its oversize Muskoka chairs and bright, rigid beach umbrellas. Fine in summer, I thought, but couldn’t they have come up with a décor that worked in all four seasons?

I take that back.

I have not only seen visitors lolling in those chairs mid-winter, as of this Saturday I have done it myself. In the sun; out of the wind; looking out over Toronto Harbour and Toronto Island; listening to gulls & geese & ducks & the occasional airplane on its final approach to the island airport.

I pass a lean, young cyclist as I enter Sugar Beach. We nod, he strips off his helmet as we agree it is a major-fine day to be out & about, and we each sink into a chair, mine somewhat farther down the beach than his.

cyclist doing his stretching routine on Sugar Beach

You’d be excused for thinking I’d stumbled on a sun-worship cult, but no — while I am content just to sit back and breathe gently, he is soon on his feet again, working through his stretching routine.

When I finally walk on, I’m amused to see more footprints — different species & ephemeral not permanent, but they still make me remember those busy little cat prints I saw earlier.

footprints in Sugar Beach sand & snow

The shifting sun brings out stronger shadows. I cock my head at the foot of Yonge St., admiring the way the railing plays against the sidewalk.

Ground zero - foot of Yonge St. at Lake Ontario

Also admiring, as always, the litany of names of all the major communities along Yonge St. and their distance from the lake. Its purpose: to demonstrate that Yonge is the world’s longest street. (Assuming you allow it to change name as it goes, that is.)

From Toronto at 0 km, to Rainy River at 1896 km. With North York – Richmond Hill – Aurora – Newmarket – Barrie – Orillia – Gravenhurst – Bracebridge – Huntsville – North Bay – Iroquois Falls – Cochrane – Kapuskasing – Hearst – and Thunder Bay in between.

My ambition is more modest. I just walk on west for a bit, past Bay St. and the ferry terminal, into Harbour Square and HarbourFront Park.

Soon I’ll pass the outdoor skating rink, positively heaving with people & the hiss of skate blades. First I pass some ducks, most of them swimming about but a few tucked up on their very own patch of ice. Complete with their own trademark hiss!

ducks in Toronto Harbour

Farther west & farther west, and then finally I head north into the downtown core, beginning my loop eastward toward home.

The sinking sun still flashes fire. It highlights a group of buildings and throws their reflection against this office tower at Simcoe & Wellington.

S/E corner, Simcoe & Wellington

I have a knee-jerk objection to these glass towers, typically thinking only of all the energy they must consume winter & summer, to maintain comfortable temperatures.

But, sometimes, I just enjoy the view.

Year Five!

I’ve just realized: this is my anniversary month for blogging. My first full month was January 2012, when I began training for my Iceland trek and needed a way to engage with my donors. Back from Iceland later that year — and I just kept going.

All 2012, and 2013, and 2014, and now 2015 as well. Walking, and sharing my walks. Encouraged by your response to keep walking, and keep sharing.

Thank you for joining me. May we all continue in good health, doing what we love to do and sharing it with each other.


Beach & Boots & a Q&A

14 January 2016 – We’ll start with the Q&A. Well, with the Q.

As follows:

Why did the traffic light turn red?

I’ll get to the A later. Promise!

Meanwhile, join me at the very eastern end of the Beaches neighbourhood, right where Queen Street begins/ends, a boundary marked with Art Deco flourish by the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant — still functioning in that role, but with historical designation for its architecture.

I’m not gawking at the water treatment plant. I’m down on the beach gawking at ice on rocks, glinting against the grey Lake Ontario waters under a chilly grey sky.

ice on Beaches rocks, Lake Ontario

Even the nasty abutments pushed into the lake to baffle wave action become sculptural, given a sheathing of ice.

Beaches, Lake Ontario


As always, quite a few people are larking about with happy, bounding dogs — the pooches busy fetching sticks, lugging fluorescent tennis balls to and fro in their mouths, & pushing indelicate snouts into delicate places on total strangers, in equally total certainty they will be praised & stroked, not scolded.

Lifeguard stations dot the lakefront year-round, all currently bearing their seasonal notice.

on Kew/Balmy Beach

After a while I take myself back up to Queen St. East, planning to walk on west toward home until … well, until I either reach home or hop a streetcar en route.

Not surprising that I almost immediately see another dog. This community loves it dogs.

outside a Queen E grocery store

I contemplate Doggie-Two-Boots a moment. Has the little devil shucked two boots, or — for some arcane reason — does he only have two? (About an hour’s-worth of walking time farther west, I see him again — all four paws neatly encased in boots.)

Somewhere near Coxwell, I catch a surprising sight down a short alley-cum-parking-lot. I start down the alley to investigate. “Yes?” calls a voice behind me. The man attached to the voice is wearing a restaurateur apron & has just rushed out of the adjoining building. “Can I help you?”

Which, we all know, means: explain yourself.

“Just want a photo,” I reply, smiling as endearingly as I know how & waving my camera in his direction. His smile matches mine as he waves me on down the alley.

This is what the fuss was all about.

off Queen nr Coxwell

Well, it’s very odd, isn’t it? I realize I’m thinking of it as a barn, a corrugated metal barn, but of course it isn’t that & I don’t know why it strikes me that way.

A bit later on, another just-off-Queen sighting, this time at Curzon.

N/W Queen E & Curzon

It could have been projected, that tree silhouette; a perfect art installation against the wall. (Come to that, it is projected. By the sun.)

Somewhere in there I peer hopefully up Craven Rd., home to “Tiny Town” and the city’s longest municipally maintained wooden fence. Also the city’s longest wooden-fence public art gallery.

Except… it isn’t, not any more. Finally all that wonderful art work has tattered itself to the point of (or so it seems) being removed. Just a long, very naked fence. I’m glad I have images, first shared on this blog in November 2013 and several times since then.

Between McGee and DeGrassi streets, some public art that is increasingly battered looking, but still in place: the animal vignettes running the length of the railway underpass.

Queen E railway underpass at McGee

This guy is one of my individual favourites in the series. Each side bears a whole wall’s-worth of images, currently enhanced with a few icicles in the framing arches.

RR underpass south wall

I angle toward home through Joel Weeks Park, north of Queen & just east of the Don River. I could have chosen many other routes — but I cannot resist the squirrels.

south end, Joel Weeks Park

I’m as amused as ever. Acorn worship!

detail, squirrels & acorn in Joel Weeks Park

The A to the Q

Did you get all impatient on me & scroll down? Or did you wait?

Before totally wowing you with the A, let me give credit where credit is due: I read this on the sidewalk “street talker” for The Sidekick, a Queen East coffee & comic books emporium.

Remember the question? It asks: “Why did the traffic light turn red?”


You would too, if you had to change in the middle of the street.

Was it worth the wait? I hope so.



Ice & a Bright Blue Sky

6 January 2016 – Weather was on our minds, as Phyllis & I planned our Tuesday outing, so, when we finally set out, what more appropriate wall-comment than this?

a prescient street-scrawl, near Jarvis

It is – 11C: that’s not terrifically cold in, say, Moscow (or Winnipeg) terms, but pretty nippy for Toronto, especially after the very mild temperatures we’ve had until now. We decide to stick to downtown streets & take in Cloud Gardens Conservatory as we go. Nothing better than a hit of steamy tropics in the midst of a cold snap.

The bonus of cold weather is a bright blue sky. “An Alberta sky,” I always think, imprinted as I am by my years in Calgary. It lifts the spirits and makes colours pop.

Example: the old (1892) Confederation Life Building on Richmond St. East between Victoria & Yonge.

1892 Confederation Life Building, Richmond & Victoria

Romanesque Revival style, you bet, complete with the gloriously-named “wishbone surrounds” over those tall windows.

Nearby, just across Yonge St., our tropical hit: Cloud Gardens Conservatory. There is the open park section as well, but we head into the Conservatory, closed for a chunk of 2015 while they upgraded their light-management systems for all those plants.

inside Cloud Gardens Conservatory

Our glasses completely mist over as we enter. Once they clear, we mooch about. The new, filtering window curtains are fully retracted, this early in the day, so plants get full advantage of morning light.

glass wall, Cloud Gardens Conservatory

We’re heading west, wobbling between Richmond & Queen as fancy dictates. Fancy happens to dictate Queen, just where it passes City Hall at Bay St. The summer-time pond is now the winter skating rink.

skating rink, City Hall

Look again at that child in the lower-right, just off the final “O” in “Toronto.” He is about to go ker-SPLAT!! on the ice.  Happily, he is both unhurt & undaunted. (Later, we notice that the kiosk, along with the usual skates, also rents kiddie helmets and green push frames.)

Back to Richmond & still heading west, with new buildings, both office & condos, popping up all around. Example, this Picasso on Richmond condominium tower. I smirk at the name, but like the lines — all those hits of red on the white, popping at us from that bright blue sky.

"Picasso on Richmond" nr Peter St.

Old buildings are still around, some probably slated for demolition but others being integrated with the new. And some still sporting faded old advertising. Perhaps deliberately preserved as an architectural feature?


old Tip Top Tailors advertising, Richmond West

Tip Top Tailors. Still in business, though not right here.

One of the city’s newest examples of old/new “fusion architecture” is just down the street, at Richmond & Peter. Imagine two old 4-5 storey brick buildings that now serve as underpinnings for a 27-storey glass superstructure that straddles them both, creating a single entity, the Queen Richmond Centre West.

I ask you to imagine it since, lacking my own private helicopter, I cannot properly show it to you. (Though you can click right here and check it out on the architects’ website.)

I can show you the atrium, though — once external space between the old buildings, now soaring glass internal space, 75 feet high. We stand inside, swivel our heads, and start to laugh.

“Does everybody walk in and say ‘Wow!’?” we ask the Nice Young Man At The Desk. He laughs too, delighted that we are delighted. “Yes, they do.”

atrium, Queen Richmond Centre West

Great criss-cross pillars support the superstruture (and, temporarily, some Christmas ornaments as well). Old external brick walls, left & right, become internal atrium walls. Your mind & senses hop back & forth. It is very neat.

There’s a sleek little coffee bar in the atrium and we hesitate, almost peel off our coats & settle in — but we resist the temptation. Let’s head down Spadina to the lake, we decide; reward ourselves somewhere down there.

So we do. Passing our first ice display as we go: a perfectly preserved, but frozen stiff, ornamental cabbage outside the 401 Richmond West complex of art galleries & design studios.

frozen ornamental cabbage outside 401 Richmond West

More ice at the lake front. Not yet in solid sheets, more like translucent jigsaw puzzle pieces, neatly fitted next to each other but still floating free.

buoy & ice in the lake, at HTO Beach

We’re in HTO Beach, whose yellow-striped umbrellas & oversize beach chairs look more than slightly out-of-season at the moment. But what am I saying? Two of chairs are occupied. The occupants may be bundled up to the point of near invisibility, but there they are, by golly, enjoying their Day At The Beach.

Across the slip, more ice & another great tapestry of colour beneath the bright blue sky.

canoes cradled for winter, near Rees Wave Deck

I love ’em in the summer, and even more in winter. And yes, they are as out-of-season as the beach chairs –but aren’t they glorious?

And a reminder that summer will come again.





    "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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