Sign Language

1 August 2017 – “Handpoked with love” (see Walk & Gawk) does not exhaust the sign language currently enchanting me around here.

I am on the 3rd floor of downtown government offices, seeking directions to the correct Ministry to tidy up one final e-registration, as I change provinces.

Right by the elevator, a sign.

No, that’s not my Ministry. But I am charmed to think I live in a province with an official Ministry of Red Tape Reduction. And, to be fair, when I find the right office for my own purposes, the registration is completed very quickly.

I spend yesterday on near-by Bowen Island with friends. We do a respectable amount of hiking up-trail and down; eat our backpack lunches overlooking a pretty inlet with bobbing boats (and bobbing Canada Geese on shore); and then — of course! — seek a café for seriously swell coffee.

There is always a tip jar. (I don’t understand this royal pairing, either. I just like it.)

And, these days, there is usually, if not always, a uni-sex washroom.

Which, as we discover, can prompt new ideas about protocol.

Somewhere along the line, Sal calls on her old CBC “streeter” instincts — we are all three one-time CBC journalists — and asks a passing Bowen Island resident the best place for ice cream. “Branch & Butter,” he instantly replies. The name makes no sense, but we don’t care. Priorities! The priority is: find ice cream. So we take careful note of his directions, ask his name (Sven) so we can give due credit, and follow his waving hand to the other-dock-over-there. (Not to be confused with this-dock-right-here.)

Branch & Toast, says the big sign on a rooftop. “A gourmet toast & ice cream snack bar,” it promises us. “???” we ask ourselves.

Another sign, on the building wall, very slightly explains.

So we are yet again charmed.

And would have been even more charmed, had the snack bar been open! Alas, we are there on a Monday, when they are open “by chance.” Chance is not our friend, this particular Monday. So we press our noses longingly against the glass, but never get to tell anybody that Sven sent us. (Say that, three times quickly…)

Wind-blown, sun-stunned, walking the last block back home that evening, I pass a line-up of familiar retail shops. Including Black Dog. Whose line of business I know, and whose current sidewalk sign, therefore, confuses me.

Until I read the small print.

You got it. Ice cream specialists across the street; videos right here. Yuk yuk. Ho ho.

A Nitwit in High Park

11 February 2015 – I’m on the northern edge of High Park, just below Bloor Street, soaking up this rare combination of mild but sunny weather. Usually I walk south for a while mid-park, then take a path down the slope to Grenadier Pond; today I follow the first snowy trail I see toward the water.

trail to creek n. of Grenadier Pond

It brings me out well north of the pond — here there’s just a pretty, narrow feeder creek between the park and its residential neighbours to the west.

creek north of Grenadier Pond

I see the first of what becomes a whole series of warning signs. “Ice Unsafe Keep Off,” they shout. Honestly, I think. Of course the ice will be unsafe — even out on the pond, given Toronto’s seesaw temperatures. What nitwit would take the risk?

Then again, nitwits are never in short supply. I accept the need for warning signs, but focus my own attention on the equally plentiful High Park nature factoid signs.

Which is why I know that the rustling cattails, seducing me to follow this path …

into the cattails!

… are Typha latiolia, grow up to 2 m. tall, and not only stabilize the wetland & strain pollutants, but are useful to humans from roots to tips.

I admire all this, as well I ought, but what I’m enjoying, this very minute, is their beauty. I am surrounded. It is wonderful.

amongst the cattails!

I keep weaving along this well-tromped path in the snow, emerge into a little clearing, still with cattails all around, blazing against the sky.

in the cattail clearing...

And then… And then I realize I am well out from shore.

I am a nitwit!

I quickly justify myself: it’s very firm underfoot, it’s all snow with no icy sheen to suggest oozing water, there are lots of other footprints, blah blah. But I am still definitely of the Nitwit Brigade, so I meekly follow a path (firm, snowy, with footprints) back to land.

Where I flutter apologetic eyelashes at the next sign.

one of the signs, looking out into Grenadier Pond

But then I see, well out in the pond, a long ridge of snow. Joined by other ridges. Creating a rectangular border. In other words …

An ice rink.

My Canadian DNA calls; I obey; back out I go. To mid-pond.

the very traditional, totally unauthorized, mid-pond ice rink

Perfectly smooth ice, it’s a beauty. This young woman and her boyfriend have been joyously sliding about on their boots, now she’s taking pictures. Me too. And I get a major kick out of just standing here mid-pond, and looking all around. A winter-only treat!

Later I read about the long history of skating — indeed, City-sanctioned and facilitated until recently. But now, it is decidedly unauthorized. News  reports suggest the police occasionally shoo people off, but it’s hardly their top priority.

I eventually return to shore, safe & dry, loop around the park some more, still marvelling at the brilliance of the day. Among its other delights, it makes for gloriously crisp shadows (here, cast by a vine sculpture near Colborne Lodge).

vine sculpture, near Colborne Lodge, High Park

Finally I leave the park. Enough nature, time for city streets. East a bit to Roncesvalles, & north. What fun this street is. I bop in & out of a couple of nifty shops, buy nothing, but enjoy their style.

Well, I don’t quite “buy nothing.” There is the ritual latte to be had, this time at Roncy’s Bean where, I am amused to see, they put out two tip jars — “vote” on this week’s question by putting your loose change in one jar or the other.

People really get into it, the young barista tells me with a grin. “They want to know the outcome!” She’s an artist, so she obliges with a weekly poster.

vote with your change, at Roncy's Bean

Desert vs Antarctica last week, and a tie vote, hence the sunglasses on the penguin and the scarf on the tropical bird. This week’s showdown is in honour of Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day: “cheesy romantic” movie or “romantic comedy”? So far, it’s running neck & neck.

One more salute to Valentine’s Day, this one from much later in the walk, and brought to you by a garage door just off Dundas West near Ossington:

alley south from Dundas West, just west of Ossington

“Wait a minute!” I hope you’re saying to yourself. “What do you mean, ‘much later’? What about everything in-between?”

A-ha. “In-between” was so unexpected, so vivid, that it’s going to be its own post. There I am, walking past a small & not terribly special parkette — and I suddenly realize it is the epicentre of a whole universe of street art.

A-ha, indeed. You’ll see.

 

 

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

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

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    "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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