Rusty Submarine

22 August 2017 – “We all live in a yellow submarine,” carolled The Beatles back in 1969, but nowadays, here in Hinge Park, the palette runs more to rust than to sunshine.

And it is equally magical.

I love walking around False Creek, as you will have noticed by now, and I always wander through Hinge Park as I go. Repurposed land made beautiful for the community to enjoy, how could you not love it, rejoice in it?

The “submarine,” of course, isn’t one, but the whimsical structure is part of the park’s magic. Why just throw serviceable planks across the watercourse, when you can offer up some come-play-with-me sculpture instead?

Two periscopes, count ’em, and lots of portholes — places for humans to look out, and for the sunshine to peek in, throwing spotlights among the shadows.

I’m entering from the south, I’ll climb those steps at the north end up to a knoll where yet another channel of water starts tumbling down the hill.

That channel is narrow, contained, and sparkling clear. The water in the waterway beneath me is also clear, but right around here, it is carpeted in vivid pond weed, emerald contrast to the tawny bullrushes along the shore.

Peer the other way, see more of the Olympic Village condo towers in the background.

Soon I’m on the north-end stone steps, regaining footing having been nearly run down by these kiddies who charge on through, whooping with delight, their feet & their voices echoing the length of the chamber.

And then, whoop-wh0op, they reverse gears & come charging back. I’m in the grass by now, out of harm’s way, delighted with their delight, watching them dance hippety-hop from one sun-spotlight to the next.

See the little girl, still halfway through the tube? Hippety-hop.

On I wander, heading east, thoughts of a latte in Olympic Village Park beginning to form in my mind …

But I am distracted enroute by one of the City’s glorious flowing chaise-longues along the edge of False Creek. They fit the body beautifully, they stand up to the weather wonderfully, and I want one. For my body. Right now.

I hasten my steps, realize I’m on a collision course with a Nice Young Man & his Well-Behaved Dog. He has the leg-length & youthful speed to beat me to the chair. But — aha — I have the Old Lady card to play! And, shameless creature that I am, I play it. Nice Young Man steps back, courteously. I thank him, courteously. And sink into the chair, snuggle my bottom into position, wiggle my toes.

Me & the sunshine & a breeze & my wiggling toes, plus the passing cavalcade: assorted ferries (here one of the Aquabus line), dragon boat teams, kayaks, small pleasure boats …

Eventually thoughts of latte overpower all this beauty, and I move on.

I collect my latte, yes I do. I seat myself on the café’s shady patio, and discover the newest, not-yet-official Olympic Sport.

Climb the Giant Sparrow.

No sparrows — or young boys, for that matter — were harmed in the development of this sport.


Symbol City (T.O. Version)

11 April 2017 – I’ve given you one Symbol City already — an array of Vancouver images that, to my delighted visitor’s eye, stood for the Vancouver I was beginning to discover.

Now I’ll offer the Toronto version. A delighted, fresh eye here as well, partly because I am recently back from a 5-week absence — but much more because, in just a few weeks’ time, I shall move from Toronto to Vancouver.

So I am acutely aware of sights that are symbols of my own personal Toronto.

Here are a few.

Riverdale Park, straddling the Don River, with its 1840s Francy Barn attracting hordes of visitors this mild spring day …

William Lishman’s exuberant sculptures, cascading down the river-side face of Bridgepoint Health Care …

a random example of railway underpass street art, this bit on Logan south of Gerrard …

a silly sign!

Jimmy Chiale’s great, pulsing wall mural on Queen St. East, adding energy to the city all around it — from parked cars to streetcar stop, pedestrians, hydro poles trailing wires, vines about to bud on the brick wall …

a whole mural celebrating the city’s distinctive red streetcars …

and a real streetcar, pulled up next to yet another wall mural, this one by Elicser and proclaiming one of the city’s east-end neighbourhoods …

and of course a café!

An attraction in itself, but, really, also just one component of an entire downtown streetscape: patio, traffic sign, bicycle, parked car & all.

I go in, assuming I’ll order a latte. Don’t I always?

Except, this time, no I don’t. I am beguiled instead by an organic hot dog (I always eat a hot-dog in spring, it’s a ritual), smothered in mashed avocado & salsa. Soon my face follows suit, smothered in the generous dressings, ear to ear and nose to chin. The man next to me, knocking back his tortillas, observes the state of my face with some awe. “I’ll try that next time,” he decides.

I loop back west toward home, angle through a scruffy laneway just off Parliament & Queen.

I am here to pay homage to …

Golden Girl!

and to …

Famous Dog!

I don’t know why he is famous — but, come to think of it, he is famous with me.

I’m just happy both murals are still with us, they’ve been around for years & years, and they are part of my Toronto, yes they are.

Here’s lookin’ at you, dawg…

Down the Bluffs with Doris McCarthy

3 November 2016 – Finally on the Doris McCarthy Trail! We found it in spring — and also found it closed for restoration. Grrr. It has now reopened, and we are back. (Thanks to Phyllis’ perseverance, I must add.)

I knew of the artist Doris McCarthy; even, decades back, attended a showing of her works at which she was present (though I was too shy to approach her). I also knew vaguely that she had long lived out on the Scarborough Bluffs.

Now the artist and the place come together beneath our feet, as we start down the gravelled trail. Signs warn cyclists to dismount, to respect the steep slope.

partway down the Trail, with Lake Ontario already visible

Not that steep, we agree, as we march on down, Lake Ontario already in view.

The day is sunny-cloudy, but not raining, so we are content. And anyway, how could you not be content, with views like this?

view west, from foot of Doris McCarthyTrail

Down there in the distance to the west, Leslie Spit. Up close, rusty fall colours in the shrubbery. Linking the two, great striated bands of glacial material, layer on layer, North America’s most complete record of Pleistocene geology.

Smack at the foot of the Doris McCarthy Trail, a sculpture.

Passage, by Marlene Hilton Moore

Passage, it is called, and it is perfect. The work of Marlene Hilton Moore, a tribute to both Doris McCarthy and the Bluffs she loved so much. We peer down the ribs …


see two columns of dates along the spine, & rush back to the plaque for help.

One column tracks major events in the life of Doris McCarthy, from birth (1910) to years training in & then teaching art, to her 12-acre purchase of land on the Bluffs (1939) and subsequent establishment of first a cottage & then a permanent home on the site (Fool’s Paradise, 1946), her travels & honours as an artist, her induction into the Order of Canada (1987), her donation of Fool’s Paradise to the Ontario Heritage Trust (1998), & her death, age 100, in 2010. Fittingly, the Trust now runs her beloved home as the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Centre.

The other column tracks major events in the life of the Scarborough Bluffs. It starts a little earlier: 23,000 B.C., when Lake Iroquois is first formed.

We amble westward on the lakeside trail, enjoying the warmth, the breeze, nature’s extravagant textures.

heading west along Lake Ontario, from foot of Doris McCarthy Trail

And, oh, in a while, the path successively narrows and finally ends.

Scarborough Bluffs, looking west

We turn back, explore our way to the east; explore, too, what else is on offer, along with those sweeping vistas.

Rocks, for example, along the beach …

beach rock

and beautifully crafted little bird nests …

at path's edge

and, of course!, an inukshuk, out on a point.

inukshuk, beyond the tree

Finally we loop back once again to Passage …

marking the foot of the Doris McCarthy Trail

and head back up the Doris McCarthy Trail to the city streets of Scarborough.

It is, we agree, much steeper to climb than to descend!




False Creek, True Fun

28 September 2016 – Remember the first image in my previous post? Louise & I are hanging over the railing of the Cambie Street bridge, about to cross north to downtown Vancouver, but pausing to watch dragon boats flash through the waters of False Creek below.

Now I am “below.” Where it is a whole other world than the one of pelting cars overhead. Here, immediately right here, is the John McBride Community Garden, complete with its very own … well, I’m not sure what! Not a bird house; perhaps for either bees or butterflies, as the art work suggests?

bee house,JohnMcBridge Community Garden, Wylie & W1st Av.

One gentleman is working away in the larger part of the garden stretching on to the east. He is fully occupied; I do not intrude.

view of John McBride Community Garden eastward along False Creek

On I go eastward, following the road closest to the water. I have done no research, this is a whim, I am simply determined to follow False Creek as much & as long as I can.

So here I am on West 1st Ave, with sleek new condos typically rising on the south side of the street, facing parking lots and occasional disused industrial facilities by the water’s edge to the north.

at W1st Av & Cook

Hoof, hoof, hoof-hoof-hoof — and then a happy surprise: Hinge Park.

I walk in, enchanted as we always are by unexpected delights, pause by one pond to eye what looks like a very playful submarine sculpture ahead.

on Hinge Island, W2nd Av & Columbia

I follow a path to get closer, and discover that, playful or not, this sculpture also earns its keep. It serves as a covered bridge over the stream.

And those portholes frame great views.

inside the 'covered bridge'!

A couple of fellow walkers give me a tip: back up along this path — yes, this one right here — and go see the beaver lodge. When the city rescued a formerly buried stream and created this park from old industrial grounds, assorted wildlife moved in. Including beavers. Whom the parks people didn’t want, and whose lodge the parks people promptly destroyed.

So the beavers built it again. And the parks people said, “Oh, all right.”

beaver lodge #2, Hinge Park

Another tip from the same fellow walkers: visit Habitat Island, just ahead. It’s part of Hinge Park, and accessible across the gravel. (At least at low tide, I’m not sure about high.) Off I go, here’s the gravel — and a view of the city to the east.

gravel walkway to Habitat Island

More tales of wildlife doing what it wants to do, not what the parks people plan: once Habitat Park was created, a heron arrived. And a hump-back whale. (Several people told me the whale story, so I believe it. I trust he got out again.)

Planned wildlife here, or so officialdom hopes. Then again, Purple Martins can be annoyingly picky.

Purple Matin tower, Habitat Island

No problem about wildlife acceptance here! Crows love this dead tree. One loves it enough to bully another back into the air, and away.

ravens being ravens...

Complete contrast to the raucous crows: someone meditating on a rock.

meditation on Habitat Island

By now I’m enjoying wonderful mixed-use trails along False Creek and into a succession of parks. Next up, the Millennium Olympic Village Park, legacy of 2010, when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics.

Two huge bird sculptures in the park, always a total draw for small children.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

Also a handsome columnar sculpture, the Olympic Truce Installation, created by Corrine Hunt, who incorporated the artwork of the 2010 medals into her design.

in Millennium Olympic Village Park

In a while I reach Main Street, end of the trails and parks. Right across the street, a big warehouse district. It is  gritty as all get out, but also on my walking agenda, because a number of its buildings feature in the Vancouver Mural Festival.

Aha! I haven’t told you about the VMF, have I? Well, my stay near Main St. coincides very nicely with the  Festival — whose murals are almost all near Main Street as well.

So the next portion of this walk is devoted to that warehouse area — which will be part of my next post, devoted to murals.

Which in turn explains why that foray is not part of today’s narrative. Instead, we’ll jump over all that, and pick up again at East 6th & Main. I’m now homeward bound, striding along, but I’m diverted by white letters on a black wall, in the shade of a large tree. I draw close.

neatly stencilled on the wall, E6th St. & Main

I pause. I enjoy the shade. Then I walk on south, back to the East 12th latitude and my Airbnb home.



The Poetry Walk. Almost.

7 August 2016 – Here I am in High Park on a hot Saturday afternoon, eager to join the the Poetry Walk that will tour us around this 161-hectare urban park, hearing site-inspired poetry as we go.

Alas for the plan. I have misread the info sheet: the walk started at 1 pm, and here I am all bright & bouncy at 2 pm.

So I console myself with other discoveries. Of which there are many.

The picnic for the Former Thu Duc Reserves Officer Cadet Association of Ontario, for example …

the ietnamese & Canadian flags at the picnic

complete with flags & speeches & long food tables filling plates as fast as picnic-goers can present them.

Right across West Road, an equally busy baby shower. The signage in English, but the MC definitely latino, pleading again & again, “Por favor … por favor” as he struggles to bend the chattering crowd to his agenda.

Bright, busy splash pad over here …

the splash pad off West Road

and nearby an ice rink, stripped of its ice but the hockey nets still in place. The little boys do what any true-Canadian group of little boys would do: they grab some basketballs …

basketball hockey in a summertime ice rink

and play “hockeyball.” (The adjoining outdoor swimming pool has equally enthusiastic, but more orthodox, use.)

High Park is billed as a mixed recreational/natural park, and it does seem the most amazing combination of facilities — off-leash dog areas, garden allotments, a zoo, food stands, trails, public art, you-name-it — plus natural areas and other areas undergoing naturalization.

And Shakespeare.

roped off venue for the summertime Shakespeare presentations

A summer institution.

And formal ponds & hedges …

in High Park

and the signature great maple leaf in a broad expanse of lawn approaching Grenadier Pond. In winter, the outline is black and dramatic; in summer, it is a-blaze.

in High Park

Typical: the mum lining up her little boys for a photo. A-typical, but unfortunately true this year: the parched grasses of our very dry summer.

I see sketchers …

one of two sketchers by a hillside pond

and sleepers …

in High Park

and fishers in the designated area in Grenadier Pond.

fishing is permitted in a defined area

I walk a pond-side trail, its shoreline plants almost obscuring the helpful signs.

signage typical of High Park

On the left, the role of cattails & sweetflag in stabilizing shorelines; on the right, the habits of the pond’s diving ducks. Lots of High Park nature information, here in signage and online too.

I climb back up from Grenadier Pond, begin working my way back north playing tag with Colbourne Lodge Drive. One foray off-road takes me , most unexpectedly, to the High Park Labyrinth.

High Park Labyrinth

Who knew? Well, I suppose I should have known: I showed you the labyrinth next to the Church of the Holy Trinity (Into the Labyrinth, 7 July), and noted the website giving all the other locations as well.

Back up near Bloor Street, I stop to admire a few of the sculptures in that north-east corner of the park. I am particularly taken by this one …

a sculpture in High Park

perhaps because it reminds me of the strong, minimalist work of Inuk carver John Pangnark (1920-1980). Art historian George Swinton rightly called him “the Brancusi of the North.” Since High Park doesn’t credit its sculptors (or not anywhere I could find), all I can say about this piece of art is that it is by “the Pangnark of High Park.”

More art as I pile aboard a streetcar at the Dundas West subway station. Right outside my window.

alley next to Dundas West subway station

And look! Some art inside the streetcar, right before my eyes.

passenger in my streetcar

So there we are. I blew my chance to walk with a group, and hear poetry inspired by the Park’s black oak savannah, the wanderings of its buried creeks, and the assorted plants, birds, snakes & insects that call the Park home.

But it all worked just just fine.




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.



Artful Flows the Don

15 December 2015 – A play on Sholokhov’s epic novel, Quiet Flows the Don, but can you blame me? When I have Toronto’s Don River on one side, and this duo on the other?

Bridgepoint Hospital sculpture

I have no expectation of any of this. I am minding my own business, following a shortcut through Bridgepoint Hospital grounds to Riverdale Park East, where I’ll take the pedestrian bridge over the Don that also allows me to drop down to the Lower Don Trail at river’s edge.

I knew that Bridgepoint had commissioned a lot of public art, but I did not know about all these leaping sculptures, flying down the stepped walkway between the hospital and the river’s east bank that leads to the park. (I’m headed for that first, low green bridge.)

view northward, Bridgepoint sculptures

Wowzers, I think, and do a bit of leaping myself, to catch more images.

Like this trio, silhouetted against the city skyline toward the west.

Bridgepoint sculptures, looking westward

And this guy, bold against the hospital’s equally bold architecture (Diamond Schmitt, if you’re interested).

Bridgepoint sculptures

Or these figures, bursting at me from the surrounding mist.

Bridgepoint sculptures

Well, that‘s a good start to my Saturday walk!

And on into Riverdale Park I go, up onto the pedestrian bridge, & down all those steps to the Lower Don Trail that runs along the river. I am, in fact, picking up where Phyllis & I left off the previous Tuesday.

I’m not hugely looking for graffiti as I walk south, but I do play a bit of dance-about with this graf in an underpass, framing it within the trestle’s strong metal gridwork.

Lower Don Trail underpass

When I reach the access steps to Queen St. East, there’s lots more public art waiting for me at street level. Before climbing the steps, I poke my camera through the wire mesh fence to catch the dramatic lines of one of the newest buildings rising in the once-desolate Donlands.

RC3, or River City 3rd tower

OK, it’s architecture, not art-art, but I’m willing to embrace it as part of the river’s artscape all the same.

I like what’s happening down here, I like the black/white interplay, & the way these buildings’ clean lines are bold & interesting, not merely boxy. River City may be a too-cute name by half, but I like what they’re building.

No argument about this bridge as art!

Queen St E bridge over the Don River

More precisely, not the 1911 bridge itself, but the 1996 installation on its western end by Toronto artist Eldon Garnet. The quote is by Heraclitus — and how appropriate for a bridge over a river — and the structure is called TIME: and a clock. Catch a short 2011 video interview with the artist right here.

I then do a bit of a wander on the west side of the Don, knowing (as usual) that Underpass Park is around here somewhere but (also as usual) not exactly sure how to find it.

Sometimes, if you just let your feet go walkies, they take you where you want to go. And once again, they do. Yes! here I am under the converging Adelaide/Richmond/Eastern Av. overpasses, in Underpass Park.

Last time I was here, they had established the kiddie play area over there, and a skateboard/trick cyclist/what-have-you area over here. There and Here are still where they were — but the skateboard end has been visited by street artists. Wow, has it ever.

Underpass Park

Images demand your attention everywhere you look. The base of this one says (in Spanish): “We are the children of the witches you could not burn.”

Underpass Park

Kids (specifically, boy-kids) are busy practising their tricks, whooshing on skateboards, spinning on trick cycles.

Underpass Park

All this, I insist, is still part of the river’s artscape. The park is close to the river, close to West Donlands Park, integral to the east-end explosion in which the river also plays such a strong role.

I start angling west & north, head up quirky little Bright St. & dive into the alley just to the west.

One last, & totally ridiculous, piece of art to show you.

alley west of Bright St.

Yes. A bicycle wedged in the crotch of the tree.

You will try to tell me that I have now moved hopelessly beyond my river-art brief. I will argue that this is so river art! The river flooded, don’t you know, and marooned that bike up the tree.

I say this with a straight face. It’s my story, & I’m sticking to it.






Between Mist & Drizzle

20 August 2015 – Tuesday was like that, all mist & drizzle, with the threat of lightening thrown in. The Tuesday Walking Society headed for the lakefront anyway. It was still hot, hence the lake; it threatened rain, hence the Beaches boardwalk area, with Queen St. & its many cafés close by should we need to run for shelter.

First stop, the Beach Community Garden in Ashbridge’s Bay Park. The weather only hazy so far, nothing actually falling on our heads. Phyllis, a community gardener farther north in the city, swaps community-garden lore with a couple of Beach volunteers; I watch a counsellor lead some day-campers to crane their necks at these great, big, ever-so-tall sunflowers.


sunflowers in Beach Community Garden

The kiddies are wowed. Even more so when a Monarch butterfly flutters past, right on cue, just as they are being told about butterfly-friendly garden plants.

On we go, into the parkland & trails that thrust into the lake, where we can see just how heavy the mist has become.

Ashbridge's Bay Yacht Club marina

We’re looking back across Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club marina toward the Port Lands and east downtown. There ought to be a dramatic city-tower skyline out there… somewhere … Instead, just a few ghostly hints are on view, above the foreground boat & to the left of the bright green trees.

Later, lakeside, we can see how the mist is thickening. This is a minute indent, barely a cove, barely a spit across, yet the far-side rocks are smudged to near-invisibility.

lakeside cove in Ashbridge's Bay Parky

Looping back out of this park, we continue east on its lakefront neighbour, Woodbine Beach. (Each beach blurs into the next, along here — sufficient proof to me why the community should continue to be known as Beaches and not by the newer & presumably tonier name, Beach. But oh, don’t let me start.)

There must be going on 200 volleyball nets strung here each season, pole to pole to pole (to pole to pole to pole…). It’s home to adult recreational beach leagues under the Ontario Volleyball Association, and often has every net in action. Today, not so much, just some adult die-hards, and what look like a few teen groups as well.

Woodbine Beach volleyball

We’re probably somewhere around Kew Beach when we spy this concrete path out across the sand, curving right along water’s edge. But … why?

Then we see the familiar blue symbol and know why, and love it: this path makes the beach wheelchair- (or baby stroller-) accessible. Isn’t that the best?

wheelchair access to the waterfront

And if it looks awfully blank out there, a sure sign of ever-thicker mist, well, not exactly. Even on the clearest days, you can’t see across Lake Ontario, not from here.


But, you should be able to see ducks & Canada geese & a whole flotilla of paddle-boarders who are practically at water’s edge, just beyond the lifeguard station. Instead, they are barely there. They shimmer, they glimmer. Now you see them, now you don’t.

ducks & geese & paddle-boarders in the mist

Once we run out of boardwalk, at the eastern edge of Balmy Beach, we head north to Queen Street and start back west. It proves a well-timed (no, a dumb-lucky) retreat to city streets, since mist thickens to drizzle thickens to, well, not exactly pelting rain, let’s just say extremely insistent drizzle.

We duck into a café. We know how to out-wait the weather: scones & coffee, you bet.

Phyllis keep her umbrella handy as we continue; I snug the big duck bill of my cap lower on my forehead.

A bit farther west on Queen, a burst of defiant nature. Definitely not a planned community garden — let’s call it a vacant-lot garden, an unplanned gift to the community. The metal bars in front add bonus colour.

Queen E. vacant lot

At Carlaw, Phyllis hops aboard a streetcar to head home. I keep walking, find myself loitering at Broadview & Queen, mesmerized by another bit of unplanned cityscape. Normally, you don’t register these tangles of stretcar wires — or if you do notice them, you quickly avert your gaze, because that’s all they are: a tangle.

But here, shining against the dark netting that shrouds a building under restoration, the arcs of wire take on pattern & form & beauty. They become an art installation, dancing with the traffic lights & the ebb-flow traffic below.

Queen E at Broadview


Not that anybody planned it that way.

I angle north-west through Joel Weeks Park, to take in some art that has very much been planned. Three sculptures here, all by First Nations artists Mary Ann Barkhouse and Michael Belmore.

This one is my favourite — especially today, when we’ve been watching black squirrels all along our walk, in a nut-gathering frenzy.

Joel Weeks Park sculpture

We humans may still be panting with heat, but squirrels know better. Time to start stocking up; fall is coming.




23 July 2015 – Summertime, and my feet just want to head for the water. I am not inclined to argue. Neither is Phyllis, so this week the Tuesday Walking Society followed its four feet down Bay Street to the ferry terminal, and hopped aboard the Ongiara. Destination: Toronto Island (really, a whole complex of islands).


aboard the Ongiara, heading for Hanlan's Point

His is not the only bike helmet on deck. This particular run is to Hanlan’s Point, which is the most western of the three island docks. It is also the most remote from either visitor or residential infrastructure and consequently a big favourite with cyclists who plan to explore all the islands, bays and trails.

I’m delighted to see this statue of Ned Hanlan right at the dock.

statue of Edward Hanlan, at Hanlan's Point ferry dock

The eponymous Hanlan (oh, I do love a chance to use that word…), born in 1855,  took up rowing as a small child when living right here and went on, in 1880, to win the world single sculls championship in England. He held the title until 1884, during his career had a run of 300 successive racing victories, and — this is a complete non-sequitur — went on to become a city alderman.

The statue is quite new, taking over pride of place from the plaque telling us that Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run right here as well. His only minor-league home run, they add: he was promoted to the majors, lickety-split. (The Babe’s plaque is still there, just remounted in a less prominent position.)

The boat has now disgorged its passengers: a couple of maintenance vehicles (only official vehicles allowed on the island), numerous cyclists, one young fisherman busy assembling his rod as cyclists start streaming on ahead, and us.

We putter along the edge of Block House Bay, leaving the hopeful fisherman behind.

Block House Bay, near Hanlan's Point

By nipping over to the lake side, we see the west end of the city itself across the water. We pick out the Humber River pedestrian bridge — an arc of white at water’s edge, about midway along — and use it to orient ourselves on the waterfront, connecting the view from here with what we see when we’re walking on that shoreline instead.

looking to Humber Bay, city-side, from Hanlan's Point

We follow the curve of land, pass by the fingerboard to the Clothing Optional beach, but follow the one to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. It sits among trees and shrubs, nowhere near the water. Why would anybody put a lighthouse here? you ask.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Because when it was built, in 1808-09, it was only eight metres from the lake’s edge. The shoreline has shifted a lot since then, but the lighthouse endures —  the oldest still standing on the Great Lakes, and the second-oldest in all Canada.

It may no longer be on the water, but there’s plenty of water to be had, and beaches to go with it. Mantiou Beach, for example, nearing Centre Island …

Manitou Beach, Centre Island

Centre Island is the focus for visitor entertainment, everything from spacious gardens & fountains, to bike & quadracycle rentals, to fast food, to a petting zoo … to the absolutely delightful Franklin’s Children’s Garden. It is named for the Canadian classic Franklin the Turtle books & TV series, it has seven different activity areas for kids — all wildly busy today with day-campers — and little sculptures reminiscent of characters from the books.

Such as this beaver, by the Turtle Pond.

beaver sculpture, Franklin Children's Garden

We admire the butterfly chair, and climb the Snail Trail behind it to weave our way up a wonderfully shaggy mound, all its vegetation chosen for its appeal to butterflies.

Franklin Children's Garden

This visit, we don’t wander all over Algonquin Island, my long-ago home — I’d done that when I came out for the concert in the church earlier in spring — we head for the other residential island, Ward’s Island. Another city view across the harbour, this time to the east.

the city, from Ward's Island

We pick out Sugar Beach, and the tree-lined walk to Sherbourne Common, and then head into Ward’s narrow little streets.

Of course there is a tree house …

tree house on Ward's Island

and a wheelie-bin container with a green roof …

green roof for a wheelie-bin container, Ward's Island

and a home with a green roof. A deliberate green roof, too, not one inadvertently born of too much moss on shingles!

Ward's Island home with green roof

Finally, it is time to head back to our own homes.

We make our way to the Ward’s Island dock, and take the next ferry back to the city.

ferry approaching Ward's Island dock

Then we walk up through the city-core bustle, and feel a distinct little jolt of culture shock. It really is a different world, over there …

Beatin’ Back the Uglies

8 March 2015 – Early March in Toronto is a happy time. Spring is coming soon! It can also be a darn ugly time. For the same reason. Exhausted, grubby snow starts to shrink, exposing more grime, old street salt & left-over fall litter in the process. And the warming days can be dull & raw, as well.

So, just as in dull, raw, pre-snow November, I go out looking for colour. Plus anything else cheerful that I can discover.

Here’s a start: the brilliant glass columns punctuating Ed Pien’s Forest Walk fence in Wellesley-Magill Park.

Ed Pien's "Forest Walk" in Wellesley-Magill Park

I’ve seen photos online that show the steel fence itself gleaming brightly in the sun. Someday I, too, may have that luck… Meanwhile, this is a start, and I head north on Jarvis toward Bloor St. with renewed hope that the day’s walk may yet be good fun.

Mostly, I’m not a fan of these great waving rods at the corner of Charles St. — but I’ve always seen them from a distance. Today, actively looking for things to enjoy, and crouching right next to them, I get into the spirit of the thing.

art outside buildig N/W Charles St. E & Jarvis

Predictably, a nice, soft-spoken lady stops beside me, peers upward to see on what on earth fascinates me, & offers the opinion that Jarvis has changed a lot in the 20 years that she has lived here. Yes it has, I agree, but change keeps us young. A roaring great platitude, but Old Wrinklies are allowed to say things like that to each other, and she laughs with delight and we part waving happy fingers at each other.

‘Round the corner onto Bloor East, get caught up once again in the Manulife complex with its mix of heritage & contemporary architecture and — especially, this time — with the way the mirrored new buildings catch reflections of their neighbours  & whirl those images back into space.

Manulife Financial complex, viewed from St. Paul Sq

I duck around a few corners & take Park Rd. down into the Rosedale Valley Ravine. A busy roadway runs through it, but it is also sheathed either side in parkland.

This bit is Lawren Harris Park, named for the great painter, a founding member of the Group of Seven and co-commissioner for The Studio, which lies within this park. The Studio, completed in 1914, was designed with great north-facing windows, ideal for the artists — including some other Group of Seven members and Tom Thomson — who in varying combinations lived and/or worked in the facility.

Now there is a backdrop of city towers and subway lines, but imagine how peaceful & natural the setting must have been, in those early days. And look how beautiful the building still is.

The Studio, 25 Severn St.

Last time I walked through here, I got all artsy-pretentious and took a photo of one of those foreground trees reflected in the windows, its branches still blazing with autumn leaves. I do it again today. Only bare branches now.

bare tree branches, in windows of The Studio

They’ll be bare for a while yet. But soon, the snow will be gone, these trees will start to bud, and scylla will rampage across the south-facing slope just the other side of the road. (I watch for it every year.)

Up out of the ravine, along the edge of Budd Sugarman Park at Aylmer & Yonge, and I see a fine hit of year-round colour. It’s one of the Bell equipment box murals, all the brighter against bare branches & today’s dull light.

box at Yonge St. & Aylmer (Budd Sugarman Park)

There’s a fine touch of The Uglies on display as well. The road-side snow is disgusting.

And around and around I go, tromp tromp, and eventually I’m looping eastward again. Waiting for a light at Wellesley and Jarvis, I look down at my feet. Yet more Uglies on display, but look what shows through:

plaque for 1858 Atlas of Toronto, corner Wellesley & Jarvis

I am charmed. An 1858 atlas of the City! I am always a sucker for maps. I am also a sucker for apparently gratuitous grace-notes, dropped into city life (or onto a street corner) just because. Later I look up the Atlas online, discover it was by far the largest (30 sheets) and largest-scale (1″: 100 ft) map to that date and the most detailed, listing both construction materials & use for each dwelling.

That’s not all I find. Two different Blogspot authors have lovingly brought the Atlas into our own century.

  • Would you like to call up any of those sheets? Click here.
  • Or perhaps zoom or scroll your way around it, as if the co-author Boulton brothers had had the advantage of Google-map technology? Click here.

At the time, of course, I have no idea how much fun lies in store for all of us, just because I take a photo of that winter-weary plaque. I’m obscurely pleased with it anyway, as I head on across Wellesley to Sherbourne. Where I wheel around the corner, ignoring all the colour jumping at me from the hoardings.

hoardings around S/W corner of Wellesley & Sherbourne

Yes yes, I do know it’s there. The mural was done by St. James Town kids in some Art City project ages ago, and it and those hoardings have been in place so long that I no longer see it.

Except that, under an influence I will discuss in a moment, I decide to look at it again. I stop, I peer, & I see that — for example — the little figures stencilled atop the skyscrapers are more varied & more fun than I had ever noticed.

Look. A car scales this tower …

SJT Arts mural

… and a rocking horse teeters on this one …

SJT mural

… and one nice person pushes the wheelchair for someone else, so both of them can have a good look at this one …

SJT mural

… and here’s fisher-kid, going home with today’s catch.

SJT mural

Which nicely brings me to the subject of:


The reason I I stopped and again really looked at this mural, I am sure, is that about a month ago I received a tip from a WordPress colleague. She urged me to look up a book by a New Yorker named Alexandra Horowitz, called On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. I thanked her for the tip, and now regret I didn’t write down her name so I could thank her again by name in this post. Ah, well, I can at least announce to her, along with the rest of you, that I have now read the book and recommend it.

Even if you’re trying to pay attention, you can’t see it all. So why not take essentially the same walk, but numerous times, each time with a companion who for assorted reasons sees & responds differently than you do? Horowitz does just that. I’ll tell you only that the results are as multi-dimensional as her experts are wide-ranging — from a geologist to a toddler to a dog to a sound-track specialist to a blind woman, and more.

Happy reading. (Or viewing — you’ll also find her on You Tube.) And happy walking.

You, too, can beat back the Uglies.



    "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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