Lake. Klezmer. Ghost Lake. And a Bunny-Rabbit

24 October 2018 – Not calendar-Tuesday, but honorary-Tuesday. So says the founding Tuesday Walking Society, reunited and out in full twosome force.

We jump on the southbound Spadina LRT and bail at Queen’s Quay,  just where the train does its dog-leg to the left and starts its run eastward along Lake Ontario.

Once, decades ago, Toronto parks encouraged visitor use by pegging little “Please walk on the grass” signs into the turf. Now, in all the lakefront parks and many others, the welcome is even brighter and more functional.

We walk right past those Muskoka chairs, though. We pay only the briefest attention to the Spadina Quay Wetlands — once mini-carpark, now home to a whole ecosystem of frogs, fish, birds and butterflies — and to the Toronto Music Garden, its layout co-created by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

We skirt a bike path intersection …

and follow the waterfront west & then south to just below the old Canada Malting silos. Our goal is the tiny, deeply moving park tucked between silos and lake.

Ireland Park.

These emaciated figures are the work of Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie; this park is the new-world companion to the famine memorial in Dublin, for which he also sculpted the figures. Together, they commemorate the Great Famine of 1845-51. I never knew the impact of this famine on Toronto until I read the stats: in the summer of 1847 alone, more than 38,500 desperate migrants landed here. At the time, the city had a population of 20,000.

We stand behind one of the five figures (two less than in Dublin, to represent deaths en-route), and follow her gaze. The scene is not as migrants saw it, obviously, this is just our attempt to imagine their relief at being still alive, and on land.

Now we head east, to walk all these enchained lakefront parks toward the heart of the city. A first goal is to decipher the name on the red tugboat — it doesn’t look like a tourist vessel, yet despite all that bright red, doesn’t seem to be on government service either.

Tug-side, we learn she is the Radium Yellowknife. What a pan-Canadian world she represents! Named for the capital city of the Northwest Territories, registered in Vancouver, tied up right here in Toronto.

And working here, too, we learn, thanks to the guy who steps aboard to unlock a door and retrieve his bicycle. Once, in some vague past, she was in the NWT; now she helps shunt barges & whatnot from hither to yon, as needed in Toronto Harbour.

On past the yellow umbrellas of  HTO Park, enjoying the punning name as always. I wonder who first saw the possibilities in Toronto’s nickname and the symbol for water?

On and more on, enjoying water and waves and strollers and dogs and still-brave plant life and the whole happy mix. Past the first quay-side Wave Deck, then the second, then a pause to salute the third and loopiest of them all: the Simcoe Wave Deck.

For Phyllis & me, all this is a reunion with sights we already knew and wanted to see again — park after park, garden after garden. Then, boom, right in front of Queen’s Quay Terminal, a tiny park we knew nothing about: the Toronto Book Garden.

The zig-zag path is studded with the names of authors, and dates.

Ondaatje, plus Dionne Brand, Anne Michaels, Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Morley Callaghan, Robertson Davies … you get the idea. Each has won the Toronto Book Award in a given year. The author needn’t live here, and the book may be of any genre, but it must contain some clear Toronto content.

Still heading east and now, we agree, we’re into a boring bit, with concrete towers to both sides. As always, construction. As almost-always, a CAUTION sign. Suitably red. And, as-sometimes, one of the jokes people like to play when the City hasn’t specified what to be cautious about.

Ho-ho, we agree, and soon after that, we part ways — Phyllis off to vote in the municipal elections, me to wander a few more parks before joining another friend mid-afternoon.

Next up, the refurbished Berczy Park at Front & Wellington, just behind the city’s flat-iron building. I knew about its two-tier dog fountain — multitudes of life-sized dog sculptures, each squirting water (from the mouth, I hasten to add) back into the ever-receptive fountain. The dogs all look upward, to the bone topping the fountain. There is one cat statue slyly tucked into the mix, but he is looking sideways, eyeing a bird.

There is now another sculpture in the park, a pair of giant arms & hands thrusting skyward from the earth.

There are no “do not climb” signs, so I relax & enjoy the kids’ enjoyment.

Up to King & Church now, into the Toronto Sculpture Garden just opposite St. James Cathedral. The current installation is a cheerful steel structure called Pigro, the work of Tony Romono, its loops further be-looped with lights.

“It’s even better at night when the lights are on,” says a voice behind me, a man at peace on a bench. Signage tells me it’s meant to evoke Italian festival lights, which are strung along streets and illuminate church façades as they go. How perfect here, against the Cathedral spire.

I’m now making tracks for my friend on Church Street, deep in territory where I first worked decades ago. All is familiar.

Except for this, on Church just south of Front.

Shoreline Commemorative, by Paul Roff, reminds us that Front Street — now well inland — once deserved its name. Infill, not natural processes, have moved the shoreline farther south, and it’s good to remember where lake once touched land.

I salute the ghost lake, and go meet my friend.

And now for that bunny-rabbit

Time-jump. It’s now calendar Tuesday, the Tuesday Walking Society is again on the prowl, and I have decided to put away my camera. Let nothing stand between me and this walk through Moore Park Ravine! Let me be fully present; eyes, ears, boots, nature and dear friend are more than enough.

But out comes that camera,  just once.

Hello, Poser-bunny.

And on we go into Evergreen Brickworks, for lunch and latte and elbows-on-table conversation.

 

R is for Rust

28 September 2017 – Rust is on my mind, as I angle north/east-ish toward Dance House , this bright fall day, to discuss the volunteer communications project I’m about to begin.

Rust, a signature colour in nature each fall — and rust, a signature colour in metal, by time or design.

I see both, abundantly, in my zigzag travels along False Creek and then farther east to the trendifying old industrial area now home to Dance House, other creative organizations and, just this month, Emily Carr University as well.

First, as I hit 1st Avenue just west of Hinge Park, an example of rust-by-time.

I love the transformation of south-east False Creek from brownfield to green space — but I also love this battered survivor of the area’s industrial past. Toxic as it surely all was, it met the standards of the day and helped meet needs of the day.

And while that building has wrecking-ball written all over it, sections of old railway track right next door in Hinge Park will survive.

Rusty by time, but preserved by design, and rightly so. We need to honour the past.

Note, too, some companion rust-by-nature in the shrubbery, and just a glimpse, there in the middle-back, of my beloved “Rusty Sub.”

I round a corner.

More rusty leaves, to keep the sub company, and rushes turning tawny in the meandering little stream.

Then I’m down at Creek-side, right where Habitat Island juts into the water, and I start to laugh.

Looks like “R” has to slip-slide its way back up the dictionary from Rust, to Repose!

Goodness, he is so peaceful, chest rising/falling gently, relaxed in the still-warm afternoon sun. And, all around him, rust-by-nature in the shrubbery.

Lots more rust, all over the tree leaves that still half-obscure the Green Path signage. (Pedestrians this side; cyclists that.)

I’m almost at the end of False Creek now, right by The Village ferry dock, with its view of BC Place sports stadium on the north side and, to its left, a distinctly rusty-coloured building façade.

No ferry in sight at the moment, but I console myself with that bright red tug boat. I do love tug boats!

Still on 1st Avenue, just west of Main, and some more rust-by-design in the courtyard of a spiffy new condo complex.

Very minimalist, very appealing: the rich tones of the metal, the burble of the falling water, and sunshine & breeze teaming up to dance shadows on the wall.

On east I go, and I’m early for my appointment.

I wander on down to the cul-de-sac where East 1st Ave. does a dog-leg into a chain-metal fence along the cross-town train tracks.

Boxcars! Lovely rust-coloured boxcars!

With graffiti! (Bonus points)

See the young women sketching away down there, next to the inner fence right at the tracks? Students from Emily Carr next door, out on assignment. There are a dozen or more in the immediate vicinity, under the watchful eye of their man-bunn’d instructor, who circulates from one to the next, commenting as he deems appropriate.

And then I go meet Charlotte at Dance House, and we chat on the building green roof with its 180-degree view of the mountains, and we stroke a very insistent white cat as we talk — who assumes our adoration and so receives it, but that is another story — and finally I head south/west-ish back home.

Where, in an alley just east of Main, the letter “R” does another slip-slide and lands on the word “Retro.”

A wonderfully retro design, complete with the words “Todos borrachos aquí,” and … and don’t bother asking, I can’t explain it. No sign of a cantina, just an autobody shop.

But it’s fun.

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "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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